Crowds flock to £85m regeneration scheme exhibition in Tonbridge
By Tonbridge Courier | Friday, October 11, 2013, 03:00
EXCITING state-of-the-art plans have emerged to revitalise Tonbridge town centre and create 300 new jobs.
NEW LOOK: An illustrative sketch of the new Bradford Street leisure and community centre
Andrew Guile, 66, Brook Street
Jessica Cook, 28, Tonbridge
Eve Woods, 70, Denbigh Drive
Robert Smith, Hildenborough
Michael Dunn, 74, Marsh Green
Cyan Williams, 20, Norfolk Road
Caroline Green, 56, Tonbridge
Leslie Winstanley, 74, Tonbridge
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, together with Sainsbury's, are holding a public exhibition into two related development schemes to further the plans.
These include a new Sainsbury's store, a new cinema site as well as a new leisure centre and several shops, which is intended to draw more trade to the town.
Leader of the council Nicolas Heslop was excited the scheme could finally be unveiled.
He said: "The combined multimillion-pound investment will draw shoppers back to Tonbridge and underpin the vitality and economic success of the town for the next generation.
"This will come at no cost to the council tax payer."
The supermarket giant is behind a project to create a new retail and cinema complex which will include an 80,000 sq ft store with a new petrol station.
There will also be a new multi-screen cinema, restaurants, shops and parking facilities in the town centre.
If planning permission is granted, the new stores will be marketed to attract new fashion and homeware tenants, helping the town to compete with other centres outside the borough.
It will also create more than 300 jobs.
Mr Heslop added: "We are looking forward to receiving the local community's feedback because this will play a valuable role in shaping the final vision for Tonbridge town centre.
"The provision of an improved retail and leisure offer, the creation of new jobs, enhanced public spaces and car parking supported by a significant investment by Sainsbury's is a 'once in a generation' opportunity for us."
They also propose a new leisure and community centre on Bradford Street, which will include a three-court multi-purpose sports hall, gym, fitness studio and changing rooms, as well as spaces for the community and multi-purpose rooms and replacement facilities for Age UK, which is currently operating on site.
The joint public exhibition, which is being held in the council chamber in Tonbridge Castle, between 10am and 8pm today (Friday) and 10am and 4pm tomorrow, will provide information about the two emerging schemes and give an opportunity for the local community to share their thoughts.
Dame Kelly, who has championed the need for updated facilities in the town centre, said: "I am really excited to see how the new community and leisure centre will look and to find more about how all the proposals with revitalise Tonbridge.
"I will hopefully be going along to the exhibitions – it's a great opportunity for local people to have their say on this fantastic multimillion-pound investment."
And Ross Castle, Sainsbury's portfolio development manager, added: "We are really pleased to be working with the council to bring forward an exciting new retail and leisure destination for Tonbridge. The multimillion-pound investment will regenerate the town centre and create hundreds of new jobs for local people.
"We are looking forward to sharing our plans with the local community and hope to see as many people as possible at our public exhibitions today and tomorrow."
Caroline Green, 56, North Tonbridge: "The town needs a revamp and it would be good if they could provide a bus service right up to Sainsbury's. As long as there are the right shops and something like a department store it will be a good thing. The cinema would be great for the youngsters in the town."
Cyan Williams, 20, Norfolk Road: "I think the plans are great. Usually you have to walk miles to get to a cinema but now there'll be instant access.
"The new centre will also be great for youth clubs and will hopefully get young people involved in the town."
Michael Dunn, 74, Marsh Green: "Sainsbury's is a good shop and my wife will be pleased if it's made bigger. It will bring more people into the town and hopefully make the town better. I know my wife will definitely want to come out to Tonbridge more."
Robert Smith, Hildenborough: "I'm very excited about the regeneration but am worried about trade within the High Street. I don't want it to inhibit people coming to the High Street or have a knock-on effect with the footfall. Other than that it's really exciting. I am worried that the new sports centre will be smaller, but it seems Tonbridge is on the up and property values will go up."
Eve Woods, 70, Denbigh Drive: "It's a good thing as Tonbridge needs something to wake it up. The shops on the High Street are dying so it will bring people back here, but there also needs to be more parking if there will be more people. When we used to have a cinema here it was very popular so it's a brilliant idea to bring one back, but I need to see the plans on Friday."
Jessica Cook, 28, Tonbridge: "The redevelopment will attract people back in to Tonbridge and might bring more trade and big-name shops.
"We have so many pound shops here it would be nice to have better ones."
Leslie Winstanley, 74, Tonbridge: "There will be too much traffic so I would like to see the High Street pedestrianised like it was for the carnival.
"I've been living here for 45 years and love Tonbridge, but something like this has been needed for a long while."
Andrew Guile, 66, Brook Street: "A cinema is definitely what the town needs and I will use it I'm sure.
"It would be good to have another supermarket to come to the town, though, to bring a bit of competition."