Delivering for our community - consistently and sustainably
In Tunbridge Wells, we have successful businesses, schools, individuals and communities. Our Council and the Conservative Party are here to help maintain and facilitate the aspirations of the Tunbridge Wells Borough. We are also a caring community, looking after those in need to help them reach their aspirations through housing, our social care, community support and engagement programmes.
The last two covid-impacted years have not been easy. Nevertheless, a great deal has been achieved. TWBC has distributed some £54 million of Government grants to businesses and there are now many welcome investments in the town centre, most notably the derelict cinema site and the former BHS store and vacant retail premises being filled. Plans to use 60% of the Town Hall for co-working should bring a further boost to small businesses, the local economy and an income stream for the Council.
The Amelia Scott will open at the end of April bringing adult education, library, museum and registration service back to the town centre. This is a £21 million project completed with £9.5 million of funding contributed from National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, KCC and the Government's Get Building Fund.
On the Climate Emergency, the Council has reduced its carbon emission and installed EV charging points in Council-owned car parks. There is much more to do but we have secured some £2 million of Government funding to further de-carbonise our buildings and have established a carbon descent plan to achieve net-zero.
On housing, we have completed a Local Plan (with wide cross-party support) which will secure a five-year housing supply, bring stability to the planning process and protect our countryside. In the last year, 662 new homes were built in the borough, including 272 new homes allocated to social housing providers - building on the 7,935 social housing units in the borough.
Our focus over the next year will be:
- Local Economy – supporting businesses investing in Tunbridge Wells and bringing footfall into the town (leasing empty space in the Town Hall released from digital automation of council services for local businesses and start-ups, the opening of the Amelia Scott community centre next to the Town Hall)
- Climate Emergency – continuing progress toward TWBC’s net-zero target and encouraging lower carbon emissions throughout the Borough
- Local Plan – delivering needed housing (including housing allocated to social housing providers) and protections for the countryside
- Active Travel and cleaner travel – Electric Vehicles (including buses) and EV charging
- Good working relationships with Government, KCC, Town Forum, Parish and Town Councils
- Support for refugees
- Council Services and sound finances post-Covid (now with significant inflationary pressures which we are all encountering)
Tunbridge Wells Town Centre
Our aim is to enhance the town centre in cooperation with local businesses supported by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council assets such as the Amelia Scott community centre, the upcoming co-working initiative in the Town Hall and investment in our council car parks - upgraded electric car charging.
We have seen a positive investment environment with the old BHS store recently acquired, many of the empty shops now ‘under offer’ or ‘let’ and The Pantiles now at full retail occupancy. Additionally, AXA, a local employer, has acquired rights to the derelict old ABC cinema site with a public consultation on the design this spring.
- Refreshed Town Centre Local Area Plan - this has already commenced with representatives from all political parties, local businesses, resident groups and is supported by the TWBC planning officers.
- Opening of the Amelia Scott community centre and launching a programme of adult education, enhanced library facilities, museum and cultural activities. The opening of the Amelia Scott is expected to attract nearly 500,000 people per year to our town, supporting our town centre recovery.
- Refreshed local transport plan to raise money and implement an economically sustainable town transport system in cooperation with local bus and taxi firms that supports our net zero goal.
- A vibrant business centre in the Town Hall for start-ups, innovative firms and individuals, utilising the spare space freed up by digital automation of council services. This will bring new office worker footfall into the town centre as well as a new income stream for the Council.
- Support for events in our parks and streets to enable businesses and enthusiasts to deliver festivals and other public events.
- Continuous care of the town centre initiative with web-based tools to identify specific aspects, private and public (TWBC or KCC) responsibilities requiring immediate action, programme maintenance or long-term renewal or development.
Parks and Recreation
We aim to enhance recreation and sporting facilities for all, including the preservation and enhancement of green spaces, our parks and the Commons. We have excellent sporting facilities across the borough that are provided by the Council at the Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre, The Weald Sports Centre and Putlands Sport and Leisure Centre. Our Local Plan includes provision for significant new sports facilities across the borough.
- New equipment for our council-owned leisure centres - this has already started with the recent announcement by our partner Fusion Lifestyle, who operate our sports centres, of an £800,000 investment to upgrade gym and spin equipment at Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre, The Weald Sports Centre and Putlands Sport and Leisure Centre.
- Investment in our leisure centre building to enhance their environmental efficiency. This has already started with recent grants we have successfully obtained from central government to decarbonise our buildings with air source heat pumps, solar panels, insulation and LED lighting.
- The further involvement of clubs and users of Council owned sporting facilities in the maintenance and planning of facilities.
