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Statement from Cllr McDermott on former ABC Cinema Site

The announcement that Retirement Village Group has acquired the former ABC cinema site in Tunbridge Wells has generated a lot of local interest and I am pleased that work is commencing on new development proposals for this important site.

Retirement Village Group has assured Members that there will be engagement with local stakeholders as part of a detailed process of preparing the design for these proposals in the course of preparing a planning application, and I really welcome this approach.

Mindful of the interest in the site it is very important to emphasise that that any planning application will first be robustly and objectively assessed by officers of TWBC Planning Services. Only after this has been done will a report be considered by the Planning Committee which is made up of councillors from across the borough and across the political groups.

Councillors who are on the Planning Committee do not make decisions based on what ward or political group they represent. They have a responsibility to assess development proposals – planning applications – on what are called material planning considerations (often established through legislation or the Courts) against local and national planning policy.

I have been Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation for a number of years and I have observed first-hand the objective and rigorous way in which the Committee has considered applications throughout this time; some of them for significant sites such as the residential development of the former hospital in Royal Tunbridge Wells, or the new business park at Kingstanding Way, or the new student accommodation at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

There is no doubt in my mind that that the Planning Committee will assess any future application at the former ABC cinema site, or any other location, in a professional, balanced and objective manner and I will ensure that this happens.

To reinforce this I have asked the Head of Planning to meet the Planning Committee and other members to remind them of my expectations:

  • objectivity, so that members of the public know that planning decisions are made objectively which is of paramount importance, and
  • that there is always a focus on material planning issues in discussions on planning applications.

I am looking forward to seeing proposals for the cinema site develop, and seeing how these conform with national and local planning policy.


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