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Go-ahead for ABC cinema site in Tunbridge Wells

By This is Kent  |  Posted: November 14, 2008

  • NIGHT TIME: The shops and hotel planned for the cinema site

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THE LONG-awaited regeneration of the derelict cinema site in Tunbridge Wells will go ahead, with demolition work starting in January.

Permission for the £50m redevelopment, which will transform the grot-spot, was given this week.

The complex, which will wrap around the corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Church Road, will have 9,905sqm of retail space, 7,213 sqm of office space, a 137-bed hotel, and a 122-bay car park.

On hearing they had been granted planning permission, Rydell Properties, which is behind the plans, said it hoped it would be ready to open by early 2011.

David Swan, of Lordland Europe, who represents Rydell, told the Kent and Sussex Courier: "We are delighted with the outcome. It is good for everyone. Obviously we will need to get the demolition out of the way first.

"It is likely we will start this early in the new year. We have everything in place to start demolition but there are two shopkeepers still there and being so close to Christmas it would be unfair on them to start now.

"The demolition will take three to four months, then we will start the building work. That will take about 18 months."

Mr Swan said it could be opened in stages and was hopeful some shops would be ready for Christmas 2010.

He added: "It still hasn't been decided how many shops there will be. There is space and that can be sub-divided into any number of shops. That is how it has been designed; it is very flexible.

"There is demand in Tunbridge Wells for big shops and we are in detailed negotiations with two and also at advanced stage of negotiations with a company for the hotel."

Councillors discussed the plans for the five-storey building at the western area planning committee on Wednesday.

The development, which will go as far down Mount Pleasant Road as the Oxfam shop, will be made from sandstone and beige brick – in keeping with other surrounding buildings.

Shop frontages would be set back from the road, creating a colonnade, and the entrance to the hotel will be half-way up the building on Mount Pleasant.

A courtyard would be created inside, for use by the hotel and spa guests and restaurant customers.

The main concern raised at the meeting was whether the car park was of sufficient size given the amount of people the building would attract.

Speaking in the council chamber resident Gerald Plastow said: "The number of cars from workers, guests and shoppers will see a significant increase and the car park is just not large enough to cope with this. It will result in cars parking in residential streets."

Planning consultant for the scheme Hannah Baker said: "Within 1km of the site there are 1,320 car parking spaces, there are 11 bus stops on Mount Pleasant Road, it is 250 metres from the train station with a taxi rank outside. It is very well located in terms of transport."

It was agreed at the meeting the access point to the Lonsdale Medical Centre, which would be directly next to the new car park, would not be affected.

Leader of the Council Cllr Roy Bullock was delighted the "grot-spot would disappear".

He said: "It is a truly historic day for Royal Tunbridge Wells. Of course, these are difficult economic circumstances and we hope there will not be a delay to the commencement of demolition and new build on this site which has been derelict for far too long."

Mr Swan said he was hopeful the economic climate would not effect the plans.

He said: "If I had a crystal ball I could see what the credit crunch will do.

"Two years is a long time in financial terms."

Rydell, as part of the plans, will contribute almost £250,000 to cover highway matters.

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    Freddie Reidy, Tunbridge Wells  |  July 21 2009, 7:20PM

    Why don't the council have the back-bone to bite the bullet in terms of costs and renovate the site? Local people want there local cinema back, OK there are legal bits in the way about re-opening a cinema but there would be a lot of public support for the idea plus probably public investment. Think of what it would do for the town to have a thriving cinema again all the shops flanking the cinema would become great locations for restaurants and cafes which would actually stay open because of people coming and going from the cinema. What the people on this site have said about a lack of demand for shops is right as soon as you start competing with RVP then investment leaves that site and then where are you? OWING TO A DISPUTE WITH RAILTRACK THERE IS STILL A LITTLE TIME BUT BARELY ANY, LETS START A CAMPAIGN AND GET TW ITS CINEMA BACK!

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    James Shooter, Tunbridge Wells  |  December 08 2008, 1:43PM

    What a stupid idea. One thing we don't need is another hotel or shopping centre. It'll just force up the rates in the area from the ludicrous level they are already at! What's more there are dozens of empty shops around town, in fact twelve on Camden Road alone, and some have been empty for more than a year. There are even empty shops in the RVP. Where exactly are all these cars going to go in and out of this place, The whole area round the crossroads is a traffic blackspot all day anyway. Typical example of someone getting a big backhander for letting it go ahead. As for the architectural side of it, it's the Christchurch all over again... If in doubt pull it down and build some ghastly retro monstrosity that isnt needed. There is still a market for a cinema in town, other than that overpriced monstrosity out of town. Why are they planning on building a new one when there's one there rotting?

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    Patrick, Lancaster (ex TW)  |  December 04 2008, 10:23PM

    "Leader of the Council Cllr Roy Bullock was delighted the "grot-spot would disappear". So he should be - after all - it was the council's fault that it happened! Any fool could have seen the demise of the ABC when permission was given for the out of town cinema. An out of town cinema for car drivers! With no proper bus service. There's me in the town centre and being a good citizen with no car - and no cinema to go to! I hope they put a monument up commemorating the Council's years of bungling.

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    Robert Dunn (Aged 22), Tunbridge Wells/Paddock Wood  |  November 25 2008, 3:53PM

    I'm in two frames of mind about the new development. Firstly I believe the old cinema has been an eye saw for far to long and at this point, any change will be an improvement. On the flip side of that though, its this really the right way forward? I understand for profit reasons why these plans are going ahead as it brings in the maximum amount of income from shoppers, workers and tourists, but in the long run won't these changes drain Tunbridge Wells of his culture? I think Tunbridge Wells needs to take into account its young people and so in my personal opinion I believe all or part of the new design should be dedicated primarily to young people it will allow them somewhere safe to go instead of waiting in the streets. It will then also provide an excellent place for schools and the council to work together for the benefit of the community. It will be interesting to see how the new building is going to help or hinder the younger generation, but with the economy as it is, its understandable why profit is at the forefront of this design.

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    Penny Young, Tunbridge Wells  |  November 17 2008, 1:35PM

    Its quite amusing that they are putting a hotel there, I assume mainly for tourists, and that at the same time they are trying to kill The Pantiles by removing the Tourist Information Centre. Madness. Make an effort and go into the shops down The Pantiles to sign the petition against it.

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    DH, Tunbridge Wells  |  November 14 2008, 3:24PM

    er, Antony, where does it say affordable homes ... !!?? Shops and hotel would seem to make sense - what would you rather have?! for it to stay a derelict site right in the middle of town. Goodness - i know this country likes to moan about everything, but you take the biscuit, making stuff up to gripe about!!

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    Antony Palourti, Tunbridge Wells/Broadstairs  |  November 14 2008, 12:58PM

    Talk about trying to please everyone! Shops, offices, restaurant, "affordable" homes, a hotel and car parking - all on the site of cinema?? Just how affordable are the homes going to be in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. Should there even be homes there? Also, why more office space? The BT building was razed for more flats and firms are going bust all over the place, not to mention the amount of other brown field sites in the town. A hotel and office complex is hardly opening up the site for the people of Tunbridge Wells, something that the old cinema clearly was. This is another example of developers using a historic and valuable site as a cash cow, at the expense of the people in the town.