Pressure group TW Alliance has lost one of its highest profile members, Liberal Democrat Councillor Ben Chapelard, in the same week it was accused of adopting a ‘shabby’ approach.
The member for St James’ posed alongside other alliance leaders when the group founded in October to challenge Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC], initially on plans for the proposed Civic Complex.
Cllr Chapelard stated yesterday [Tuesday]: “I could no longer continue as it was interfering with my role as a local councillor.
Accused “I still support its aims and objectives. TW Alliance and Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats are asking the right questions about our town and borough.”
Meanwhile, the alliance has come under fire from Councillor Graham Munn, Labour member for Southborough and High Brooms.
He has accused them of distributing leaflets with a fake picture showing the councillor throwing away £50 notes and claiming he ‘wants to spend £90million on new council offices and a new theatre’.
“The leaflet urges people to email me about my ‘actions’ and not to vote for me,” said Cllr Munn. “But how does this group know what I want?”
He added: “Despite this group’s shabby and negative approach, I have decided to vote against the scheme.”
The news comes on the eve of a Full Council meeting which could see advanced plans for the complex passed by TWBC tonight.
Alliance member Nicholas Pope, chairman of Friends of Calverley Grounds, said the group is committed to continuing to pressure the council regardless of the result.
He said: “It is a shame Ben Chapelard had to make the decision to leave TW Alliance, but it is important he continues to have full access to council documents and meetings to serve his residents.
“It is not a set-back, but it does show the council see TW Alliance as a serious challenge.
“Cllr Munn’s photograph and his voting history at meetings (when recorded) is available on the council’s website.
“We are sharing information that is already available and are keen to engage residents in the politics of this important decision.”
Mr Pope said he was unsure which way the vote would go.
In July a large majority voted in favour at an earlier stage of the proceedings. But criticism has grown, with the alliance arguing that the proposal is not a good use of the gross £90million it is projected to cost.
Two councillors have held referendums within their wards and both vowed to vote against the proposals after the results showed a majority of respondents were not in favour.
On the future of the TW Alliance, Mr Pope added: “There are still a number of opportunities to challenge this project, and there are still issues that could stop this project, some of which we have no influence over.
“TW Alliance was created because of a range of issues in the borough. The Civic Complex is only one of many issues, but just happens to be the current and high profile issue.”