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Plans for leisure complex at former BHS store at Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells scrapped


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Plans for a multi-million pound leisure complex at a former BHS store which would include a go kart track, cinema and bowling alley have been scrapped.

The proposals for the empty units at Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells were revealed in March but have been dropped after the shopping centre's owner refused to approve them.

The former BHS store in Tunbridge Wells was set to be turned into a go kart track, cinema, bowling alley and virtual gaming centre
The former BHS store in Tunbridge Wells was set to be turned into a go kart track, cinema, bowling alley and virtual gaming centre

The £9million plans for the unit, which closed when the retailer shut in August 2016, were the brainchild of Elite Leisure Collection (ELC) and would have included a two-storey karting circuit with a 230m track and eco-friendly electric karts.

A virtual reality gaming centre was also included in proposals along with mini golf and laser tag, which would have seen the Longfield Road complex open every day until midnight.

The development was expected to open some time next year.

However, the mega plans, which were set to create around 50 jobs for the town, have been ditched after claims Royal Victoria Place (RVP) owner British Land wanted too much say on the plans.

ELC Business Director Andrew Daniells said: "British Land, the owners of the RVP required an unworkable level of influence and control over the various activities we wanted to install, which would have created an amazing family leisure venue.

The multi-million pound plans include an electric karting track. Picture: Elite Raceway
The multi-million pound plans include an electric karting track. Picture: Elite Raceway

"We engaged with top consultants, specialising in the conversion of disused retail units into hi-tech leisure and restaurant destinations.

"It's back to the drawing board and our agents are now looking for alternative location options."

British Land do not own the retail unit which BHS formerly occupied, as it is operated and leased by M&G Real Estate, but the RVP owner has a 5% stake in the units as they back onto the shopping centre.

Mr Daniells added: "The freehold purchase of 95% of the derelict BHS unit had been agreed, the leasehold agreement for the remaining 5%, which relates to the 'back of house' areas of the Royal Victoria Place and a small section of window space adjoining the shopping centre was the stumbling block."

The complex was cause for excitement for many people in the town, including MP Greg Clark who said it was "fantastic" for the town and would be a "magnet for attracting visitors" from further afield.

The owner of Royal Victoria Place has a 5% stake in the units as they back onto the shopping centre. Picture: RVP/ David Dettmann
The owner of Royal Victoria Place has a 5% stake in the units as they back onto the shopping centre. Picture: RVP/ David Dettmann

Greg commented: “This seemed to be a good scheme, I’m disappointed that it is not progressing but hope a way can be found to resolve the situation.”

Cllr David Scott had also revealed he was a "big supporter" of the plans which he thought would "rejuvenate the town".

BHS ceased trading at the shopping centre when the chain collapsed, with all its stores nationwide closing.

Elite Leisure, formerly Markerstudy Leisure, already runs the likes of the town’s One Warwick Place Hotel and Bewl Water.

British Land and Royal Victoria Place have been approached for comment.

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