Campaign to find a new use for the empty Beales store in the Angel Center in Tonbridge, proposed by the Tories and MP Tom Tugendhat

A campaign has been launched to find a new use for a city’s largest shopping area, following the relocation of a department store three years ago.

Beales was once a popular shopping destination at the Angel Center in the heart of Tonbridge.

The empty Beales in the Angel Centre, Tonbridge
The empty Beales in the Angel Centre, Tonbridge

But the store went into administration in January 2020 and the store closed soon after, along with 21 other branches across the country.

Since then, the building has stood empty.

Now the Tory group in Tonbridge have launched a concerted campaign to persuade Sainsbury’s, which holds the lease on the site, to do more to regenerate the building.

A spokesman for the group, Conor Dobbs said: “For almost three years this premium unit in the heart of Tonbridge has stood empty.

“At a time when it is more important than ever to support our main street and our town centre, this is unacceptable.

Left to right: Cllr Vivian Branson, Leader of the Council Matt Boughton and MP Tom Tugendhat
Left to right: Cllr Vivian Branson, Leader of the Council Matt Boughton and MP Tom Tugendhat

“The Beales unit is the largest retail unit in Tonbridge currently unoccupied and that needs to change quickly.”

Sainsbury’s has yet to release plans for the re-use of space.

Mr Dobbs said: “Despite multiple requests from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, Tom Tugendhat MP and local organizations such as the Tonbridge Civic Society, we still do not know what they are planning for the unit.

“We are very concerned that this is slipping off their radar, so we have started a petition, alongside our campaign asking residents around the world to support our campaign to come up with plans for the old store.”

The curators suggested there was a lot that could be done with the store: it could be used to provide a permanent home for the town post office, temporarily located at Tonbridge Castle, or it could be divided up to provide smaller retail units or used to expand the Sainsbury’s store behind.

Sainsbury's at the Angel Centre, Tonbridge (60866670)
Sainsbury’s at the Angel Centre, Tonbridge (60866670)

Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, said: “Almost three years ago the old Beales unit closed. Since then it has remained closed and the only people who can change that are Sainsbury’s.”

He said: “For a town like Tonbridge, we need to see this site reopen. It’s important for our town and for everyone who lives, works and shops in our fantastic town.”

Cllr Vivian Branson, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration at Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, said: “For this to drag on for almost three years is unacceptable. We are calling on Sainsbury’s, the owners of the sublease, to present contingency plans for its regeneration.”

The public can sign the group’s online petition here.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We appreciate that the local community is keen to see the unit repurposed.

“We are looking at a number of possible options for the site, we look forward to providing an update on our plans as soon as we are ready to do so.”

Founded in 1881, Beales operated the site for 18 years. They took over from another family business, Bentalls in 2002.

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