Tunbridge Wells mixed scheme approved despite affordable deficit

Plans have been approved for a mixed-use development on a long-derelict former cinema site in Tunbridge Wells after planners concluded that, despite the scheme's 'disappointing' lack of affordable homes, there is little prospect of an alternative coming forward.

A visualisation of the finished development
A visualisation of the finished development

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council approved the full planning application for the former ABC Cinema site on the corner of Church Road and Mount Pleasant Road at a meeting yesterday.

The application sought consent for 3,039 square metres of retail uses, 1,895 square metres of restaurant uses, a new Everyman cinema and 99 flats. According to a planning report, the cinema closed in 1999 and all buildings on the site were demolished in 2014.

The report said that the applicant, Altitude Real Estate, had submitted a viability assessment that demonstrated that the development could not support the provision of any affordable housing on or off site.

Planners said that the lack of affordable homes was "the most disappointing aspect of the proposals". But they added: "While this could constitute a reason for refusing the proposals, the consequence would be that the scheme would not be built, the many benefits that would derive from it would not be realised and there would be little prospect of an alternative scheme coming forward in the near future."

"Under the very special circumstances of this long-vacant site, failure to justify non-compliance with the council’s affordable housing policy is outweighed by the significant benefits which will be delivered as a result of the new development proposed," the report concluded.

Altitude Real Estate said that construction is expected to begin during 2018 and will take approximately two-and-a-half years.

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