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High Court legal challenge brought against proposed 1,200-seat theatre in Kent

An artist's impression of the £41 million theatre An artist's impression of the £41 million theatre
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A high court legal challenge has been filed against the development of a 1,200-seat theatre in Tunbridge Wells.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council granted planning permission to the theatre as part of a £90 million civic development scheme by the local authority.

This was despite 150 objections to the scheme, which would see the £41 million theatre built in the entrance to Calverley Grounds park. The council wants the theatre to be able to stage “high-quality touring shows”.

But former conservative councillor Brian Ransley has submitted an application for judicial review to the high court, which means a judge will review the planning decision made by the council.

The claim was based on an objection to the process that was used by the council to come to the decision, according to Ransley.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council confirmed an application for judicial review had been made, but said it could not comment while court proceedings are pending.

Separately, newly formed political party, the Tunbridge Wells Alliance, is also opposing the scheme – branding the current designs “outdated”, and instead calling for a more flexible space that is “fit for the 21st century”.

Live events producer Ben van Grutten, speaking on behalf of the Tunbridge Wells Alliance, told The Stage: “We are absolutely for a new theatre, but we’d like something fit for the 21st century, not something that is outdated.

“One of the problems with this theatre is that there is no truck access to the loading bay, unless the council makes a compulsory purchase for a car park.

“The design of the proposed theatre is really dated, and it is not an adaptable space, which is the way modern theatre is going.”

Van Grutten said the Alliance had two preferred options for a new theatre. The first of which is to redevelop the existing Assembly Hall and Town Hall, which are adjoined, into a theatre complex.

The second option he described as a “really bold development” that would see an eco-friendly conference centre and theatre complex built in a park as a “destination venue”.

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