A plan to redevelop Tunbridge Wells town centre In the early 18th century Tunbridge Wells became the precursor of the modern English provincial town.
It is now time to again make our town a precedent for others to follow and envy. In the next 15 years the Kent County Council expects the population of Kent to increase by 16.7 per cent affecting transport, healthcare, education, housing etc. It is therefore imperative that Tunbridge Wells meets these challenges by providing facilities and amenities for its prosperity and sustainable future. When the Royal Victoria Place opened in 1992, an almost immediate imbalance happened in the town with the main retail area moving permanently away from the old High Street. In 2000 the old cinema closed and the Longfield Road Retail Park began to develop pulling customers away from the town centre. Now we have the Kent Sussex Hospital site, the expansion of RVP, AXA PPP Healthcares expansion etc all bringing about further changes within our town. It is imperative that sites and land within our coach outlet sale x organizers town are not developed in isolation, especially the cinema site. It must therefore form part of a Town Centre Planning Strategy and within an infrastructure framework for the betterment of the community. With experience developers are only interested in order couch online good rental values that a development can give them, rather than a best option for the community. A simple SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis on the towns existing facilities and amenities shows a marked reduction in Arts and Culture. In this respect the cinema site should be developed to improve the quality of life in our town rather than keep hearing about aspects of our broken society. A new theatre and fly tower can be designed using the natural contours of the site attracting West End shows and International artists which it unfortunately does not do at the moment. The theatre could become the epicentre of an arts and cultural area which would encompass the adjacent and existing Trinity Centre plus the nearby Opera House. In this respect it would be good to open up views of the Church of the Holy Trinity designed by Decimus Burton and built in 1829. Cinemas doubling up as lecture theatres, an art gallery for local artists plus workshops/schools for acting (local drama groups), photography, dance, music, fashion and a relocated further education centre would all make this arts and cultural centre famous in the south east. Moving the theatre to the cinema site would enable the existing location to be developed into say a multi functional space accommodating a conference and exhibition hall used by coach outlet zip top tote businesses and schools. Adjacent new and existing restaurants would provide places to eat as part of an evening out with the family or friends. A covered series of up escalators could be located on the East side of Mount Pleasant linking the High Street and the station with the upper part of the town. There is an alternative. The site could become the new Tunbridge Wells Borough Councils headquarters forming part of a new business centre of excellence stretching down over and around the station including the old Morrisons site. Here, would also be the best location for a new hotel. The Business centre would form a link with the old High Street which could be pedestrianised as suggested in 1995. Economic stability is an important element and the essence in forming an enjoyable place to live and work. Whether we like it or not the overcrowded and costly rail network will become a critical issue, forcing people to look at working locally in the future. To allow a similar development as the one which gained planning permission not only dismisses the giving back of a public building to the community, it actually makes it more difficult to develop the civic centre site. A new arts and cultural centre or new offices for TWBC would free up space on the civic centre site rather than restricting its redevelopment. Having more freedom to create some flair and imagination could give the town some iconic new architecture. The American architect Louis Kahn designed iconic buildings where entrances were placed on their corners with circulation axes taken through on the diagonal. Imagine a new coach outlet sale handbags glazed street taken through the existing entrance and the corner of the civic centre continuing through to a new piazza and town square. Looking back, the street would give a vista diagonally across to the new arts and cultural Centre designed with a mirrored entrance. Not only that, if the junction could be redesigned like Oxford Circus, an almost direct link would be established forming a visual symbiosis between the two buildings. The Civic Centre site once the new arts and culture centre is built could then be redeveloped to accommodate more efficient offices for TWBC, a new library and internet caf, museum, apartments, a department store, bespoke retail, restaurants, further offices and rentable meeting rooms for local groups and young people attached to the new multi functional space in the existing Assembly Rooms.. The new Piazza and town square located at the end of Monsoon Road and Calverley Precinct would tie in the various streets and obviously improve and enhance the rental values of existing shops especially those in Camden Road. With 1 in 7 shops vacant at the moment in the UK, there are opportunities to make shopping more bespoke, catering for Tunbridge Wells retail requirements. We must remember that Westfield are planning to redevelop Ely Court, thereby increasing the size of RVP. This would be immediately adjacent to the junction of Calverley Precinct and Camden Road. It would be good if RVP could open its doors and embrace the town more. Reducing pollution levels and our carbon footprint will form a cleaner town environment. Monsoon Road, Monsoon Way and Newton Road could be pedestrianised and greener landscaping added not only at street level, but on facades aswell eg carparks. Pedestrianising Monsoon Road would also open up views of its beautiful terrace with the vista at the bottom across Grosvenor Road.
Further vistas could be formed aswell as connecting walkways, pergolas, courtyards and green spaces. A possible vista could also be formed down into Calverley Gardens. Whilst there are a myriad of ways in redeveloping our town centre, there should be no quick fix or a fire fighting exercise to overcome the problems we face today and in the future.
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