Civic Development - One Thing

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council wants to build new offices, a town hall and a theatre on the edge of Calverley Grounds. 

The Council would need to borrow £77 million which would need to be repaid over 50 years by cuts to local services and council tax rises. The final decision will be made on 6th December 2017.

We want to hear what you think!

Please leave us your one key thought on this project.

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Showing 39 reactions

  • commented 2017-12-07 12:01:40 +0000
    Dismayed though not surprised by last night’s decision, and by the poor standard of Council accountability.

    Thanks to all the LibDem Councillors who bravely reflected the majority view by speaking against Civic Development, (and to the Caring Conservative, Ms Stewart, who supported our clapping!)

    The result was a foregone conclusion, with advocates offering sometimes absurd arguments and rejecting advice given by expert professionals in theatre management and surveying.

    The public attending were treated with condescension bordering on contempt, perfectly reflecting (it seems) the attitude of the majority of Councillors to public concerns in general. It was clear that we want to engage, and we our prepared to fight for a good cause with proper leadership.

    I hope the Council as a whole is made aware of the lack of confidence that tax payers have in the present conduct of local government, and that it will start reforming itself.

    I hope the incorrect sums of costs and debts being quoted in local media will be corrected by the Council immediately, to avoid accusations that the public is being deliberately misinformed about the true estimates.

    Good luck.
  • commented 2017-12-05 23:17:54 +0000
    An obscene waste of money that will benefit Council Members while local services continue to be run down. Surprised this is not all over national media.

    Disgusted Tunbridge Wells …….
  • commented 2017-12-05 22:06:17 +0000
    This civic centre is an unnecessary use of public money. Hugely expensive and a misuse of funds.
  • commented 2017-12-05 22:05:10 +0000
    This civic centre will be a
  • commented 2017-12-05 18:31:56 +0000
    Basically no. Too much. Theatre maybe as a revenue stream. New offices now are just not necessary at local expense. Many other better things to spend that money on.
  • commented 2017-12-05 16:59:39 +0000
    It’s a frivolous expenditure of money that will only benefit the better off and create expensive offices for council employees who already have central offices at the top of town and could be equally well housed on the town outskirts more cheaply. Surely there are projects such as homes for first time buyers and the not so well off that are much more important. Finally it is a desecration of Calvary Park….No think again.
  • commented 2017-12-05 14:55:18 +0000
    None of this is necessary! Have they “lost” their minds to waste millions that are needed desperately in other areas?
  • commented 2017-12-05 14:27:54 +0000
    Opposed – and disgusted. In this socio-economic climate, with the threat of worse to come, the project is wasteful and inappropriate. It would cause resentment from council tax payers for years to come, and invite accusations that the Council is arrogant, uncaring, self-serving and unrealistic.

    The present Town Hall and Assembly Room are undeniably ugly, and ideally should be replaced. Now is not the time. Mount Pleasant is not looking good at the moment, with visible signs of social deprivation, empty shops and a building site already, and more building works would make it worse. It is the first, and bad, impression most visitors to the town get.

    Instead, the traditional architectural beauty and the parks of RTW should be maintained, the pavements should be made more even and potholes in roads repaired; refuse collection, cleaning and social services improved. Council should be encouraging new businesses, good quality shops and cafes on Mount Pleasant and Camden Road with more attractive rates.

    No need for a new town hall or another theatre – there’s Trinity and the Assembly Rooms already.

    The old 18th century theatre (The Corn Exchange) on the Pantiles could be restored. The Corn Exchange site is presently misused.

    Why doesn’t the Council talk to Weatherspoons about restoring live theatre facilities to the Opera House?

