Tragedy for Firgrove Parade

open green space, rights of way and trees, two days before councillors rubber-stamped to destroy

open green space, trees and rights of way, two days before councillors rubber-stamped to destroy

planning meeting at Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

planning meeting at Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

town centre a  building site

town centre a building site

 boarded-up shops

boarded-up shops

Firgrove Parade is a small parade of shops at the northern end of Farnborough town centre. A barber, a Nepalese corner shop, a photographic shop and an Indian restaurant. All that remains of independent shops in the town, the rest having been destroyed by a greedy developer aided and abetted by a local council in the developer’s pocket.

Firgrove Parade is threatened with destruction by an 80 bedroom hotel, an ugly monstrosity that will be a blot on the landscape, as well as destroying local businesses, will destroy open green space, local rights of way and trees on the green space. It will also be a major traffic generator, feeding traffic onto a grid-locked traffic system.

Wednesday night, the local planning committee met to decide on the planning application.

It was a foregone conclusion. The planning officials had produced a biased report in favour of the development, a biased report that failed to included arguments against, the planners were telling the committee they had to approve the application. But worse still, the application had already been pre-judged, as in October 2012, senior councillors met and quashed a restrictive covenant as it would be onerous for the developer. This was before the developer had even submitted a planning application. Planning consent was seen as a formality.

Local people, appalled at what they saw in the agenda, submitted further comments, asked that these be placed before the planning committee. This was refused by the head of planning. Instead, a summary would be included in an amendment sheet. What this said, no one knows, as the officials lacked the courtesy to provide copies to the public.

A presentation was made on behalf of the developer by a planning official.

It was claimed there was a series of very late objections. This was simply not true. These were objections submitted because objections had not been included in the agenda.

It was claimed the development was within the footprint of the existing building. This was simply not true. The new buildings will be massive, will be built on open green space, will not comply with the existing street scene, will be oppressive, will be an ugly eyesore on the entrance to the town centre. That it was ugly was ok, as so were the other buildings as a result of previous bad planning decisions.

Amendments had been made to original application. These were dismissed as minor, and did not merit resubmission and further public consultation.

An attempt was made to justify the quashing of the restrictive covenant, that it had no bearing on the application.

Destruction of local businesses was dismissed as not a local planning matter. The local economy is a planning matter.

Open space open to the public, but not public land, private land. This was a red herring. What matters is that it is a loss of open green space. To compensate for this loss of open space, the developer asked to contribute what amounts to a couple of park benches by the pathetic little pond behind the Library at the other end of the town centre.

The trees to be lost were dismissed as of no value.

The developer will be asked to make a contribution to mitigate local traffic problems. The contributution will make no difference to the local grid-lock. When asked to quantify. The response was changes to a roundabout a mile or so down the road. Changes that were happening anyway.

Following the presentation on behalf of the developer, an excellent presentation was made by Debbie from Longworth Photographic on why the development should be rejected. She was ignored as though she had not spoken.

There then followed a presentation by the developer. But had we not had one already? He proved to be a bumbling clown. He talked of the sun playing on the building, of it revitalising the town centre. Then of people staying at the hotel because they would wish to visit the shops in the town.

The councillors were a disgrace. Unfit to be councillors, let alone sit on a planning committee.

They did not have a clue what they were talking about, had no understanding of planning, the impact the development would have on the town. They did not even seem to have a clue what was actually there. One said there was a charity shop. There is not, it is a barber shop. Another referred to the restaurant as a café, and said there were plenty of others and its loss would not be missed. The general attitude was, the businesses could move elsewhere. The most obnoxious speaker was an Aldershot councillor who made it very clear she did not care what the public thought and the businesses should relocate to Aldershot. From the ignorant comments made by the councillors, it was apparent none had bothered to read the objections local people had taken the trouble to write.

The most telling comment was from the planning official when she said: We have decided there will be a hotel on this site.

The councillors took it as an affront that the public actually had the audacity to object. There had been previous applications for the site, none had objected then, and questioned why were they objecting now. Previous applications were of no relevance, what the committee were tasked to determine, was the application that was before them that evening. The previous applications were for an office block.

The head of planning claimed there were no local or national planning grounds on which to object. This was a blatant lie, and was simply not true.

The head of planning instructed councillors to ignore that the development would be a breach of public rights of way.

The councillors were told by the head of planning, just in case they had not got the message, if they voted no, it would be lost at appeal.

Why do we have consultation, if when the public respond, they are ignored, worse, treated with contempt?

Like a bunch of brainless, spineless sheep, most voted in favour, a couple abstained, none voted against.

It was a bad day for democracy, a bad day for the town centre. Once again in Farnborough, developers can do as they please, and the views of local people, local businesses, count for nothing.

It should be local people who decide how they wish to see their town develop. But no, developers and planner in their pocket.

The meeting was a disgrace. Once again the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor lives up to its name.

People came away from the meeting appalled at what they had seen, appalled at the contempt for local people.

All is not lost. The developer will have to apply for rights of way to be extinguished. People can object, and if their objections are seen to have validity, a public inquiry will have to be held.

Folk must keep a look out for notices in the street. And once seen, spread the word.

It is also worth, as was done with the Tumbledown Dick, file a Freedom of Information request for all that has taken place between Rushmoor and Bride Hall, Premier Inns, Beefeater Grills and Whitbread..

The result Wednesday evening bodes ill for The Tumbledown Dick. But at least folk now know what to expect from this rotten council in bed with developers. It is now essential a pub protection policy is in place, cf excellent Cambridge pub protection policy.

I went to a pub for a drink and a meal. I walked through the dead town centre. I was curious to check out the trees. As I suspected, and as others who have looked at the trees have said, there was nothing wrong with them.

After going to a pub for dinner and a drink, I walked back through the town centre in the early hours of the morning. What a dump! Nothing for anyone to visit the town, Clone Town with boarded-up shops. There was no street lighting. Had there been no light from shop signs, it would have been pitch black. The street resembled a building site. £1 million is being spent tarting up the street. If this is public money at a time of austerity, then it is an appalling waste of public money.

What has become abundantly clear is that nothing in Aldershot or Farnborough is safe from the rapacious greed of developers.

Note: Picture of trees and open space courtesy Lu Pd.

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6 Responses to “Tragedy for Firgrove Parade”

  1. Sue Ferrier Says:

    Shame on you Rushmoor Borough Council. Not listening to those who voted you in.

  2. keithpp Says:

    An attempt was made Friday to destroy the trees. Activists were on the site, and tree cutting ceased.

  3. keithpp Says:

    Monday the local community held a press conference.

  4. Denise Tansley Says:

    Absolute disgrace, I watched as the trees were chopped down and just cried. People have no idea how important trees are for humans and wildlife, if they knew there would not be a single tree destroyed. one of the workers who works for the company that was employed to chop down the trees came over to us all and got a chainsaw to the tree in front of us and just ripped through it, he wanted to stick one finger up to us, that poor tree. I am so ashamed at this moment to be human.

  5. keithpp Says:

    Occupy Firgrove: Destruction of the trees

  6. keithpp Says:

    Not content with destroying Firgrove Parade, four months later, councillors voted to destroy The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

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