Grant the residents of Tunbridge Wells Borough a referendum on the £93m Civic Complex

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Catherine Simpson
Catherine Simpson signed this petition

We, the undersigned, hereby petition William Benson, David Jukes and all Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillors to allow all residents of the Borough a voice by granting a referendum on the new Civic Complex

Residents and businesses of the Borough have been told by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) that the majority are in favour of the new Civic Complex. Therefore, we ask the Council to prove this by simply granting a referendum to the public.

What is the Civic Complex?   Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has granted itself planning permission for a £93m Civic Complex consisting of new park-view offices for themselves, a new theatre and an underground car park.  All built in a historic, listed park.  TWBC has lumped together its new offices and the proposed theatre in the same application so that one cannot happen without the other.  

Why should you care?    TWBC will borrow £77million, putting the council tax payers of the Borough, their children and their grandchildren in debt for the next 50 years. They are also cutting services, introducing a new £52 annual garden-waste stealth tax along with a proposed hike in council tax, all to help fund this ill-conceived idea.  TWBC stated that the garden-waste figure would be likely £30 pa, yet it has stealthily come in at nearly 75% more.  On this basis, what hope is there for a £93m project to keep to budget?

The design of the theatre is inflexible and out of date, and can’t even host as much as the Assembly Hall.  Even as TWBC pushes ahead with this, the Theatres’ Trust, the national body for theatre in the UK, is hosting a conference specifically about how theatre needs to diversify to survive – something this design can’t achieve.  

Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, said recently that councils faced “truly unpalatable” decisions to balance the books. KCC, he said, was trying to make savings of £30m next year when it had already “scraped the barrel”. And he added, “Without additional resource, the worst is yet to come.” 

At present, the council has to find a shortfall of more than £700,000 next year. Therefore, along with the unknown outcome of Brexit and with interest rates rising, residents should have a say on whether the council commits us to this huge financial burden. The bankrupt Northamptonshire County Council has had to sell its newly built council offices and then rent them back from the new owner. Do we want this to happen in Tunbridge Wells? 

Ironically, Tracey Crouch MP launched a government initiative in Calverley Grounds, the site of the proposed development, to give residents a ‘direct say’ in major planning decisions – something that is being denied to voters in this very place.

Please click below to demand that TWBC lets YOU have YOUR say.