    Unreasonable to expect us to pay for a new theatre when the town has misused two perfectly good, purpose built historical venues in the Opera House and The Corn Exchange.
  • commented 2017-12-05 12:32:04 +0000
    I think our council need to think of the needs of the people they are employed and paid to represent. Instead they just seem interested in projects which will benefit them with no regard for anyone else or the cost.
  • commented 2017-12-05 12:13:26 +0000
    I think it will impose on the Calverley grounds have they thought where the busses and equipment lorries for the shows go? And why do the council need new offices? If they must put a theatre there that would be ok but not the offices. I’m sure it’s all in the bag anyway the top ones don’t listen to the public .
  • commented 2017-12-05 11:40:46 +0000
    The existing Town Hall and Assembly Rooms are a good example of 1930’s design. These should be preserved and refurbished. There is no need for a brand new Civic Centre. The Council need to focus on the regeneration of the old Cinema site and also the work and plans to redevelop the Victoria Shopping Centre along the Camden Road.
  • commented 2017-12-05 11:14:51 +0000
    As a long term resident of Tunbridge Wells I am not 100% confident I trust any of the statements about this investment and development. Above all I do not trust the current leaders pushing for this development at all costs. That is a shame as I do generally support developing our lovely town.
  • commented 2017-12-05 08:31:47 +0000
    To saddle the residents of Royal Tunbridge Wells with this level of debt for the next 50 years for a grandiose scheme is irresponsible and shows a complete lack of respect for their constituents.


    We do not need this project and to push this through when there are sites that have been derelict for over a decade and are still an eyesore shows what the council really thinks.


    Everyone I have spoken to in Tunbridge Wells objects to this waste of public money


    Please do not pass this obsurd planning permission.
  • commented 2017-12-01 19:42:57 +0000
    As a resident of Tunbridge Wells for over 30 years, I am greatly concerned about our town.


    I know many can not afford to pay more Council tax, and many would be unwilling. The cost of your proposals for the new building, encroaching on to one of our most beautiful parks, is going up and up. This is only the planning stage. I dread to think of the cost should it be passed and Work starts.


    Green space space such as Calverly Park should not be giving up land for buildings. The natural world is essential for mental well being. The park is very popular and hosts two fabulous events: the Mela and Christmas Ice rink. The park should be protected.


    It is unfair to saddle the residents with 50 years of interest payments on this proposed build.

    We have a perfectly good Council office and theatre. I do understand there is a problem with the roof, but am sure repair costs will be nothing compared to your rebuild ideas.


    Please listen to the majority of the residents who are against this waste of money and resources. There are far more worthy things for the shrinking council budget to be spent on.
  • commented 2017-12-01 07:51:12 +0000
    The inner Cabinet according to the Courier has already voted this ill conceived project through. At the meeting on 6th December they expect councillors to rubber stamp this decision. Sheer incompetence to spend £4million and only realise two years later that access is restricted without Hoopers Car Park.

    . We were informed the nett amount of £72 million was the cost. Now, they concede gross will be £90million and upwards. They have been economical with the truth. Nowhere do they tell us how much the compulsory purchase order for Hoopers Car Park will cost, nor whether they had planned it into their costing already. Are the boroughs of Goudhurst, etc. Happy to contribute to Tunbridge Wells coffers by paying more, as surely council tax will rise.


    TWBC projections of income are pie in the sky. People now are tightening their belts: prices up, wages stagnating, mortgages higher, council tax will inevitably go up to pay for this unnecessary venture. How will TWBC account for the repayments of now £2.8million per annum; add to this a yearly theatre subsidy.


    London reconfigures listed buildings, keeping the facade, modernising behind. Reconfigure the present Town Hall and Assembly Hall for half the amount, leave our lovely, well used, Calverley Grounds as they are. A new theatre in the RIGHT place!
    I have sent an email in protest to allcouncillors@tunbridgewells.gov.uk in protest and also stated that I will not be voting in my ward in the upcoming May election for my councillor.
  • commented 2017-11-30 14:03:26 +0000
    Dear Councillors,

    I have been a resident of Tunbridge Wells for 14 years and love the town that is very much my home.

    I live near the Pantiles and am however finding that the roads are permanently grid-locked, parking is a nightmare and air quality is suffering.

    I wish to express to those of you who represent my ward, my OBJECTION to the proposed new civic centre on the following grounds:


    1. The cost of the project is just too high and will saddle the council with debts for a generation. This at a time when essential services are being squeezed.


    2. I am not anti-theatre or anti-progress but I think the location and the proposal you have put forward is ill-conceived. I am Dismayed that the new theatre will encroach into Calverley Grounds and remove very old, beautiful trees. I understand there is currently no plans for coach bays in the plans for 1200 seater theatre.