Housing, Infrastructure & Planning
To support the next generation of homeowners, a record 662 new homes were built over the last year across Tunbridge Wells borough, including 272 new homes allocated to social housing providers, as part of our requirement that all new-build estates have 40% social housing allocation.
Our upcoming Local Plan will deliver further new social, affordable and market housing to support our next generation of Tunbridge Wells residents. This builds upon the 7,935 social housing units we have in the borough. Our Local Plan will also strategically manage housing growth across the borough and protect against speculative planning applications on green belt locations.
Over the last year, we secured government funds for new council-owned emergency housing in central Tunbridge Wells to ensure that all rough sleepers have been able to get emergency accommodation.
- Protecting our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Green Belt with protection from speculative planning applications and developer court appeals with our upcoming Local Plan.
- Meeting Climate Change targets for buildings, transport, heating, reduced waste and recycling.
- Ensuring infrastructure is put in place and maximising the use of developers' infrastructure funds for upgraded roads, drains, schools and medical facilities.
- Ensuring better road, transport and active travel to new major developments in Paddock Wood and Tudeley.
- Delivering housing to meet our local needs in line with National policies set by the central government.
- Planning new schools, health and community facilities by working with our partners in government and housing bodies.
- Further refining policies to deliver affordable and social housing; 40% on new greenfield sites by using land value uplift in developments (30% in brownfield).
- Implementing our Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2021 - 2026 which recently went out for resident consultation.
Engagement with Residents
Our aim is to provide modern interaction with residents, businesses and visitors to ensure a collaborative approach to a prosperous and sustainable Borough.
- Good communications - an evidence-based approach is no longer sufficient but requires active participation and engagement with residents, businesses and the community at large.
- The democratic system needs all those taking decisions to be aware and understanding of varying views and the incorporation of those views in decisions taken.
- Lessons learnt across democratic bodies, have shown the importance of early engagement to avoid the loss or delay of major projects.
- Regular news and updates by email, the distribution of the Local magazine and social media.
- The introduction of a web-based discussion forum is designed to engage residents prior to a detailed investigation and consultant.
- Active involvement with town and parish councils and the Town Forum needs to provide the bedrock of active engagement.
- Involvement with other bodies, such as the Civic Society, sports bodies and other public and enthusiast groups, forms an important conduit for active engagement.
- The Statutory engagement process remains a necessary part of the process.
- Weekly emails to residents delivered with specific information by postal code - this has already been initiated with the http://twbc.online/alerts service providing weekly council service information and news including planning applications within 200m of the resident's property.
- Quarterly magazine delivered to all resident households covering key delivery news from the Council - this is already delivered with the Local magazine which we are further improving with feedback.
- Further improvements in making all Council meetings and documents easily accessible in real-time and for playback.
- Further improvements with resident consultations on key initiatives the Council is planning - we introduced the new Talking Point engagement platform this year - https://talkingpointtunbridgewells.uk.engagementhq.com/
We have delivered the Southborough community centre providing significantly upgraded community facilities and a new medical centre. Shortly the new Amelia Scott community centre will open in central Tunbridge Wells providing adult education, library and museum facilities. We are working on further community centre improvements for Cranbrook and we have prioritised investment plans for the TN2 community centre in our upcoming Local Plan.
- Delivery of community facilities in partnership with town or parish councils supported and enabled by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
- Parish and Town Councils have been key in developing Local Neighbourhood plans assisted by the Borough Council where appropriate.
- The RTW Town Forum is a critical discussion and advisory group comprised of leading advocates of local residents and other community groups in RTW.
- Management of some community leisure centres such as the Weald and Putland Centre, St Johns swimming and sports facilities is under the direct control of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
- Delivery of the neighbourhood plans for each area of the borough to provide communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development of their local area.
- Completion of the Cranbrook Museum.
- Opening of the Amelia Scott in April 2022 which provides many community services such as a library, museum, exhibition centre, tourist information and adult education.
- Support for Community Groups in our community centres.
- Management services and enhancement of leisure centres. This includes the £800,000 upgraded gym and spin equipment that our operating partner, Fusion Lifestyle, is currently delivering to Council owned leisure centres.
In July 2019 the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council declared a climate and biodiversity emergency with a cross-part Climate Emergency Advisory Panel established to develop a pathway to reach net-zero by 2030. This has resulted in an agreed carbon descent plan.
