Share your grand designs for future of Tunbridge Wells town centre's key sites
By Kent and Sussex Courier | Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 04:00
GROT spots across the town may have become an unfortunate part of the landscape in Tunbridge Wells – but local architects are urging people to take a "fresh look at where we live".
LOOKING FOR THE WONDERFUL: Architect James Galpin
DRIVING FORCE: Architect Stuart Page
They are encouraging people to drop in at a community brainstorming day on Saturday, January 26, to share their ideas of the sort of buildings and designs they want to see in the town.
They will be asked to focus on 15 sites, such as the Union House site next to The Pantiles and the Arriva bus depot in St John's.
Most of the sites are council-owned but the notorious cinema site will, inevitably, also feature.
Tunbridge Wells architect James Galpin is a driving force behind the project to get people talking about how the town could look.
Mr Galpin, a partner at HazleMcCormackYoung, said this week: "There are key redundant sites in the town centre that have blighted the town for many years. The cinema site is an obvious example."
Asked to identify the council's main fault over the sites, he said: "Inactivity is the worst culprit in my view.
"There are reasons why buildings aren't removed immediately, but these could be negotiated by changes to the planning laws."
The architects' visualisations and public feedback will be turned into a book. Copies will be presented to councillors and senior staff at the council and also to the library.
Commenting on the purpose of "visions" for the town during economic hard times, he said: "Money will be available. Nobody can predict the timescale involved in the current economic depression, but the town will not crumble into the dust; it will develop and lots of money will be spent on it.
"The time is absolutely right to take a step back and ask ourselves what we like about the town, what we need to be different and what our vision for the future is. These ideas and thoughts can then inform development when it happens."
He said he was "frustrated" by decisions on sites being made based upon "which commercial bidder was offering the money" rather than on a "unifying vision" for the future development of the town.
The So Create A Difference project – which includes a week-long window exhibition of up to 15 architects' "visualisations" for some of the council's grotspots – will be held in the upper mall of Royal Victoria Place shopping centre.
The exhibition will run from January 23-29 and the focus will be the public brainstorming event between 10am and 4pm. The event has the support and funding of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Stuart Page, of Stuart Page Architects, who is also one of the event's drivers, underlined how communities were increasingly impacting on how developers approached sites.
He said: "They have a real interest and know what the community needs and those needs can be met alongside the commercial development, and developers elsewhere seem to have adopted that as a concept and that means for the developer the development process is shorter and less painful although with slightly lower profits but able to produce a scheme most people are happy with."
So Create A Difference will be at the shop between The Perfume Shop and Thornton's.
It will be a window exhibition but will open up for the community event on January 26.