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August blog and update

Update on Calverley Grounds

We put forward a motion in June at an Emergency Council Meeting which were intended to “stop all spending on the Calverley Square project with immediate effect” .The Civic Development is at RIBA stage 4 which entails a detailed design, evaluation of trade packages and environmental preparation. Mace, the newly appointed construction consultants, will be reporting back to the council soon on their final proposals. The total cost of the scheme so far will be around £10.5m. However, after some cross party negotiations, it was agreed that the parties put forward alternative proposals and a panel of councillors have been appointed. On behalf of the Lib Dems, Cllr. Mark Ellis, is representing our residents. It was further agreed at Full Council that all councillors should be involved in deciding whether RIBA Stage 5 goes ahead or not. Yesterday, Wednesday 28th August, councillors met again to be briefed by the council’s experts what the newly estimated cost of the CD scheme would be. We learnt that it was expected to amount to a gross cost of £108m for the entire new build but that the net loan sought would only be £87m (assuming that external funding would be granted or found). That means that the council are only borrowing a further £10m extra on top of the original £77m they were going to seek from the Public Works Loan Board who are able to lend at very low rates to public bodies. Net interest on the loan was expected to be £2.3m so the annual repayments stay the same. That was possible because of favourable low rates at 2.15%pa.

If full council approve the next stage, then a 2 stage construction would start in January 2020. However, the continuation of the CD is dependent on all parties being in agreement. At present, the Lib Dem position is that we feel the building of new offices and a new theatre is not necessary to the cultural or economic growth of the town. The scheme is the wrong scheme and in the wrong place. We do not think that a council such as Tunbridge Wells needs to take on such a commercially risky venture at this time. There are less expensive options that we need to explore. We can enhance the “Cultural Quarter” of Tunbridge Wells by building on what we already have. The arguments will continue until our next full council meeting on 25th September. See www.twlibdems.org/civicdev formore details.

St John’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood There is an ongoing item at JTB on rat-running in St John’s. Your Councillor Pete Lidstone has been in discussion with Adrian Berendt, who was instrumental in introducing 20s Plenty to St. John’s Ward, and we feel KCC should take a holistic approach and use the existing 20mph zone as a platform to look at establishing a ‘Low traffic neighbourhood’ in St John’s. This ties into Cllr. Mark Ellis’ idea about St John’s as the ‘education quarter’ of TW. Key to this will be getting our Kent County Councillor, Peter Oakford, onside.

Cllr. Lidstone has written to Cllr. Oakford regarding declaring St. John’s a “low traffic neighbourhood”.

one of Kent’s largest 20mph zones in St John’s, but there remain significant issues in the area:

  • Roads such as Queens Road, Wilman Road, Holmewood Road and Woodbury Park Road being used as cut-throughs by significant volumes of traffic, often speeding.
  • Conflict at certain points such as school drop-offs, tight or obscured junctions like Mereworth Rd / East Cliff Rd.
  • Near misses on roads such as Currie Road, where cars use the pavement to pass each other due to the road becoming a single carriageway.

We don’t believe a piecemeal approach will work in St John’s, because it won’t address the fundamental issues of the wrong type of traffic (through traffic) entering the area, and people using cars to make short journeys which could be made by foot or bicycle.

Please see the following link for details of how a Low Traffic Neighbourhood works – https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/3844/lcc021-low-traffic-neighbourhoods-detail-v9.pdf

Whilst this scheme is intended for residential roads to the south and west of us, we think it could benefit the whole of the town if it is successful.

New Local Plan 2016-2036

The new Local Plan will be released for public consultation on 20th September. It will also be published in iLocal the Council’s own magazine delivered to every household. There is a requirement for Tunbridge Wells to build up to 13,560 new homes in the borough, 6,000 of which have already been built or approved. You may already have seen in the local press that new garden villages are planned for Tudeley and Paddock Wood (2,800 and 4,000 respectively). However, the LP plans for new secondary schools for North Capel and at Spratts Brook Farm near Ramslye. It will be an opportunity for residents to give their opinions with regard to infrastructure, affordable and/or social housing; business/industrial space; light industry; employment; primary shopping areas; residential parking; active travel plans for walking and cycling; new transport links; designated, segregated cycle routes; sports pitches; GP surgeries; drainage (Southern Water). All plans will be assessed in accordance to Sustainability Appraisal.

I sit on the Planning Working Group to examine draft policies where we look at different options. Key consideration is that plans have to be deliverable and that KCC has to build the infrastructure.

In addition, I will be looking at new ways for the council to build social housing. The Government has announced that it has at last removed the housing revenue account borrowing cap so that councils can deliver their own new homes, alone or in partnership, or by setting up not for profit companies. On 31st July Local Government Association celebrated 100 years of council housing since the Addison Act, (enacted under a Liberal Government) to enable councils to become large scale house builders. Currently we have 1,000 people on the council housing list so new social homes are desperately needed. I want to make sure that we do not lose out on this opportunity to provide good quality housing again at affordable rent or prices.

Waste Collection The new waste collection will start week beginning 30th September.

Any problems with the collection should be reported to the Depot at North Farm Lane, Tunbridge Wells through the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s main switchboard 01892 526121.

Cllr. Marguerita Morton


Cllr. Pete Lidstone


Cllr. Mark Ellis


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