The Tonbridge Civic Society publishes a full-colour 16-page Newsletter for fully paid-up members three times a year, in Spring, Autumn and Winter editions. [To see a recent example, please go to the Publications page, by clicking on the Publications link in the left-hand column of this page]
The Society strongly supported the original proposals, published by the Highways Agency in January 2010, for the dualling of the A21 along roughly the same route as the existing road.
A Public Inquiry was due to be held, starting on Tuesday 13th July in the Ramada Inn at Pembury, which would consider a number of alternative/additional proposals. However this has now been postponed and it is understood that the decision as to whether or not to proceed with the Inquiry will only be taken after the completion of the Government's Spending Review in October.
The proposals were as follows:
This proposal is to revert to the line, West of the A21, which was originally proposed back in the mid-1990's. The Society is against this proposal, which would involve the destruction of substantial areas of woodland and would require a further 2 to 3 years delay.
This is for the construction of an additional access road to Top Lodge. The Society does not support this proposal, which would involve additional cost with little benefit.
This is for the construction of an additional single-carriageway road from the Vauxhall Lane access to Dowding Way in the Tunbridge Wells industrial estate. This would have a significant effect on the landscape and involve considerable additional cost. It is not supported by the Society.
We sincerely hope that, if re-convened, the Inquiry Inspector will support the basic proposal of the Highways Agency and that work can start on this long-awaited project as soon as possible.
The Sovereign House Site
Plans have now been submitted for approval and outlines are shown below. The Society strongly supports the approach being taken by the new owners which is far more appropriate than the original 15-storey tower (see previous news article from 2008 below), for this important central site between Waitrose and the Angel Centre.
Civic Voice, which is the successor organisation to the original Civic Trust which collapsed in 2009, has recently been re-launched. After much deliberation, the Committee of the Society has regretfully decided not to join, as this would have involved a membership fee of £500 in the current year, rising to £800 next year. The Committee did not believe that this could be justified.
Old BT site, Cannon Lane - Ward Homes development
Ward Homes is planning to submit an application to build houses and apartments on the large site off Cannon Lane, between the Medway and the Halfords/B&Q stores. In principle, the Society is strongly in favour of such a development for this important riverside site and awaits the formal planning proposal with interest.
1 & 3 Bank Street
The proposed ultra-modern design for this site was rejected and a new design, more in keeping with the style of the surrounding buildings, has been proposed. This has not yet been approved, as objections have been raised to the destruction of the existing buildings.
Pizza Express Clocks
After considerable effort by the Society, and with the help of both the management and a very helpful Tonbridge resident, both of the clocks on this attractive central landmark building were once again set working, and telling the same time (as shown in these photographs). There have still been some problems but it is hoped that both will soon be working properly again.
The Society was strongly against this proposed development of over 90 flats on a very confined site. The final decision is still awaited.
Fidelity House, River Walk
The Society was strongly against this proposed 6-storey development in River Walk, on the site of the old 3-storey Fidelity office block. Planning Permission was refused.
Civic Society Design Awards for 2009
The award presentations were made on Tuesday 27th April at a well-attended and very enjoyable dinner at Somerhill.
A Commendation was given for the interior of the Gateway Centre at Tonbridge Castle (see below).
A full Award was given for the Animal Management Centre at Hadlow College (see below).
A second full Award was given for the construction of a new Dining Room together with a Swimming Pool, within the confines of the existing Walled Garden at Somerhill (see below).
Managing Development & the Environment Document
Following the Inspector's Inquiry, the MDE DPD has been approved and TMBC now has a complete set of Development Planning Documents which hopefully will help to guide and control developments throughout the Borough.
Colas Site - Vale Road Roundabout
Outline planning permission has been given for this long-derelict but important site. However, unfortunately, no actual development is expected to take place in the immediate future.
SOME OLDER NEWS ITEMS, FOR INTEREST
Civic Design Award 2007 -
Crest Nicholson won a Civic Design Award for the completed first and second phases of their Market Quarter development. The Award recognised the skilful placement of housing within the Conservation Area, the neighbourly qualities of the development and for creating an attractive urban setting with a distinct sense of place.
