Civic Way faces a rocky future
23rd April 2010
... Comments

Well I must say I'm a little confused.

I'm not sure what the plans are for the civic buildings along Civic Way - I get the impression no-one is - but I'm sure I'll have an opinion on it.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council are being a bit cagey in the press with their ideas, promising, apparently, to let the public know more when they have some firmer plans.

There are rumours that the Borough Council intend to move their offices to the old Land Registry building next year (how many of us thought that would be better than moving out of town before they publicised that? Brownie point to us), but so far it's all a bit fluffy as to what might happen to the current buildings on Civic Way namely the Library, Museum, current Council offices & Town Hall, Police Station and Assembly Hall Theatre.

Initial 'intelligence' is however, that the site will likely be sold to commercial developers resulting in demolition of the existing buildings followed by complete redevelopment.

I'm thinking we might as well get in there early with any suggestions we have as John and Joanna Public, before we suddenly find ourselves fighting deadlines and objections and appeals as seems to be happening a bit too much with planning issues around Tunbridge Wells.

Not considered the prettiest of buildings by some, the facade along Civic Way is still of particular architectural and historic local significance, and wouldn't take too much of a facelift to make the most of its Art Deco beauty. Knocking it down would have to be justified by a very good replacement design, and to be honest I'm not sure developers will have the budget to do it justice.

My inclination is always to preserve rather than demolish, and my instincts tell me the internal features as well as the external facade need to be considered. Both the Library, Museum and Town Hall entrances boast impressive and grand staircases, and the foyer of the Assembly Hall is like stepping back in time. Exactly some might say, but stepping back is no bad thing in terms of architecture, and I think it'd be a crying shame to simply level this site and start again.

I believe there's a lot of potential with the existing buildings, which could be redeveloped into something Tunbridge Wells can be proud of. I mentioned the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill in a previous blog post - I have an image in my head of rendering the facade of the buildings of Civic Way, preserving the architectural details but improving the brickwork that I think is currently it's biggest own-goal. A gleaming white Deco delight would dominate this major junction of Tunbridge Wells, making much more of a positive impact.

The Tunbridge Wells Civic Society have already considered their own suggestions for modernising and preserving the existing site, and they usually have their finger on the pulse of developments and improvements in the town, as well as historic preservation.

For more information on the Tunbridge Wells Civc Society, check out their website.

Have your say - let us know what you think about the proposals for Civic Way, and what you want to see happen to this part of Tunbridge Wells.

With a hotel apparently interested in the old cinema site just opposite, do we really need two new developments on this junction?


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Natelie Fitzroy is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.

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