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Southborough Hub project saved by deal

By Alan Smith

The Southborough Hub project is back on track after Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark intervened to break a deadlock over finance.

The project, already several years in the planning, will see a new community hub built on the site of the old Southborough Town Council offices and Royal Victoria Hall.

It will comprise a medical centre, library, theatre, community hall and sports pavilion in a project jointly arranged by Southborough Town Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council.

An artist's impression of the Hub (15098599)
An artist's impression of the Hub (15098599)

The NHS is willing to invest £4.2 m in the new medical centre that will see the St Andrew's Medical Centre transfer from its current premises in St Andrew's Court, but the £20,000 it was prepared to pay as an annual rent was lower than the £61,000 expected, which had left Southborough Town Council fearful that it would be left with an ongoing financial drain on its resources.

Patients had begun to fear they would lose their doctors' surgery altogether when the NHS set a deadline of August 2 for the contracts to be agreed.

With one day to go, Mr Clark convened an urgent meeting of the three councils involved in the project in a bid to break the deadlock.

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark

As a result, both KCC and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council agreed to chip in to each meet a third of the revenue shortfall for the first two years after the hub opens.

With that assurance, Southborough Town Council held an emergency meeting and unanimously ratified the agreement with the NHS.

Southborough council leader Alain Lewis said: "Councillors had serious concerns about the long-term financial sustainability of the project."

Mr Clark said: “I was alarmed to hear that the new medical centre for St Andrews Surgery could be lost to the Southborough community because of a failure to agree terms between the partners.

"I was pleased to be able to bring people together and break the deadlock.

“The whole community wants these facilities to be built without delay and I hope that it will now be full-steam ahead.”

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