    3. My understanding is that there is no plan for the Council Buildings and the Assembly Hall theatre that you will vacate, potentially leaving another grot spot .


    4. There appears to be no over-arching infrastructure plan for the town. I am increasingly worried that with all the development that has been agreed in the town, you are risking spoiling the very things that make Tunbridge Wells a lovely place to live.


    I trust you will take my views into account when voting on this important issue.


    Yours sincerely,


    Sinead McCurry
  • commented 2017-11-29 10:46:34 +0000
    I do not approve see my email to all councillors. It is outrageous we need a referendum it is our money that will fund this and many vital services will be cut to find this project.
  • commented 2017-11-29 10:01:39 +0000
    As a long-time resident of Tunbridge Wells (29 years) and as someone whose job it is to both research/ write tender documents on behalf of clients and to tender on and subsequently manage projects worth several million pounds, I am very concerned about the cost and viability of the proposed new civic complex.


    So far I have seen little to indicate that the civic complex plan as a whole has been properly thought through. If such a project was proposed by a client, on the basis of the information I have seen so far I would advise them not to go ahead with it as the cost/benefit equation seems not to add up. Assumptions regarding the income generating capacity of the existing listed Town Hall complex; the level of support the theatre would require; income from office lettings and the costs of construction seem to sit at an unrealistically optimistic end of the spectrum. Commercially, I cannot see any way that this project is viable. The theatre income formula used is totally inapplicable to this project. A more realistic assessment of the economic effect of the theatre , together with other income streams, leaves a deficit of somewhere between £2 – £2.6 million per annum to be recovered from other sources ( ie the taxpayer). That is assuming that construction costs do not increase during the project. If a private company, with responsibility to shareholders, was proposing such a development it simply would not get off the ground. In my opinion ,the council should treat its taxpayers in the same way as a private concern would treat its shareholders, and not burden us with decades worth of extra debt for what I would agree with many others is basically a vanity project.


    It is of great concern that the question of use of Hooper’s access/ parking for theatre activities came up so late in the day. This is a major issue that a competent initial viability study ought to have thrown up much earlier, leaving one to wonder what other surprises lie in store, as well as posing the question of whether the £4.2 million of taxpayers’ money spent on consultants to date has been good value. There is also the loss of amenity to the town if Hoopers decides to shut up shop should a CPO be applied to its access/ car park.


    The design of the theatre space itself does not appear to have been done with much consideration given to flexibility. It seems very traditional and not very adaptable, with little consideration having been given to some of the more innovative production layouts seen in recent years. I would very much question how attractive it will be to many touring productions in the future.


    Finally, there is the amenity loss of Calverley Grounds. We are constantly told that “only” 3% of the Grounds will be lost to building. However, the particular 3% under threat is one the most attractive parts, including many mature trees which screen some of the less attractive “backsides” of the buildings on Mt Pleasant Rd. If these are removed and replaced with buildings several stories high, we will not only lose nicely disrupted sight-lines, but will also see a great loss of sunlight onto other areas of the Grounds, particularly in winter. I was there at the weekend, saw the long shadows of the treeline in the afternoon which gave attractively broken patterns of sunlight and shade, and imagined how much sunlight a solid block of buildings higher than the existing trees would take from the rest of the park. In late afternoon, the shadow would extend right up to the existing café.


    So having given this considerable thought, I am very much against the project, as are most people I have spoken to. It is in my opinion an expensive solution looking for a problem. I am confident that the existing listed Town Hall complex could be refurbished to a good standard for a fraction of the cost, including a re-vamped theatre. It will need refurbishing anyway to be let commercially, with as yet no sign of any serious interest in leasing it.


    I urge each councillor to look into the whole thing properly, rather than just accepting the determination of Cllrs Jukes, Moore and co to push through a non-viable project simply to “put their stamp” on the future.
  • commented 2017-11-28 17:45:31 +0000
    Financially irresponsible, culturally insensitive, unnecessary and ill-thought-through in respect of impact on amenities and wider environment.

