You won’t find many people who disagree with the view that Tunbridge Wells is a good place to live. After all it ticks most, if not all, the right boxes: great shops, restaurants, schools and theatres. It also has a low crime rate and, on a good day, a decent train service to London just 38 miles away.
All of which comes at a price and means this is not the cheapest place live. You can pay up to £4,400 for an annual rail season ticket against £3,160 from Tonbridge while a seat at the cinema to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens would last month have cost you £12.50 against £8 in, say, Blackpool and on the property front the value of the average house in town last month was £462,000 against a national average of £287,000.
So is it a price worth paying? That’s the question we pose in this edition where we talk to some typical local families, if there is such a thing, and look at the money all of us have to hand over day in and day out. And what’s the answer? Well, you’ll have to read here to find out. I know where I stand.
Staff at Morrisons supermarket in Tunbridge Wells are being consulted about proposals to close the supermarket. Realists will know that the chances of the store opposite the station staying open are zero. Sorry staff, but obviously the numbers don’t add up. The biggest problem is the fact that shoppers like their stores to be on one level. They like to drive into a car park and get as close to the front door as possible. What they don’t enjoy is parking in a multi-storey above a supermarket, getting a lift down to the shop, or worse going down the stairs, even though they get a refund on the parking fee once they reach the till. Shoppers just hate stores that are not on one level and that’s why it is unlikely another supermarket will take over the site.
On its own the closure of Morrisons would be bad enough. But some of us still remember the time when Safeway shut and the place was boarded up. It was an eyesore. Problems are compounded by the fact that in the same week news came that the deal to develop the nearby cinema site had also fallen through, when we all dreamed that the 15-year saga would finally be over.
Imagine having the eyesore that a boarded up Morrisons would present to match the eyesore that is the empty cinema site hiding behind blue hoardings.
Council leader David Jukes and his colleagues must be tearing their hair out as they attempt to answer the question: “What’s wrong with our town centre?” Their problem is there’s little the council itself can do. Or is there?
Richard Moore, Editorial Director