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Spotlight on: Bromley

PUBLISHED: 14:31 30 January 2016 | UPDATED: 14:31 30 January 2016

Surprisingly leafy Bromley

Surprisingly leafy Bromley

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

The late great David Bowie, who went to the local junior school and technical college, where his musical career and love of performance began, would barely recognise the Bromley of today. Catch up on how much it's changed

Bromley is buzzing with change and this year the town hopes to see its biggest new development, St Mark’s Square, completed and ready for business. A 2.4-acre site behind the RBS office building in the south of the town, the mixed residential and leisure project will include a public square, a Premier Inn hotel, nine-screen Vue cinema and eight restaurants. It will also create 200 apartments and a new 400-space secure underground car park.

This is clearly an exciting time for Bromley with the £90million project being just one of a number of schemes underway to regenerate the town. At the same time the Bromley North Village has recently received a much-needed facelift and the intu Shopping Centre (formerly The Glades) has begun work to create a terrace of five new restaurants bordering Queen’s Gardens, offering al fresco dining.

More recently, the shopping centre has also gained permission for a boutique cinema on the roof and for internal rearrangement of the Regent Arcade section, which currently houses a number of smaller independent shops and businesses.

As well as making the town even more of a premier shopping destination, it’s making itself a more attractive option for those thinking of moving to the area. Appealing in particular to young families and commuters, Bromley offers a practical middle ground. It’s not quite Kent, not quite London - but it offers the best of both.

Bromley North Village

If you take a walk around Bromley North you can’t miss the new and improved street scene, completed earlier this year. The £5.5 million public realm improvement scheme provided new granite paving, lamp columns, trees and new street furniture in Market Square, East Street and the High Street to give the area an economic boost. The scheme was funded in partnership with the local council, Transport for London and The Mayor’s Outer London Fund.

“These extensive improvements to the area underline our commitment to ‘Building a Better Bromley’ and playing our part in ensuring business and investment continues in our town centre,” says Councillor Peter Morgan, Executive Councillor for Renewal and Recreation.

“We have a long-term vision and we are delighted to see more people visiting the area already, with new businesses joining our fantastic community.”

The work has created brighter and more pedestrian-friendly streets and has attracted new bars, restaurants and shops to the area. Footfall has seen a drastic improvement and the number of empty shops has reduced significantly, creating a vibrant and buzzing area in the town.

Bromley votes for ‘BID’

At least £3m of additional investment will now flow into Bromley town centre following a recent vote to create a Business Improvement District (BID) in Bromley town centre, giving businesses a greater say in how the town is managed.

‘Your Bromley BID’ will start operation in April and it will enable Bromley to unlock millions of pounds of investment over the next five years.

The business plan is based around four key areas of delivery: ‘Your Bromley made safer’, ‘Your Bromley made smarter’, ‘Your Bromley made prominent’ and ‘Your Bromley made for business.’ The BID will be funded by a small levy charged to local businesses but this will be spent on making the town a more attractive shopping destination. The area it will cover includes the shopping centres, Bromley South, Pedestrian High Street, Upper High Street, Bromley North Village and Elmfield Road Business District.

Kate Miller, who is general manager of the intu Shopping Centre as well as chairman of the Your Bromley BID company, welcomes the news and says: “We are delighted that businesses have voted in favour of the setting up of a BID for Bromley. We now look forward to getting to work on delivering the projects and initiatives outlined in the business plan.”

Shopping and eating

Unsurprisingly, the options on offer when it comes to places to eat are vast in this big town and range from the usual big chains to friendly independents. There are many cafés and restaurants in the Bromley North area around East Street, including Aqua Mediterranean bar and grill (020 84602346), Cow & Pig (020 84648877), Okiko sushi restaurant (020 82900682) and Nam Thai (020 84648337).

The extremely popular Havet Turkish restaurant (020 82906717) is known for its good food and vibrant ambience and a new Yo! Sushi (0203 8055 258) has recently opened in the middle of intu Shopping Centre and its famous conveyor belt style is proving popular with shoppers stopping for a bite to eat.

