At a packed Council meeting, plans to build a new theatre, civic centre, car park and offices at a gross cost of £90 million were passed by the Full Council. There were 13 who voted against, and 4 abstentions.
Councillor Julian Stanyer, who voted against the proposal, said:
"This is a proposal to move this authority from ‘debt free’ to indebted on the premise that the current Town Hall and Assembly Hall adjoining are no longer ‘fit for purpose’ and that this is an auspicious moment because the Council can borrow money at a low rate of interest and with virtually no impact on residents’ Council Tax.
Of course, if I were to use one word that characterises this Council it is that it is ‘prudent’. This word is capable of differing interpretations depending of which Council is involved. In Tunbridge Wells case it has been interpreted as not spending any money unless forced to do so. For years and years therefore it has neglected to up-grade the Town Hall which has become shabbier and shabbier. To say, as it slides further and further into disrepair, that it is not fit for purpose distorts the truth...
Instead I would like to see a less extravagant sum spent on a sympathetic remodelling of our competition winning Civic Complex to embrace a full range of cultural activities including improved music, dance and drame, much expanded arts and crafts, and first class museum, library, adult education and other community facilities in a joined up cultural, civic and community hub, its various components being physically closely connected under a single, unified and enlightened management regime.
The cultural life of Royal Tunbridge Wells and the Kent and Sussex High Weald should surely focus on a much broader vision than the occasional west-end musical or travelling show. I will, with some sorrow, be voting against the recommendation"
The proposal now proceed to an application for full planning consent at an additional cost of £1m..