Ever since The Working Mens Club closed in May 2014 residents have been complaining about the derelict site right in the centre of town. The land was eventually purchased by Sevenoaks District Council for £1.25 million in February 2015 with a promise that a planning application would be lodged “later in the year” to provide 100 new homes and retail space. To-date no such application has been made. This betrayal has stalled any future developments and business growth in the old high street area as well as affecting house prices.
The demolition of the Working Mens Club added to the already rundown appearance of the high street following the eviction, by Sevenoaks District Council, of Age Concern Day Centre from 27-37 High Street. The eviction of Citizens Advice Bureau and demolition of the fine old Nat West Bank building is making the area look like a war zone. Loss of these facilities to the many vulnerable people in our community is immeasurable and the pale shadow of replacements is just papering over the cracks in the service.
Age Concern stated: “Without consideration by the Council, or the finding of alternative premises in the area, our many essential services to the frail and disabled elderly in the area will be forced to shut down.”
In September 2015 Sevenoaks District Council granted itself planning permission for 14 new flats and 400sq meters of commercial development on the former meeting point site yet, nearly two years on, the building still remains derelict.
By July 2016 The Sevenoaks District Overview and Scrutiny Committee were expressing concerns over lack of progress on these sites as part of its overall review of their property investment strategy. The committee eventually produced a report in March 2017 which concluded that
“The net investment returns to-date have exceeded the limit set out in the policy though the Working Mens club site was a “development opportunity” therefore income would not be forthcoming until development took place.”
Peter Fleming, the Conservative leader of the Council, explained that: “The Working Mens Club would provide a revenue stream further down the line.”
Income is needed to shore up services following the Conservative austerity measures which have stripped local authorities of their funding from Central Government
How much further “down the line” and how long we must wait to see any improvements was not explained. From past experience Swanley has always come at the back of the queue.
Labour will do everything necessary to reverse this shocking, three years, history of delay and neglect. Further we would reintroduce the much-needed community services to our town, while providing housing that local people can afford, putting people before profit of the few.
By Mark Fittock
Labour Parish Councillor for Hextable