The Tumbledown Dick: A pack of lies from Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

Farnborough past 1915

Farnborough past 1915

Over the last few days, we have received a large number of comments and queries about the Tumbledown Dick on our Facebook page. We cannot respond to all of these individually but have summarised our position below. We have also removed some of the more inappropriate postings.

There have been a number of accusations on this page that someone at the Council has received a finder’s fee from McDonald’s. This is not true. No member of staff or Councillor from Rushmoor Borough Council has received any money from McDonald’s. We understand that in some circumstances, McDonald’s do make payments to private agents but this does not include individuals or Councils.

There have been some postings here suggesting that the Council should have considered alternative options and uses for the Tumbledown Dick. However, the Council does not, and has never, owned the building and therefore any proposals for alternative use should have been directed to the owners, Bride Hall. The Council’s role was as the planning authority and therefore we were obliged by law to judge the merits of the planning application that was submitted to us and not other suggested alternatives.

We would like to reassure you that we have a strong and robust planning process. Many of the comments posted here are not a fair representation of how the Council and its Councillors approached the difficult task of considering such a contentious planning application. Neither the Council nor its Councillors were ‘held to ransom’ by Bride Hall.

When consultation is carried out as part of the planning process, it is the content of the representations rather than the quantity that carries weight. The report that was considered by the Development Control Committee on 9 October, listed, examined and analysed every response received during the consultation process and explained how they were considered. A copy of this report is available on our website at http://www.rushmoor.gov.uk/tumbledown

The only financial benefit to the Council would be from any increase in the business rates – where the Council would normally retain 40%. There will also be section 106 developers’ contributions in relation to highway improvements, which are passed to Hampshire County Council and can only be used for works made necessary as a result of the proposed development.

As a Council, we have been in regular contact with Bride Hall since the public house closed to try to ensure that the building remained safe and did not fall into disrepair. The extent of the powers which the Council has for making a private individual or company do certain things to their property are limited, but we have used those at our disposal to try and ensure its survival. We have always been keen to see the site brought back into use as an important part of the overall regeneration of Farnborough. However, it is up to the owners or those with other interests in the site to make proposals for how it might be developed.

At the request of local campaigners, English Heritage did consider the Tumbledown Dick for ‘listing’ but following their assessment concluded that from the evidence available, it lacked the special architectural and historical interest required to qualify for listing. A full copy of this assessment is available on our website http://www.rushmoor.gov.uk/tumbledown.

On the issue of health, we did seek legal advice on the relevance of this matter to the planning application for two main reasons. The first was because many people had raised it in their response to the consultation and we wanted clear guidance on the appropriate weight, which could be given to it. The second was so that we could give correct advice to the Committee members on what the Courts had to say on this issue. We seek legal advice in circumstances where we need guidance. We do not, as suggested, commission a legal opinion as a way of supporting a particular outcome or to enable us to ignore something, which is clearly of importance to many people.

On the matter of litter, as part of the planning application (available at http://www.rushmoor.gov.uk/publicaccess – application reference 13/00512/FULPP) Mcdonald’s submitted details of their policy for dealing with litter. As with all businesses should litter become a problem, there is action that the Council can take.

— Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

Posted on their facebook page by the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, this is a classic for the Joseph Goebbels School of Management: Post a big enough lie, repeat it often enough, and it will be believed.

Only problem is, it is not working.

At the planning meeting, where a pack of lies was told, where councillors (with the honourable exceptions of Alan Chainey and Frank Rust) had not a clue what they were talking about, the local community were treated with arrogant contempt. Now, the local community are being treated as a bunch of fools.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, fool all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

If this pack of lies is the best the Council can do, it is easy to see why they lose at Planning Inquiries, why they are found wanting when subject to the scrutiny of a Judicial Review.

McDonald’s pays a ‘finder’s fee’. Questions have been raised in Parliament on this malpractice. Maybe the Fat Clown would like to enlighten us and name who has claimed £20,000 for The Tumbledown Dick.

To suggest the Council has ‘a strong and robust planning process’ has to be seen as a sick joke, unless we are referring to how the Council falls over backwards to appease developers, no matter how bad the scheme (and we have seen plenty of bad schemes approved), then the local community would concur.

The scrutiny took place by the local community, not the planning department, not the councillors, and the community found the scheme wanting, the local community found there were many robust grounds on which to reject the scheme, but none of this was conveyed to the committee, all the committee saw was sound bites.

