Secretary of State visits Tunbridge Wells
Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government visited Tunbridge Wells on Wednesday 1 September.
He was met by Greg Clark MP, Tom Dawlings, the Leader of the Council, and William Benson, the Chief Executive.
The visit was to look at regeneration work that’s being undertaken in town centres and while here the Secretary of State walked through parts of Royal Tunbridge Wells and was briefed on a number of initiatives.
Mr Jenrick visited the newly renovated and repurposed flats for homeless residents in Crescent Road, a project that was made possible by financial support from his government department, as well as s106 planning contributions.
The Amelia Scott was also on the itinerary and Mr Jenrick saw how this exciting new cultural and learning space, which will house a range of arts heritage, culture and wellbeing services, will attract footfall to the town centre.
Walking through the town’s pedestrian precinct Mr Jenrick saw first-hand some of the challenges the Council faces from the closure of high street chains, the impact of the pandemic on footfall and high Business Rates.
Councillor Dawlings thanked Mr Jenrick for the support the Council received throughout the pandemic and stressed the importance of adequate funding to sustain services given the loss of income because of the Covid crisis. He particularly noted the various grant schemes to support local businesses which the Government had funded and the Council is continuing to administer. Over £50 million has been paid out under these schemes to businesses in the borough, keeping many businesses afloat. Councillor Dawlings also took the opportunity to address several other issues including housing and changes to the planning system, the plight of the families of our local Afghan residents and the impact of the HGV driver shortage on recycling and waste collections.
Speaking after the visit Councillor Dawlings said: ‘I was pleased with the interest the Secretary of State showed in the town. The plans the Council is working on for using the surplus office space in the Town Hall should provide a boost to the town centre and so too will the Amelia Scott where the building work is almost complete and the fit-out about to start. The problem of empty shops resulting from the closure of high street chains would have been very evident to the Secretary of State. I made the point that the reputation of Royal Tunbridge Wells might be as a prosperous town and the home of 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ but there were many more deprived parts of the town and the Council's focus was towards the greater number of residents in those areas.’