Shopping in Bromley is mainly big chain brands, with huge Primark, Next and H&M stores among many others on the High Street. Intu has everything from The White Stuff and Timberland to Marks & Spencer, FCUK and Hema.

As well as the main town, there is also a selection of shops, cafés, pubs and businesses in the Chatterton Village area, which was named after the 18th-century poet, Thomas Chatterton.

These include the new Balkan Meze and Grill Turkish restaurant (020 82905888), Taste-Bud deli and coffee shop (020 82905511) and Shampan 2 Indian restaurant (020 84607169).

Pat Jones, Bromley Little Theatre

Tell us about Bromley Little Theatre

BLT is an award-winning amateur theatre, which, for the last 77 years, has been producing shows in its lovingly converted Victorian bakery and hayloft in Bromley North. It is run entirely by volunteers.

We stage a wide range of 11 shows of a professional standard in the main theatre every year, each running for eight nights, and four or five smaller productions in the cosy bar. We are proud to present the amateur premieres of some shows. Michael York OBE began his career at BLT and is now our president.

How did you become involved?

I have always been keen on theatre and I trained in backstage work at the amateur Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, where I used to live. When I moved to Bromley I immediately joined BLT which was well known in the amateur theatre world. I do not act myself but I am to be found in the wings stage managing several shows a year. I am also on the Board and the Playgoers’ Committee and the Publicity Group.

Tell us about the recent changes

BLT has always been a members’ theatre - only members were entitled to buy tickets for themselves and their guests, but as of January we are open to the general public. Everyone is now able to buy tickets.

Anything for the youngsters?

BLT has a thriving Youth Group of about 30 youngsters which meets every week, and produces its own show each summer. Lack of space means we cannot expand the group, but there are many youngsters waiting for the opportunity to join. Several of the past group members have gone on to take part in West End shows, or have gone on to drama school.

What’s coming up at BLT?

Our February show is When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell. This will be the UK amateur premiere of this fascinating new drama. This award-winning script is a compelling family saga that takes us from one generation to another, from 1950s London to the Australian desert in 2039.

In March we are presenting Far From the Madding Crowd by Mark Healy, from the novel by Thomas Hardy. This play fuses vivid story-telling, live folk song and humour in a dynamic, ensemble staging.

How has Bromley changed?

I moved to Bromley in 1967 when it was a market town busy with through traffic and small independent shops. Sadly, most of these independents have now closed and we have many of the chain stores which grace every other town. But Bromley still has many green spaces even in town, and the borough still retains its green and clean, friendly and pleasant atmosphere.

Your favourite things about Bromley?

Bromley is ideally situated in Kent, just 16 minutes by train into London and 15 minutes by car out into the countryside and to my golf club (my other interest). BLT is obviously my favourite place, but I love the open spaces such as Library Gardens, Queens Gardens and all the common land around the town. I really enjoy meeting friends for a meal at Aqua Bar and Grill in East Street, Bromley, just around the corner from BLT!

Visit www.bromleylittletheatre.org

Events

Churchill Theatre: The Perfect Murder, with Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace (8-13 February), Blood Brothers with Lyn Paul and Kris Harding (22-27 February). Tickets www.atgtickets.com

Bromley Little Theatre: When The Rain Stops Falling (12-20 February - not Sun 14). Tickets www.bromleylittletheatre.org

Property prices

Considering it’s been swallowed by Greater London and it has excellent transport links, Bromley isn’t considered too pricey. At the higher end of the scale there are luxury five-bed detached homes being advertised for less than £1million, plenty of three-bed period semis for between £400,000 and £650,000 and two-bed terraced homes for upwards of £300,000. One-bedroom flats are available from under £200,000.

How to get there

With two train station offering excellent services into London or Kent, and located not far from the M25 and the London South Circular, Bromley is very accessible.

Sat nav: BR1 1DN (town centre).

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