The committee should exercise due diligence and scrutiny, with the honourable exception of Alan Chainey and Frank Rust, this they singularly failed to do do. What we saw on display was an appalling degree of ignorance, we heard tittle-tattle, hearsay, half truths, lies and personal prejudice. We saw appalling chairing of the meeting by Gareth Lyon, we saw an Agenda that was so one-sided and biassed that it read as a PR exercise for McDonald’s.

It is the role of the Council as the planning authority, to consider the merit of the application. The application had no merit. It should therefore had been rejected.

It was claimed several times, Bride Hall were holding the Council to ransom. When Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum showed their faces in the Tilly Shilling they claimed Bride Hall was bullying the Council, and that was why they had to vote for McDonald’s.

As everyone was singing from the same song sheet, it begs the question who was briefing on the Council being held to ransom by Bride Hall?

The building has fallen into serious disrepair due to wilful neglect. The Council has done nothing to rectify the situation. The Council was asked to serve enforcement action. The Council refused to do so.

The Council could at any time have served a Compulsory Purchase Order on The Tumbledown Dick. They declined to do so.

It is ludicrous the statement that a Drive-Thru McDonald’s can be seen as part of the regeneration of Farnborough or the equally ludicrous statement made at the planning committee good for Farnborough, saving the building.

The town centre was not in need of regeneration, until it was trashed by St Modwen, aided and abetted by the Council. The Drive-Thru will drain money out of the local economy, cause traffic congestion pollution and litter, increase healthcare costs. It will generate 65 low-paid, part-time, de-skilled, zero-hours McJobs.

English Heritage were asked to list the building. They found the building to have merit, but did not list, not because the building lacked merit, but because they only list a representative sample, and they already have a large number of pubs listed. For a pub to be listed, it would have to have something exceptional to gain a listing.

The lack of listing by English Heritage should not be seen as meaning the building lacks heritage value, as some are falsely trying to claim. Or as we saw from John Marsh and have seen from Farnborough Society, complete and utter garbage as to the age of the building.

The Council does not like accusations of corruption. Why then seen as corrupt in the eyes of the public?

Could it be because the planning officials fall over backwards to force through a planning application on behalf of a developer, even where it can be clearly shown the scheme is prejudicial to the interests of the town and the local community and where there are more than sufficient planning grounds on which to reject?

Could it be because the local community sees planning officials blatantly lying to push through unwanted schemes on behalf of developers?

Officials blatantly lied when they said no problems litter, traffic congestion, antisocial behaviour at Farnborough Gate.

Nor is this a one off for The Tumbledown Dick. It has happened on many other planning applications.

For Firgrove Parade, told trees were in an unhealthy condition and at the end of their lives, adequate parking etc. This was completely at odds with internal e-mails from the previous year. The committee were mislead into believing they were dealing with a tree report from their own useless tree officer, when they were dealing with a tree report from Bride Hall. A tree report, that although crucial, was not included in the Agenda. The trees were not in an unhealthy condition.

One only has to read the Rotten Boroughs column in Private Eye (a must read) to see the extent of corruption in local councils up and down the country. Are we to believe Rushmoor is the exception, despite what we see with our own eyes?

Long overdue is a comprehensive independent investigation into the planning department. The head of planning is unfit to hold public office and should resign.

It is perverse the Council should seek legal advice (at our expense) on health as a material planning matter, because large numbers of people raised this. It is nonsense to say the Council was not acting to circumvent planning policies, as that is exactly what the Council was doing.

Only now are we told why, that large numbers of people had objected on health. Why was the committee not told? Why was the committee not told these objections had come from the Milestone Surgery (opposite the site), from local doctors, from a Retired Naval Surgeon, from two local headteachers?

Primary School Head Teachers objected – Mrs Sue Harris, Pinewood Infants and Mrs S Masters, Fernhill Primary. Both teachers eloquently stated how they are striving to help their school children understand healthy eating and that this undermines that, plus one of them mentioned the soft play centre and how it would encourage poor eating and less interactions within families. They both also mentioned traffic.. in fact EVERYONE mentioned traffic!!

Nor were the committee told of a recent Public Health England report which showed how bad the health and related statistics were locally, far worse than the national average.

– 2,600 children in the Borough live in Poverty
– In Year 6 children, 18.5% are classified as obese which is significantly above the – national average
– GCSE attainment is significantly below the national average
– Violent crime is significantly above the national average
– Obese adults are above the national average

The committee were asked to act on legal advice they had not seen, were not told why it was requested.

