Stop the funding for TWBC Civic centre/ theatre in grade 2 listed Calverley Grounds Park

This petition made change with 3,539 supporters!
Angela Funnell started this petition to Right Honourable James Brokenshire MP (Secretary of State Housing Local Communities and Local Gover) and

The proposed new civic centre / theatre / underground car park will encroach on the park.

Over 66 trees planted to commemorate war heroes who died in World War l according to the elderly community of Tunbridge Wells will be cut down which would be an insult not onto those who gave their lives but to the living whose ancestors those trees were planted to commemorate.

Tree surgeons have stated these trees have over 70 more years life in them and that “It will take probably a generation for significant recovery of the tree scape to take place within the park itself, whilst the presence of the strong tree groups on Mount Pleasant Avenue will probably never be fully recovered, and the landscape will be unalterably and significantly changed by the presence of the underground car park. This change in character will be fundamental and long lasting."

So this development will destroy a park that is a fact evidenced here!

It is also to be remembered that the average mature tree can produce enough oxygen in one day for up to four people.

So in any area with increased congestion and rising air pollution these mature trees are vital for good air quality especially for vulnerable persons such as children, disabled, elderly and for those with asthma, lung or breathing conditions.

Lord Dowding’s Memorial would have to be resited.

This is a grade ll listed historic park in a conservation area which Queen Victoria walked through.

It should be preserved for all generations to enjoy!

Especially children who live nearby in small two up two down terraced cottages or flats with no back gardens and this park is their nearest large play area for them to run, exercise and enjoy the fresh air which is vital for them to grow healthy and strong. 

Where will those children play when the park is closed off as a building site? 

This proposed development has had over 64 compulsory purchase orders served on them all to do with access to the proposed development as the infrastructure to support the new development is not there.

Consequently in order to access it  Tunbridge Wells Borough Council are proposing to compulsory purchase car parks and delivery areas of established businesses that have been in the town for years. A private dental business will have to be demolished and the said businesses have stated such as Hoopers, Sainsburys, BBC that the this access rights will ruin their business forcing closure and job losses. They have also stated they will fight the Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council did a survey of it’s residents in 2015. The results of this survey illustrated that 95% of residents said they were happy or satisfied with the current Assembly Hall theatre. It also asked if the residents were willing to pay £10 a year more in council tax for a new theatre? The results were as follows :- 55% of the residents said NO, 32% said YES, and 13% said they were unsure.

Therefore this survey results is evidence that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is telling untruths when it states that this new theatre is what “ the majority want “ and illustrates it does not have the mandate to build a brand new theatre. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Councillors are public servants and are there to serve the people of Tunbridge Wells and not themselves. They have refused to give the people of Tunbridge Wells a referendum despite the people requesting it!



They are ignoring the very own results of their own conducted survey. They have ignored letters of protests and petitions. In fact they are ignoring all forms of protests and dictating to the electorate calling all protesters NIMBYS and dismissing all. A new political party was formed making three political parties that now oppose this!

Considering the uncertainty of the times reference Brexit and what’s recently happened in Northamptonshire for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to borrow the obscene sum of £77 million for a new civic centre, a theatre and underground car park when the people that they represent are so clearly against it depicts not a democratic council but an autocratic one.

On top of this not only will Tunbridge Wells Borough Council need to subsidise the new theatre by £350,000 annually but in order to fund it, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council plans to cut £280,000 from vital services like Citizens advice Bureau thereby putting vulnerable people at risk. 

And if that wasn’t all; the then said new theatre is already by design not fit for purpose as the acoustics won’t allow for symphony orchestras to play there, something currently enjoyed on many nights by Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra and the seats are fixed not allowing for a variety of uses of stage shows or other exhibitions or events. It also has had to have its design adapted due to design flaws brought to attention of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council by Tunbridge Wells Disability Access Group as the theatre design originally wasn’t disability friendly!

Returning to the acoustics it would need an extra acoustic shell adding further to the cost and thereby illustrating its an out of date design and venue before its even out of the ground. And even more worrying the contractor chosen Mace has a history of being behind schedule on contracts plus also of going over budget so what is now priced at £90 million could well go up in figures way past £100 million! 

However there is an alternative plan that most people prefer and support and would give Tunbridge Wells Borough Council the same effect as the current proposed development.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council are with the help of a grant from the arts council referburbishing part of the current civic centre as a learning and culture hub. There are detailed plans and ideas drawn up and undertaken in s six years project by Dr Philip Whitbourne

lf these plans were followed Tunbridge Wells Borough Council could complusory purchase the police station as they are moving out to Tonbridge and therefore could completely redesign the current theatre and civic centre that they have at a much lower cost of approximately £31 million. These figures were originally published by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council as the total cost of complete refurbishment of the Assembly Hall and offices not including the culture and learning hub as funding from that at 9 million was to be coming from the Arts Council. 

Please see enclosed link for costings of refurbishment taken from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council website.

Costings shown for refurbishment as per Summary Stephen Browning report October 2014 

Therefore taking into account all things including the wishes of the residents as evidenced in the residents survey the most sensible and prudent thing would be to refurbish the Assembly Hall as detailed.

It would not destroy a grade ll listed park. They would not have to Compulsory purchase 64 places for access as the infrastructure is already in place and therefore would not have to pay out compensation and would not ruin any business or destroy jobs or 66 trees that were planted to commemorate war heroes lost in the World War l  (according to the elderly community) which also wouldn’t negatively impact the air quality for those that desperately need it, Lord Dowding’s War Memorial wouldn’t have to be resited.

 A dental business wouldn’t have to be demolished. A grade ll listed historic park would not have to be dug up to not only to provide foundations for said buildings but also to provide an underground car park which would turn the majority of the park into a construction building site with soil spoil for up to five years!

The park won’t be destroyed as evidenced by the tree surgeons

 Tunbridge Wells Borough Council could still improve access to the park in conjunction with Friends of Calverley Grounds. If the current civic centre is completely refurbished as no one cannot understand why Tunbridge Wells Borough Council can completely refurbish one part of the building to bring it up to modern day standards but not the rest when they are all the same age?

A completely refurbished and redesigned new theatre/ civic centre on the current site would not only be a better decision in these times of uncertainty but would enhance the town as it would be opposite the Trinity Arts centre and would create a cultural  square bringing footfall from the station to the top of the hill where presently shops are closing daily. The park could still enjoy the ice rink, the Melia, and local and live music festival whilst the Pantiles brings footfall to the bottom of the town. 

This is the sound and correct decision and we in Tunbridge Wells ask the Secretary of State for Housing, local communities and local government to intervene and not grant Tunbridge Wells Borough Council the £77 million loan for this development. We ask on behalf of the businesses they are about to put out of business, those who will lose their jobs and for all the people in the town who will have services cut and have to pay more council tax.  

The people of Tunbridge Wells do not want to be another Northampton. We also don’t want Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to do what Preston did just before the banking crisis and put all their eggs in one basket.

However Tunbridge Wells Borough Council will not listen to the the people or public they are supposed to represent. This new civic centre / theatre is a concrete monstrosity. It looks akin to Royal Festival Hall plonked in a grade ll listed park. Building on grade ll listed park sets a precedent. If Tunbridge Wells Borough Council start building on it now what is to stop them building any more of it in the future?

The only way to stop this proposed development now is to ask for the funding to be turned down.

So please do not agree to give Tunbridge Wells Borough Council £77 million loan to build this proposed new civic centre and theatre.

Please help us save our grade ll listed park.

Dont let us become another bankrupt town like Northampton!



This petition made change with 3,539 supporters!

Share this petition