Tunbridge Wells Borough Council are leaving Tunbridge Wells?
24th November 2009
... Comments

I've got to confess I was a little bit surprised to read that our Borough Council have just spent thousands of pounds (£30k apparently!) on investigating whether it will be more cost-effective to move to new offices, perhaps even out of town. Already certain services are dealt with away from the main Town Hall, but if ever I've needed to speak to someone face to face about say, my Council Tax, at least I've been able to do so in the town centre - that's normal isn't it? I doubt most people will want to traipse over to Paddock Wood (bless it) to process their red tape.

Is there a problem with that spot in town? Do the sewers smell in the summer? Is it the Tunbridge Wells wing of the Bermuda Triangle? If the Council move out of the Town Hall, two opposing corners of what is one of the main junctions in Tunbridge Wells will be subject to development and facing demolision.

Some of the facade of the Civic Buildings (containing the Town Hall, Library, Assembly Hall, Police Station, Museum etc) is 'listed', but what does that mean in terms of development and planning applications? Can they be demolished completely?

The civic buildings were built in 1939 in a style quite common for the period. Plain and some might say 'ugly' they certainly aren't terribly pretty to look at (personally I wish The Opera House was still our main theatre and not a pub). However, I think serious consideration and public opinion should be sought before making any more major changes to our town centre. There is clearly a strong sense within our community that the public's views are not being taken into account on such issues, the Calverley Park bandstand, and the old ABC cinema site being prime examples.

If the site is given over to development, extra measures need to be in place to ensure it's not empty for years, and that the replacement building is of a style fitting the town's traditions. Better still, surely it'd be cheaper to refurbish the existing buildings, making the most of the Art Deco style - The De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill was once slated as an outdated carbuncle deteriorating beyond its usage, but since it was given a new lease of life and the most made of its features, its now a gem on our South Coast once again.

Perhaps that's the answer: Go deco, save the building, facelift the facade, make us proud of it. Don't for heavens sake just sign it over to "more shops".

Regards, Natelie

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

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