Focus on Farnborough

Farnborough talk by  Andrew Lloyd

Farnborough talk by Andrew Lloyd

Talk by Rushmoor chief executive Andrew Lloyd on Farnborough, past, present and future.

The talk was hosted and introduced by Farnborough Society. Much praise heaped on Lloyd for support of Farnborough Society and support for their Farnborough Festival.

Begs the question, what support, especially for Farnborough Festival, and for the latter, is it financial, if so how much?

Also begs the question is this a genuine civic society as they should be challenging what the local council is doing, and this they are singularly failing to do.

Much was made of how the Farnborough Society works hand-in-glove with the planning department to determine the outcome of planning applications.

Why does the Farnborough Society have this privileged access, as no one has appointed them to act on behalf of the local community?

Lloyd is past master at saying a lot without really saying anything. This talk was no exception, mainly demographics, economics, where money comes from and goes, but there were hidden little gems.

Population of Rushmoor approximately 80% white British, at least according to 2011 Census data.

Questionable data. Does not match what is seen on the street of Aldershot and gross underestimation of the number of Nepalese. This was admitted as it did not match data from other sources, for example schools.

Would Nepalese or other immigrants (especially illegals) fill out a Census form? Probably not. Many natives refused to fill out, as seen as a gross violation of personal privacy.

Farnborough of two halves. A run down town centre, high tech office development around the airport, and never the twain shall meet. Lack of interconnection given as an excuse. More likely no cause to venture into the town centre as nothing there.

Fluor was given as an example of a company that has moved into this office space. The reason (not given), they have been given a very good deal on low rents, and their previous leases have been bought out. When the deal ends, they are just as likely to leave as they could be based anywhere in Europe.

There are pockets of severe deprivation in Farnborough.

Much made of heritage legacy.

The Tumbledown Dick mentioned. Claimed Council does not wish it to be demolished.

If this be true, then the Council will reject the planning application from McDonald’s for a Drive-Thru. And why is the Council refusing to serve enforcement action on Bride Hall? There are holes in the roof, water is pouring through the roof each time it rains.

Asset of of Community Value means if the McDonald’s deal falls through, and if put up for sale, the local community has six months in which to get the money to buy. Bride Hall and Punch Taverns are both contesting ACV. Maybe a test case. The building is still leased to Punch Tavern and Punch are still paying the rent.

The McDonald’s planning application will be determined by the planning committee early October.

Much made of heritage legacy. Recognition of the need to find a use for redundant buildings, as that is the best way to safeguard their future. Possibility of buildings on the old RAE site being used for art exhibitions. And yet, The Tumbledown Dick barely mentioned in passing. Referred to as an eyesore. No mention of the fact it was a popular live music venue. No mention of the possibility of bringing it back to life as a locally run cultural centre, live music, art and many other possibilities.

Ownership of Princess Mead has changed hands (yet again). The new owners wish to expand Princess Mead, but do not wish to engage in speculative development. Lloyd cautioned against this, and was correct to do so. There is already too much retail space in Farnborough. To expand would simply lead to more empty retail units. He thought Farnborough Gate had been bad news for Farnborough. PC World are pulling out and relocating to Farnborough Gate.

Were Princess Mead to expand, it would build on the land currently occupied by the Tuesday market. This would deliver the final death blow to the market.

The Council has invested capital in the Vue cinema planned for Farnborough (due to open next year).

Why, how much, why is Rushmoor investing in a commercial chain?

It was claimed there are guarantees. What guarantees, what happens when Vue goes bust?

Why not invest in local businesses? Even to simply support them would make a pleasant change.

There will be restaurants associated with the cinema, and maybe more to come.

More tacky chains, more money drained out of the local economy.

Westgate (or Wastegate as local retailers call it) was hailed as a success, the restaurants always busy in the evening.

Success for who, how do you measure success? Certainly not a success for retailers in Aldershot town centre. The Westgate restaurants are empty during the day, and get very bad reviews on TripAdvisor. Every ten pounds spent in one of these chain eateries, is a ten pounds not spent in local restaurants, ten pounds drained out of local economy, ten pounds not circulating in the local economy. A disaster for a deprived area like Aldershot.

Footfall at Westgate is falling (good news if reflected in an upturn in the town centre). The manager of the recently opened cinema has admitted bums on seat will halve when the new cinema opens in Farnborough.

Big question mark on the viability of two multi-screen cinemas only a ten minute bus ride apart.

Like McDonald’s and Sports Direct, Vue is a bad employer, employing staff on zero-hour contracts. Should public money be used to bail out a bad employer, used to attract a bad employer to Farnborough? Or, at the very least, conditions set, employ staff at a living wage, no zero-hour contracts.

Should public money be used to bail out a commercial cinema chain for a cinema that is not otherwise commercially viable? And if it is commercially viable, why the public subsidy?

Emphasis on sustainable development.

