Council backs down in tussle over Tunbridge Wells offices

Posted on by John Cronin

Tunbridge Wells Council has stepped aside in a growing row over an available office building in the town to allow an insurance company to buy it.

Forest CourtTunbridge Wells Council had originally planned to relocate staff from various local offices into the single, larger office building that is currently occupied by The Land Registry (pictured).

Tunbridge Wells Land Registry is one of three regional offices that are set to close next year and although the building has never been on the open market it has attracted interested from the council. Their relocation plans created concern with some local residents who did not want to see the existing civic centre redeveloped. The council had always denied that any such redevelopment plans had been progressed.

However, the soon-to-be vacant Kent offices were also of interest to insurance services company AXA PPP who are looking to employ a further 800 staff in Tunbridge Wells. The company, who already have some 1,900 office based staff in the town, believed that the Land Registry building offered the only suitable office space within the area. The company was of the opinion that the council should step aside and let them proceed with an offer for the building.

A war of words broke out back in September with AXA operations director David Clarke claiming that trust between the company and the council had broken down. He told the BBC: “We feel that Tunbridge Wells has become very retail friendly but not so much business friendly”. The company had indicated that unless it secured further office space within Tunbridge Wells it might well have to consider relocation as a way forward.

In a new twist it has been announced that the council has now stepped aside and will not proceed with plans to buy the Forest Court building. In a statement issued today, Councillor Tracy Moore said “We have been working hand in hand with AXA PPP for months to find a solution that allows them to both remain in the town and expand, and stepping aside from the Land Registry is we believe the right thing to do.”

The Land Registry has now accepted a bid for the office building from AXA PPP that is currently subject to contract.

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