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Tonbridge town feature preview

PUBLISHED: 13:44 09 October 2013 | UPDATED: 13:47 09 October 2013

Tonbridge Castle

Tonbridge Castle

Archant

Tonbridge is looking to an exciting future with the most significant regeneration of its town centre in a generation

Tonbridge is looking to an exciting future with the most significant regeneration of its town centre in a generation - improving trade for the town’s existing retailers, delivering new leisure and retail facilities and creating hundreds of jobs.

The ambitious plans involve creating a brand-new flagship Sainsbury’s on the site of the existing store, the Angel Centre and Beales (which will close), and delivering a new multi-purpose leisure and community centre on Bradford Street car park to include a six-screen cinema.

The new centre will complement the existing leisure facilities in the town and will open before the council-run Angel Centre is closed. Also planned are new shops, cafés and restaurants, more town-centre car parking and a new petrol station.

The combined multi-million pound investment is expected to draw shoppers back to Tonbridge and underpin the vitality and economic success of the town for the next generation.

Nicolas Heslop, Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, commented: “The opportunity to secure regeneration of Tonbridge town centre with 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 perhaps a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity for us.”

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 multi-million pound investment will regenerate the town centre and create hundreds of new jobs for local people.

Town Team

In 2012 Tonbridge Town Team was formed, a mix of local councillors, businesspeople and residents, who have already successfully staged the first Tonbridge Taster Day on Sunday 23 June 2013, when 20,000 visitors flocked to the town for a day of Dragon Races on the Medway, entertainment and stalls the length of the High Street, which was closed for the day.

The Team’s latest initiative is the launch of the Tonbridge Loyalty Card (TLC) for Tonbridge shoppers, which encourages them to shop locally and rewards them for doing so. The card, sponsored by Howard Cundey, is free and for every £10 spent the card is stamped and once it is filled with six stamps, it’s entered into a monthly draw where the winner will receive £50 in vouchers to spend in more than 40 participating shops in and around Tonbridge.

In time it is expected that the scheme will branch out to include not just shops but also other businesses such as plumbers and electricians, to build a Tonbridge brand.

New faces

Over the last couple of years Tonbridge has welcomed several new independent businesses to its High Street, which are all helping revitalise the west Kent market town.

Finch House, a vibrant coffee shop on two floors, is opening a new cake shop in time for Hallowe’en, such has been the demand for its delicious home baking.

Ian Chatfield Butchers regularly has queues out onto the High Street of customers eager to buy grass fed, free range beef and lamb, outdoor reared pork and free-range chickens supplied from local farms, wild game in season, home-made meat pies, pasties, sausage rolls and local and continental meats and cheeses with fresh baked baguettes filled to order.

And just off the High Street in the Pavilion, Gorgeous George is a boutique lifestyle fashion store with an eclectic range of goods including jewellery, accessories, paintings and fine wines.

Natural assets

The River Medway winds through the centre of town beneath Big Bridge, which separates ‘old’ (north and ‘new’ (south) Tonbridge – the latter area characterised by attractive black and white-timbered buildings and dominated by the Castle Gatehouse, all that remains of the 11th-century castle built by Richard Fitz Gilbert, the half brother of William the Conqueror who was responsible for governing England in William I’s many absences.

A large country park behind the castle offers recreational and sports facilities including an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, a big sportsground and the start of the popular Tonbridge to Penhurst cycle ride.

At the station end of town there is easy access to Haysden Country Park, popular with families, dog walkers, joggers and fishermen.

Education, education

Tonbridge School, founded in 1553 by Sir Andrew Judde, is a renowned independent school for boys, and the town is also home to several remaining Grammar Schools, including The Judd School, Weald of Kent Grammar School and Tonbridge Grammar School (formerly Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls).

A number of Tonbridge’s secondary schools have specialist status, including Tonbridge Grammar School for Maths and ICT, as well as Languages; Weald of Kent Grammar School for Girls, a specialist school for languages and science; the Judd School for Music with English and also now Science with Maths; Hayesbrook School for boys, a specialist sports college; and Hillview School For Girls, which has recently been awarded a Performing Arts Status. Hugh Christie Technology College is also renowned in the area for its IT expertise and for allowing students to take GCSEs in year 9, rather than the usual year 11.

Further and higher education is available at K College which recently has announced it will be building a new multi-million pound campus.

Tonbridge also boasts a great many primary schools including Hilden Grange School Slade Primary School, Sussex Road County Primary School, Long Mead Community Primary School, Cage Green Primary School, Woodlands County Junior and Infant Schools, St Stephens Primary School and St Margaret Clitherow R C Primary School. There are many more in the nearby surrounding areas.

Well connected

Tonbridge railway station is one of Kent’s busiest with 3.8 million passengers using it each year. It is an important railway junction with lines to London, Ashford, Hastings and Redhill. The town is also served by the A21 between London and Hastings and the A26 between Maidstone and Brighton. It is also close to the M25 motorway.

There are future proposals to dual the A21 from Castle Hill to Pembury, where a new regional hospital opened in 2011.

FOR A FULL AND UPDATED TONBRIDGE TOWN FEATURE DON’T FORGET TO BUY A COPY OF THE MARCH 2014 EDITION

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