    Councillors should be more careful about spending other peoples’ money(i.e. their electorate)!
  • commented 2017-11-28 16:49:53 +0000
    Not happy about this unnecessary and vainglorious project. It is not needed in Tunbridge Wells. We are particularly concerned about the proposed site of the project, on an historic open space much valued by the people of Tunbridge Wells.
  • commented 2017-11-11 12:19:01 +0000
    This would be an unthinkably profligate vanity project. The distinguished, and listed, present Town Hall should be properly looked after and retain its functions. There are important services in need of improvement in the borough: councillors are elected to serve the community, not themselves.
  • commented 2017-10-30 21:15:26 +0000
    New town hall and council offices is a waste of money, just fulfilling illusions of grandeur.

    New larger theatre in Calverley grounds, near the station, could be a good idea and then the new offices could go on the old theatre site when it becomes vacant. Plenty big enough to house inflated egos, in shades of blue.

    Priority of much needed services is required.
  • commented 2017-10-30 17:56:25 +0000
    I am not against progress if it is warranted and in keeping with the town. There are many empty shops and offices all round the town – yet they want to build more. Who is going use them? Town Hall staff have been cut in recent years so why can they not refurbish the current building? Over the past 18 months or so nearly a million pounds has been spent in upgrading the Assembly Hall – now they want to build another theatre! They say borrowing this money will not impact on the taxpayer – it must do even if they cut services. The loss of ANY of the Calverley Grounds is a appalling. Also when will the council listen to the electorate? Will they hold a referendum? No as they know what peoples feelings are. By the way I am AGAINST this in every way possible – it is so ill thought out. On Facebook I am have seen several suggestions for alternatives which all had appeal and I would back. You can post my views not my email address
  • commented 2017-10-29 14:54:56 +0000
    I have lived, and worked in Tunbridge Wells for half a century now; in that time the Town Council has always been dominated by Conservatives. Largely, in that time, the Conservatives have been proven to be a self serving, insular, ineffective council. The ‘New’ planned council offices, are just an extension of the ‘Conservative Ideal’. IF they expect the ‘Community Charge’ to rise ‘At All’ to help fund this expensive office suite, then I fully expect in the very near future, a half century of ‘Conservative Councillors’ will come to an abrupt END!!

    This is also the view of a great number of my friends in the borough.
  • commented 2017-10-29 11:07:36 +0000
    There are cheaper options. They could refurbish existing Town Hall and let out what they don’t use to help pay for it. They say existing building is unfit for purpose and can’t be refurbished. If that is true, who do they think is going to buy it. Presumably selling the existing building is a big part of paying for the new one and if that doesn’t happen the debt will be even bigger. Reducing local services even more for this vanity project is crazy and there should be a referendum among local council tax payers before it can go ahead.
  • commented 2017-10-29 10:23:40 +0000
    Complete madness
  • commented 2017-10-29 09:54:00 +0000
    Perhaps we should have a referendum among TW rate payers to determine how the Council spends OUR money!!
  • commented 2017-09-24 18:13:33 +0100
    This will ruin the atmosphere and look of the park significantly. Not to mention the money spent to do this. For a car park to pay this off in 50 years when we will have self driving cars by then and my kids will be in their sixties! The Town Hall and AH are fine locations and completely possible for a refurb to suit the needs of the council and theatre goers. This will ruin a park have grown up with, my kids too and will take away the quiet and beauty it offers to everyone, especially people on low incomes.
  • commented 2017-09-22 21:06:04 +0100
    It is hardly surprising that councillors who give them selves high pay rises when more important public service providers get little (nurses, fireman and police) wish to waste the money of the pore in the community (who can ill afford to go to the assembly hall) should be made to suffer again. What does surprise me more is that considering this town holds Royal status that most off the town is now in such a state of disrepair, such as bricks missing from footpaths and footpaths sinking yet not repaired caused in part because vehicles of all types and sizes are allowed to park on footpaths even though their is a law against driving on footpaths. If they bothered ticketing these drivers I am sure they could raise enough to update the existing rather than leave another eyesore abandoned building in Royal Tunbridge Wells. I wonder if the representatives of the Royal family would be happy to have their mark on such a dismal and uncaring place .
  • commented 2017-09-20 14:31:03 +0100
    Tunbridge Wells has a Town Hall and theatre, what it doesn’t have are enough social housing, care workers to assist the frail elderly, and well maintained roads without potholes. Get your priorities right TWBC