What were the questions asked? Of who were they asked? Who gave the legal advice? What is that legal advice? All this information should be placed in the public domain. It should have been placed in the public domain before the committee met, and been included as an Appendix to the Agenda.

The committee can only act on evidence put before them. They were asked to act on legal advice that they had never seen. This legal opinion, was presented to them by a planning official, not a legal officer.

No information was given to the committee on what the Courts had said.

No information was given to the committee on how litter was to be dealt with, other than a senior executive from McDonald’s claiming there was not a problem.

Across the country, including Farnborough Gate, and across the world, there is a problem with McDonald’s and litter.

At the McLibel Trial, evidence was presented and accepted, that McDonald’s a major source of litter.

The simplest way to deal with the litter is to stop it at source, ie do not grant planning permission for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s. The other way is to charge McDonald’s for dealing with their litter.

But we heard nothing on how this problem was to be tackled, because it was claimed there was no problem.

The post by Rushmoor, very quickly attracted over 100 comments, all of them negative towards Rushmoor, then known local trolls jumped in. These commnets in turn, raised points Rushmoor had failed to address either in their facebook post, or at the planning meeting.

Although not mentioned in the facebook post by Rushmoor, Asset of Community Value was another planning matter Rushmoor sought legal advice to circumvent. Drawing on the Localism Act, whatever legal advice Rushmoor was given, it is more or less worthless, as the Localism Act is too new to have been tested in the Courts, there is no case law to draw upon, and it is only now, ACV is being challenged in the Courts. Indeed, The Tumbledown Dick will be one of those early challenges.

Asset of Community Value, only kicks in, if the building comes up for sale, but that does not mean ACV status should be ignored in planning, nor can we say (as Keith Holland falsely claimed) it will not come up for sale within the next ten years.

ACV means the local community has first refusal, should The Tumbledown Dick come up for sale. Six months are then available in which to raise the money.

A pub protection policy, cf the excellent pub protection policies in Islington and Cambridge, the pub would have to be put on the market as a pub, free of pubco ties.

Gerald Howarth stitched up a dirty little deal behind the backs of the local community. Party to that deal were the three ward councillors, two of who were on the committee and spoke and voted in favour of McDonald’s.

McDonald’s could not have razed the building to the ground as it would have been contrary to the policy on local listed buildings. It is a moot point that McDonald’s can part demolish and be compliant with the policy.

What is likely to happen, is the entire building gets ‘accidentally’ demolished, or is found to be structurally unsound, and has to go. With the Council sitting idly by and claiming there is nothing they can do, as they did with the wilful neglect.

The three ward councillors could not contain their joy that the deal they had brokered with McDonald’s was the one they then approved at planning committee.

Contrast Gerald Howarth with Sadiq Khan MP. Sadiq Khan worked very hard on behalf of the local community, to stop Tesco destroying The Wheatsheaf at Tooting Bec. Maybe Gerald Howarth was hoping for a retainer, as he receives from a payday loan company. He has in the past, been pictured promoting McDonald’s.

John Wall is as ignorant on planning as he is on other matters. A known local troll and not worth wasting the time of day on.

To reiterate, health is a material planning consideration. In Rushmoor, health is dire even when compared with the national levels of health, but our Council cares so much for the health of the local population, they seek legal advice at our expense, to ignore health as a planning matter.

The number of car parking spaces for the Drive-Thru, does not meet Council policy. If it does not meet, then ignore as inconvenient.

The same stance was taken for the car parking for the Premier Inn and Beefeater Grill for Firgrove Green. Only seven car parking spaces. Council policy, dictated to Bride Hall last year was for a considerable higher number. Response from Bride Hall was not acceptable, so policy was ignored.

A Drive-Thru is a drive through, people drive there (one reason they are clinically obese).

A 202-seat restaurant (plus outside seating area), assume two persons per car (that is the average occupancy of cars on the road), that gives over one hundred cars if the restaurant is full.

The Drive-Thru will have roughly 30 car-parking spaces, Council policy roughly 60 car-parking spaces.

Er Farnborough, we have a problem!

An independent traffic survey was carried out. The planning committee was not even made aware of this, let alone saw its findings.

The view of local taxi drivers is that the A325 cannot handle the extra traffic from a Drive-Thru at this location.

The committee was told, no problem at Farnborough Gate.

The committee was fed some nonsense the cars would already be on the network.

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