Let’s go outside

In his regular column for Tunbridge Wells Business Magazine, Alex Green, CEO of RTW Together BID gives an update on its inaugural major public realm project for the town – the first of five happening across Tunbridge Wells over each year of RTW BID’s 5-year term

The townscape of where we live is important for residents, visitors and businesses. The stronger the look and more functional it is to utilise, the more it will encourage people to come out into town and feel pride in the area we live and work. 

Enhancements to the public realm benefit hospitality venues through an outdoor continental café culture (which has sped up since Covid-19) but also benefits retailers (ever more important with the prevalence of online shopping) as the overall shopping experience is enhanced.

One of RTW Together’s core themes of activity is ‘Enhancing’ which includes projects such as: Christmas lighting, street art, street maintenance, including graffiti removal, and one major project each year, on which we intend to collaborate with other partners to extend our efforts and resources further. 

Our inaugural project is to focus on the High Street, and build on the phases that were installed in 2021/2022, which were designed to increase the pedestrian prioritisation of this particular road.

Key to the project, which is designed by local architects KanerOlette, is to introduce a new £100,000+ decking system for a significant portion of the road so that the areas which were previously designated as pedestrian areas by planters will now all be at the same level of the pavement through a modular adjustable height decking with new porcelain tiles and built-in steel taller planters. 

The previously functional but temporary looking planters will be recycled elsewhere in the town so as not to be wasted, and pave the way for a much-enhanced looking space, which is aimed to increase the number of visits and dwell-time for both local residents and visitors to the town. This will result in more spend in our local retailers and hospitality businesses.

The project, which included multiple opportunities for consultation with businesses across the street (and will maintain the existing parking capacity), was only possible through a strong collaborative relationship with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and its Economic Development team, who have been instrumental in taking this forward, and helping fund this project, which we aim to complete this summer.

In addition to how this project will accelerate the work previously undertaken to improve the High Street customer experience, this location was also selected as the inaugural project to help address the geographical linear layout of the town. It will encourage more movement around the different quarters of the town and enhance the walking experience when walking between them.

After a year of design work, consultation and overcoming logistical challenges, I look forward to seeing the finished result and starting to look at plans for Fiveways and Calverley Precinct which will be our next project.

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