The cinema site in Royal Tunbridge Wells
Council Leader, Councillor Tom Dawlings has given the following statement in response to the news that the former ABC cinema site in Royal Tunbridge Wells has a new owner, Retirement Villages Group.
James Ahearne the Development Director for Retirement Villages Group emailed me to confirm that Retirement Villages had exchanged contracts to acquire the ABC Cinema site in Royal Tunbridge Wells. Delightfully he said that he was aware that I was 'personally invested to deliver this historically problematic site' which is why he was advising me of this news first. So I hope that this will be the beginning of the final chapter of the long saga of the cinema site.
Retirement Villages understand that this is a very sensitive site not least because it has been undeveloped for so long. It is also a very prominent site, and I pointed out that residents (and Members of the Planning Committee) would want the development to enhance this significant part of the town. James Ahearne said he was all too aware of the sensitivities around this site and the imperative to bring forward a deliverable scheme without further delay. He acknowledged that there would be some scepticism among the local community and that 20 years of the site being vacant is unacceptable on any site let alone on such a gateway site. He was confident that there is a solution that will deliver the regeneration, activation and public benefits needed.
Retirement Villages Group is the oldest private retirement developer in the UK with over 40 years of experience and 16 operational villages. The company is owned and funded by AXA Investment Management. So I think the involvement of Retirement Villages is wonderful news for the town and borough and hope that they can find the solution to the 20-year problem of the cinema site.
The site has been vacant since 2000. Find out more about the history of the site.