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Decision taken on future of Calverley Square project

At the Extraordinary Full Council meeting on Tuesday 8 October 2019 members debated the delivery of the Calverley Square project.

They voted in two stages, firstly on recommendation 1 under agenda item 4:

‘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.’

There were 12 members who voted in favour of this; 23 voted against and 8 members abstained.

Secondly members voted on a further seven recommendations including:

‘That Full Council endorse that the project designed to RIBA Stage 4 (Technical Design) (in accordance with Full Council, Decision FC50/17 on 6 December 2017 and all relevant Cabinet and delegated decisions) be approved for funding and delivery.’

There were 12 members who voted in favour of this; 27 voted against and 4 members abstained.

The result of both votes meant none of the recommendations were carried.

Cross-party group to continue work

Following this debate a motion was then proposed and carried, asking that the existing cross-party working group continue its work to examine the business case and other aspects for options for the four key sites owned by the Council (the Town Hall, Assembly Hall Theatre, Mount Pleasant Car Park and Great Hall Car Park) together with other sites which might become available. The cross-party working group should report to Full Council on 18 December 2019.

There were 28 members who voted in favour of this; 7 voted against and 9 members abstained.

Comment from Council leader

Councillor Alan McDermott said:

‘I am very disappointed that a project that was initiated with cross party support four years ago has fallen at the final hurdle. The scheme was strongly supported by many including local businesses who would have benefitted from increased footfall and spend in the town. It was also fully validated by evidence and every single external independent examination and review.

‘We now have to review our options and consider the future of theatre in Tunbridge Wells. I am committed to generating economic growth in the town and wider borough and will talk to opposition groups to see if we can find common ground on what we do want rather than what we don’t want. I welcome the motion to review our options.’

Recommendations in full

The reports considered and recommendations can be seen in full here.

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