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Calverley Square project in Tunbridge Wells to be discussed at full council tonight

Scores of people are due to attend a meeting tonight in which a decision is set to be made on the future of a controversial town centre project.

The Calverley Square development, proposed for the heart of Tunbridge Wells, includes plans for a new office building, theatre, underground car park and public square.

An artist's impression of the proposed Tunbridge Wells theatre complex
An artist's impression of the proposed Tunbridge Wells theatre complex

Supporters of the council scheme say the development would be an upgrade on the existing "ailing" Assembly Hall theatre and Town Hall.

Planning permission for the landmark project was secured last year.

But it has been met with significant local opposition, with many raising concerns about the huge financial costs, which could reach some £90 million, as well as the potential impact on the popular Calverley Gardens and neighbouring homes.

Now, the topic will be put to the full council at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council at the meeting tonight.

A report, released ahead of the meeting, outlines several recommendations - which include 'endorsing' the project.

Literature states: "That, given the importance of culture and leisure to the town’s economy and social environmental and economic wellbeing, and in recognition of the planned growth to the Borough’s population, this council endorses the principle that it wishes to provide a theatre that meets the needs of residents, visitors and producers."

An artist's impression of the proposed civic centre from the Calverley Grounds (9881793)
An artist's impression of the proposed civic centre from the Calverley Grounds (9881793)

It adds that the project should be 'approved for funding and delivery'.

The documents also ask councillors to approve 'an additional gross budget of £18m for the delivery of the Calverley Square scheme' and asks that sourcing this funding should be delgated to the 's151 Officer in consultation with the portfolio holder for finance and governance'.

The report adds that the divisive project is part of the council's five year plan: "The Borough has a clear and ambitious vision to “grow our role as the cultural centre of the Kent & Sussex High Weald, so that by 2024 the borough of Tunbridge Wells is nationally recognised for its vibrant cultural provision.

"Having a modern theatre sits at the heart of this vision. Likewise, the commitment to deliver a modern theatre fit for the 21st Century, is a key component of the Council’s Five Year Plan together with the delivery of new office space on Mount Pleasant Avenue Car Park."

An opposition group, the Tunbridge Wells Alliance, was set up to fight the plan and won six seats in May's local elections, which included victory over former Tory leader David Jukes.

Final decision set to be made regarding multimillion-pound theatre in Tunbridge Wells

The future of the project was thrown into uncertainty during a meeting held in June when two councillors drafted a proposal to terminate the scheme.

A public inquiry into the regeneration project was also launched earlier this year.

Read more: All the latest news from Tunbridge Wells

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