Sustainable development is not what we are seeing in Farnborough. Cutting down trees, destroying only green space at Firgrove Parade is not sustainable development.

Destruction of green space at Firgrove Parade and loss of four local businesses was justified on the grounds that the building was looking tired and it fitted in with local plans.

Neither statement true. The building is looking tired due to failure of Bride Hall to maintain. One year before planning decision, view of planning department was green space important pedestrian access into town, an 80-bed Premier Inn was too big for the site and merely met the desire of the developer to make a fast buck and would bring the planning system into disrepute if approved.

Shame loss of four local businesses, but they are being looked after by the developer. Latter half of statement not true.

Need a night time economy, but not the booze driven economy of Fleet.

Lloyd expressed disquiet at the way KPI had developed the town centre.

It was claimed health statistics for Farnborough better than national average. Odd, as previously published data shows worse and at odds with later statement of problems with obesity. If problem with obesity, then last thing need is yet another fast food takeaway.

The town needs to be marketed more to potential inward investment.

Why? Why not instead focus on supporting existing local businesses? Other towns that support their local businesses have thriving town centres, for example Godalming, Farnham and Alton. But then these town take a civic pride in their towns, look after their heritage, which is more than can be said for Farnborough.

Rushmoor used to employ 700 staff, now employs 200. This will free up one whole floor, will be rented out to the Police and Hampshire. Will the public have access to the police? Not known. This is is seen as a multi-hub agency approach, ground breaking and innovative. Rushmoor finally catches up with where Curitiba was decades ago.

Rushmoor is to buy the empty police station for redevelopment. For what, not known. Will this encompass surrounding green space? Not said.

Brief break, then question and answers.

One lady expressed disgust at Queensmead, badly laid paving slabs, all uneven. A gentleman questioned why anyone would wish to visit Queensmead when nothing there and Farnham a far more attractive place to visit. A view echoed by by several others.

It was raised why was there no easy way to cross the Farnborough Road to access the town centre? An odd question, as there is an underpass and a pedestrian crossing. A more sensible question would have been why, when pressing the button to cross the road, a long delay before the lights change?

Problem with traffic, main road often at or near gridlocked. How then can a Drive-Thru McDonald’s feed onto this gridlocked system?

Why not free parking? This is to miss the point. Even with free parking, why would anyone wish to visit Farnborough town centre?

Lloyd then left, did not stay around to chat. Very discourteous for a speaker.

There followed a brief presentation for the Farnborough Festival.

The Farnborough Festival is to celebrate £1 million having been wasted on laying new paving slabs in Queensmead.

Forget 56,000 in Farnborough, there are 380,000 in near vicinity, and once word gets out, they will want to visit Farnborough, and that is why Farnborough Society is to hold the Farnborough Festival.

Office space has been allocated in one of the many vacant shop units. There may be all day parking at £1 to encourage people to visit (though this has not actually been confirmed). The innovative lighting was praised because it pointed skywards and would form the basis of a must see light show.

I have come across deluded people but this took the biscuit. Escapees from a lunatic asylum?

The paving of Queensmead is seen as an appalling waste of public money. The paving slabs offer nothing new to what was there before. They are poor quality and badly laid. The are very slippy when wet. There is inadequate drainage causing flooding when it rains. The lights do indeed point skywards, rather than lighting the street. No one heard of light pollution?

Volunteers were called for. That may have explained the mass exodus. Usually people stay to chat after a meeting but no, a hasty exit out the door.

If nothing else, appalling hypocrisy. Where was Farnborough Society fighting to save Firgrove Parade? Why are the Farnborough Society not fighting to save The Tumbledown Dick? It would provide an all year round live music venue, an art venue.

And where is the money coming from? Already there has been an attempt to blag money from Hampshire and this has been turned down.

Any private business approached for money would be wise to say no. Not unless they want the bad PR of being linked to the disaster that is the re-paving of Queensmead.

If the paving of Queensmead had been money well spent, had it been underspent and money left over then use to hold a festival. But to celebrate an appalling waste of public money, is an absolute disgrace.

Last year, Brian Fyfe, chairman of the Farnborough Society, had a bizarre letter in the Farnborough News. He claimed it was ok to demolish The Tumbledown Dick (one of the oldest buildings in Farnborough dating from the 1720s) and turn into a Drive-Thru McDonald’s as the heritage would be safeguarded of a sign was stuck up saying The Tumbledown Dick.

Contrast the bizarre letter, with a letter from the chairman of the Aldershot Civic Society published a couple of weeks ago in the Aldershot News condemning the developer boarding up the entrance to The Arcade and thus destroying the few remaining retailers.

At a recent council meeting, Barbara Hurst, Rushmoor councillor and secretary of the Farnborough Society, attacked The Tumbledown Dick. She is also believed to be the cowardly anonymous letter writer in the Farnborough News attacking supporters of The Tumbledown Dick and spreading misleading information relating to its history.

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