Culverden Lib Dem News 2021-12-18

Liberal Democrats

 

We hope this email finds you and your family well in the run-up to Christmas. Here is a round-up of December’s news from the ward:  

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Tunbridge Wells Lib Dems' Response to 2021/22 Budget

 

Tunbridge Wells Lib Dems have voted in favour of the Conservatives' budget for 2021/22. However the predicted losses in the years to come are concerning and we do not see any proposed solution to this. These expected losses must be proactively addressed by the Conservatives and we see it as our role as the main opposition to hold them to account on this.

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New Year Vision 2021

As we enter a new year, Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats recognise that our immediate focus must be on fighting and recovering from the Coronavirus pandemic. The new year also allows us to look further forward and outline our plan for Tunbridge Wells town and borough in 2021.

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Local residents must have a stronger voice in the planning process

Christopher Hall is a senior manager at AXA Health in Tunbridge Wells. He has lived in Ramslye in Broadwater ward since 2016. Chris is Vice Chair of the Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats and a campaigner for Broadwater.

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An Opportunity to Change the Narrative – Call for a Community Initiative

Residents of Tunbridge Wells, dismayed to hear that the ‘grot spot,’ aka the old Cinema Site is back on the market, should call on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to change tack. Twenty years this fiasco has been ongoing, with no sign of this ever ending as developer after developer submit their plans only to pull out. It has become synonymous with Tory leadership in Tunbridge Wells: twenty years of lack of investment, pride, decline, and decay. ‘A developer’s graveyard,’ the chief executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council called it. However, one person’s disappointment is another person’s opportunity - an opportunity to change the narrative. 

What has been tried in the past hasn’t worked. Do we really want another twenty years of the same? It’s time for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to say enough is enough and think radically. TWBC must take control of the site. The residents surely want this. We love our town and want to see it truly flourish. Perhaps the site can be leased, but perhaps TWBC will need to buy it, but not for £17 million. Amidst a pandemic, recession and in a situation when high streets have been in decline nationally for years, that’s a rather optimistic price tag. 

My own ideas include a building with a galleria/atrium courtyard that could house an indoor market: a mix of Covent Garden/ Borough/ Greenwich markets, but with a touch of Hay’s Galleria. It could have a bijou cinema, art gallery and creative space; a water feature to hint at our heritage; restaurants; retail start-ups and street entertainment of the kind you see on London’s South Bank. It could be a venue for food and drink festivals, and a winter Christmas market with a tree and lights turned on by the pantomime stars from the Assembly Hall Theatre. Combined with the pantomime and the ice rink in Calverley Grounds, it would establish Tunbridge Wells as a winter festival destination. It would link up with what we already have, especially if we brought back the Christmas Express train, joining the top and bottom of town, increasing footfall and driving the economic development and regeneration of our town. 

But this is only one idea and residents have shared many more on social media over the past few days. TWBC needs to know what the residents think. What would we like to see created here? This is the opportunity to try something different. We the community can unite in a common aim, to involve ourselves. TWBC need to listen to our voices, our ideas. Consult and collaboratively plan together and work towards rejuvenating this town. So, let us take this opportunity, for it may never come again. Let’s put the Royal back into Tunbridge Wells and give the community something to be proud of.

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Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats statement on the old Cinema Site

Twenty years after the ABC closed (and five owners later), the news that the old cinema site is up for sale yet again is frustrating and depressingly familiar. This grot spot saga blights our town and we cannot go on waiting on developers who do not have the best interests of Tunbridge Wells residents at heart. 

We do not know why the latest owners have pulled out, but it’s very possible that the Covid pandemic has rendered their Belvedere scheme, consisting primarily of retirement apartments, unviable. From this situation springs an opportunity. It’s time for the council to step up. A change of tack and some creative thinking is required to ensure that this site is turned into something that will benefit our community.

We are asking the council to speedily examine all options for acquiring the site on a fair-value basis for taxpayers, then to consult with residents to find out what they would like to see developed there – some genuinely collaborative planning to enhance the town. It could be a park, a market, affordable housing - there are numerous possibilities and if we crowd source those ideas we’ll get some really good ideas we hadn’t considered. 

Crossing our fingers and hoping for the best has comprehensively failed. It’s time for some fresh thinking at the council, otherwise it’s likely that we will be living with this grot spot for another 20 years. 

James Rands and Justine Rutland, Liberal Democrat Councillors for Culverden Ward

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