The Council has reduced carbon emissions by about 50% so far, including the installation of solar panels on our leisure centres and new community centres. This includes the upcoming Amelia Scott building which by powered completely by solar panels with excess green electricity exported to the grid. Additionally, energy efficiency improvements are being made to the Town Hall (roof and windows) and we have successfully bid for £2 million to improve the efficiency of Council buildings with air source heat pumps, solar panels, insulation and LED lighting.
Our key priority is to deliver our carbon descent plan to achieve net-zero by 2030, more details can be seen at https://twbcclimateaction.co.uk/what-were-doing/
Developing and encouraging local talent and making available performing arts and culture.
- The opening of the Amelia Scott with all it offers, the exhibits planned and the people it will attract will bring both enjoyment and revenue to our town residents and businesses. We need an economic way of celebrating other heritage assets.
- The Chalybeate Spring in the Pantiles needs enhancement. This can be done by engaging businesses and the public.
- Recognising the value of our heritage. To be sustainable it has to value and where possible, encourage economic activity.
- The many heritage buildings across the borough are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
- We have a strong music, performing and creative sector which has created a unique offering to residents and visitors, Local & Live, Jazz on the pantiles and music in the many pubs, restaurants and other venues that need further encouragement to become fully sustainable.
- We have a small but valued performing arts sector - The Trinity and the Assembly Hall provide a basis for expanding this sector. Other professional and enthusiastic groups exist. These need further encouragement and space to grow.
- Food and cuisine provide a cultural experience. We are known for many quality restaurants and a wide range of eating experiences which draws many people to our towns’ restaurants and food fairs.
- We have many festivals throughout the year. These include music, lanterns, the winter ice rink and others. Others are promoting a Fringe Festival, historical and heritage weeks. They should be expanded to fully recognise Tunbridge Wells as a great place to visit.
- The opening of the Amelia Scott with a full programme of events, exhibits, the museum, library, adult education and other facilities.
- Supporting organisers with events and festivals.
- Working with others to promote the Borough as a tourist destination.
- Encouragement of music and performing arts.
- Promotion of food and cuisine in the Borough
- Support for the creative sector firms and enthusiasts.
Our aim is to ensure transport that supports convenient, efficient and environmentally sustainable journeys.
- Encourage town traffic to be energy efficient. To achieve this, it must be light, small, efficient and enjoyable.
- Promote safe active travel recognising it is safer to separate cyclists from other road users. Using rights of way and innovative routes.
- Bus and taxi services are changing Investigate and establish cleaner and greener transport, especially in town centres with combined bus/taxi vehicles and door to door service.
- Plan for new transport including electric bikes, scooters and greater automated driving.
- Recognise car use and ownership is changing and planning for it Efficient and convenient and attractive town vehicles reducing the need for second cars.
- Climate Change targets will have a major impact on transport. This has to be a driving force but one that can also enhance our lives.
- A taxi-bus initiative - an ‘oven ready’ proposal will be developed based on research done by members of the Cabinet.
- Phase 1: A circular route in the centre of Tunbridge Wells using eco/electric vehicle bus services.
- Phase 2: A door to door bus service for residential areas of Tunbridge Wells and neighbouring rural areas.
- Family-friendly cycle routes Develop plans based on off-road routes around the Common, through the valley from Powder Mill Lane to the Vauxhall/ A21 roundabout, and other pathways and rights of way.
- Additional Vehicle charging points in public garages and elsewhere in cooperation with both Kent County Council and commercial providers / service stations.
- Extending our 20 mph residential area speed zones based on the successful areas already introduced. Getting public support and compliance is critical to making our residential streets safer
- Pedestrian-friendly town centres.
- Move towards lower car dependency in residential areas, especially in major new developments.
Tunbridge Wells is amongst the safest places to live in the county. In the calendar year 2021 Tunbridge Wells was well positioned within Kent, coming first or second in 10 of our 14 regularly measured crime categories, however, there is always more we can do to further improve public safety.
In partnership with the Home Office, Kent County Council, the Police and other councils across the UK the new Street Safe online tool has been developed so that residents can report specific areas where they feel unsafe because of environmental issues such as street lighting, abandoned buildings or vandalism and / or because of behaviours such as being followed or verbally abused. These reports are being assessed by the Community Safety Unit at the Council to identify solutions that can be put in place with the relevant agencies to address the reported issues.
- Upgrade the Council operated CCTV system and partner with other Councils across Kent to support 24/7 live monitoring of Council operated CCTV.
- Proactively work with the Police and the Licensing Committee to identify venues in Tunbridge Wells that need improved safety measures.
- Identify key street safety issues reported by the Street Safe tool and broader community safety intelligence to put in place resolutions with cross-agency support and apply for central government 'Safer Streets' grants to help fund the safety solutions.