Farnborough Road

Farnborough is an urban wasteland. Laid waste by decades of bad planning decisions, a planning department in the pocket of developers.

Folk avoid Farnborough, even folk who live there avoid Farnborough.

Pass down the Farnborough Road and you would not even notice Farnborough exists. You pass straight through.

About the only thing Farnborough can claim in its favour is that it is not as bad as Aldershot. Though a moot point, Aldershot a once proud Victorian town destroyed by decades of bad planning. The same planners, the same council, that has destroyed Farnborough.

Farnborough had Victorian origins, the same Victorian origins as Aldershot, the British Army. Until it was decided to relocate Farnborough and create an artificial town centre. A street of 1960s era ugly buildings, not dissimilar to a parade of shops on an inner city slum estate. To which was then added two of the ugliest shopping centres in the country.

In the late 1990s, St Modwen front-company Kuwaiti-financed KPI, bought a large chunk lock, stock and barrel. Half of the town centre demolished for a large supermarket in an area saturated with large supermarkets, a small estate of social housing demolished to make way for a car park, many small retailers destroyed. Erected buildings even uglier than the 1960s buildings demolished.

Pass down the Farnborough Road and you will see a boarded-up pub, The Tumbledown Dick, a c 1720s coaching inn. A coaching inn that used to stand on a desolate heath by a track that passed over the heath.

Boarded-up and left to rot, The Tumbledown Dick is earmarked for demolition for an unwanted Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

The Tumbledown Dick should be on a local list of buildings of local historical buildings, it meets the criteria for inclusion, and yet it is missing. The suspicion is that deliberate exclusion is to facilitate demolition. If suspicions prove to be well founded, then misconduct in public office, if not corruption. Both being serious criminal offences that attract a prison sentence.

The local council is required by national planning policy to have a pub protection policy. It lacks one.

A sustainable local economy should be part of local planning policy. It is not. It is part of the local planning policy in Cambridge.

Local planning policy should protect local small retailers. There is no provision.

National planning policy requires protection of small retailers, they are seen, as in Islington, the base line. The planning department lies and says protection of small retailers not a planning matter.

The council views the retention of small and independent shops as a baseline and places great weight on the need to retain any shops which currently or potentially could be utilised by small and independent retailers.

National heath policy requires the local planning authority to regulate fast food outlets. There has been a total failure to do so, leaving the locality performing badly on health indices.

Islington recognises the need to address obesity and it is written into their planning policies.

The Government White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England (2010) identifies that more than 1 in 5 children in England are overweight or obese by age 3, with higher rates among some Black and Minority Ethnic communities and in more deprived areas. The paper highlights the role of councils in taking action to improve public health, including regulating the development of new fast food restaurants in their role as local planning authority.

The Farnborough Society claims to speak on behalf of the local community. They do not. They claim to be custodians of the local heritage. They are not. They have a cosy, if not incestuous relationship with the local council. They have regular monthly meetings with senior planning officials to discuss planning applications, that borders on pre-determination. According to the Farnborough Society, The Tumbledown Dick can be demolished, a sign stuck up with the name, and local heritage has been safeguarded.

The local council has commissioned a shoddy report on The Tumbledown Dick, that surprise, surprise, says The Tumbledown Dick has no historical value. It reads as a report written for McDonald’s to facilitate demolition. The consultancy boasts of delivering planning solutions for industry, welcomes the relaxation of planning controls, sees heritage as an obstacle to development.

The local council has sought legal advice on pushing through the application on behalf of McDonald’s. As it has been given by the Borough Solicitor, it is probably worthless.

Local people have decided they have had enough. They have had enough of seeing their town trashed, a local council in the pocket of developers, They have produced a detailed, well researched report on The Tumbledown Dick. They have filed Freedom of Information requests. They have made it very clear, The Tumbledown Dick is not going to be destroyed. As a first step, The Tumbledown Dick has been registered as an Asset of Community Value.

In Islington, a strong local campaign to save a pub will be noted and be taken into account when determining a planning application.

Down the road, Aldershot, a once proud Victorian town, has been all but destroyed by decades of bad planning decisions. Plans are afoot to trash The Arcade, destroying many small businesses that have already been kicked out of The Arcade. Shops in Wellington Street are thereatened with demolition, more small businesses destroyed. The ugly Westgate development, (large superstore, tacky fast food chains) on the edge of the town centre designed to deliver the final death blow to the town.

Islington has a planning policy that sees small retailers as the baseline.

Aldershot and Farnborough would form excellent case studies for any planning schools of bad planning, how not to destroy town centres.

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