David Kemp, then President of the Civic Society, presented the plaque to Nicholas Davies, Director of Design & Planning, Crest Nicholson, at the award ceremony held at Somerhill.
Time to Clean up our Act on Litter
The CPRE announced a national campaign concerning litter. Although the starting point is that people should not drop litter, unfortunately litter does get dropped and the CPRE have campaigned for concerted action by central and local government and other enforcement bodies to clean up litter and fly-tipping. The Tonbridge Civic Society strongly supports their campaign.
The Original Proposal by Oracle for the Sovereign House site
In the Spring of 2008, the developers Oracle made a planning application for three housing blocks containing over 330 flats,with street-level shops and including a tower of 15 storeys. The Society was strongly opposed to this high-rise, high-density development which: 'if accepted, would essentially alter the market town and historic character of riverside Tonbridge'.
click here for:
Society Press Release expressing objection to development
The Tonbridge edition of the Courier at the time contained the following picture and report:
click for Courier report
TMBC was also strongly opposed to the development but the developers appealed and an Inquiry was held. Representatives of the Society spoke at the Appeal hearing. The outcome was that the Appeal was rejected and the Inspector strongly supported the views which had been expressed by both TMBC and the Society.
Cycleway from Tonbridge Castle to Penshurst Place
The cycleway to Penshurst has become very popular. It is used by all age groups but families with young children find its off-road features especially attractive. The route has been devised and constructed by TMBC's Leisure Services, with a great deal of active encouragement and co-operation by Mr Scott, Estates Manager of Penshurst Place.
There is still a need to create an improved urban network of cycleways in the town - with safe routes to schools.
Civic Society comments on the Draft Botany Area Planning Brief
In June 2007, TMBC published their Draft Botany Area Planning Brief. Although there were some reservations concerning the details, the Civic Society supported the basic proposals and agreed that the Botany area provided the best scope and opportunity for the regeneration and re-development of Tonbridge town centre.
Click here for larger view of Plan
Proposed River Centre Tower
An impression of the proposed tower, shown alongside the award winning River Centre. The design has been favourably assessed by an independent architectural panel. The adjacent housing provision will include 'affordable housing' and contributions will be made to improve riverside amenity and road access.
Planning permission was granted in 2007 but work has not yet started on the proposed development.
Civic Design Award for
The Society's annual design award made in 2007, for buildings completed in the year 2006, was for the restoration of Tonbridge Mill. Only the footings and some bare ruins existed when Jon Griffin took on the task of rebuilding the mill and restored to Tonbridge a piece of its history. The mill wheel has been retained; the stream flows under the house to the mill pond at the rear of the building, which can be viewed from Cannon Lane.
Angel County Cricket Ground
David Kemp, President of the Society, unveiled the painting of the Angel County Cricket Ground - now hanging in the Angel Centre - painted by Mike Insley and based on a photograph taken in 1903. Cricket Week was an important sporting and social event in Tonbridge, which also supported a cricket manufacturing industry in the region. David Kemp has been Chairman of Kent County Cricket Club and was also a gifted cricketer.
In 2007, West Kent College launched their £87m redevelopment - Campus 21
This is reputedly the largest education project in Kent and one of only two major projects of this scale nationally.
Old School in St Stephens Street - demolition threatened
The society objected to the proposed demolition of the old school buildings - erected in memory of John and Sophia Deacon by their sons in 1871. The application to build 11 flats would have dwarfed the exisiting Almshouses seen here to the left.
It is by this kind of characterless development that we gradually lose our town's identity and erode any sense of place - historic buildings have a virtue beyond their sometimes modest architectural merit.
The application was withdrawn.
Tonbridge Market Quarter (Third Phase)
In their proposal, Crest Nicholson's amendment to the third phase included a change of use from office development of the Capitol site to residential use - with retail space on the ground floor. This was supported by the Society.
Historic Buildings Register
The Society prepared a list of historic buildings which were not 'listed', but were nevertheless important to Tonbridge and the locality. This included items such as horse troughs, telephone boxes, signs and other street furniture.
Star & Garter site
Following the demolition of the Star & Garter public house and the adjacent buildings,
the Society provided a number of mature trees for the important open public space at the northern entry to the town, using funds collected from visitors to its stand at Tonbridge Garden Show.