Posts Tagged ‘Firgrove Parade’

Public Inquiry Firgrove Green Stopping-up Order

September 3, 2014
Firgrove Green

Firgrove Green

We would not be here if Rushmoor head of planning had not lied on the state of the trees, if spineless councillors on the planning committee did their job and questioned what was put before them.

Planning consent was granted last summer to destroy Firgrove Green for an unwanted 80-bed Premier Inn Hotel, and to destroy the four businesses at Firgrove Parade.

Almost immediately, tree surgeons were on the green cutting down the trees. The green was fenced off and the footpath running diagonally across the green, a popular short cut into town, illegally blocked off.

Bride Hall have been forced to apply for a Stopping-Up Order on the footpath, as otherwise, their unwanted development cannot go ahead.

The meeting started with barrister dumping several new documents. The correct procedure then should have been to either refuse the documents, or for the inquiry to be adjourned.

Following opening statements by the chairman, a long presentation by a so-called highways expert acting for the developer.

He came across as a clueless idiot.

He claimed, the path across the green was not safe, as badly lit at night and that those crossing the green were not observed. The impression given was that of going down a dangerous muggers alley.

He also claimed the route around the green was shorter, that it was the better route, and that it was safer.

Under cross examination, it was shown he had misled the inquiry. Having claimed there was no informal observation of the green, he was asked had he made a site visit? He said he had. He was then asked had he not noticed the CCTV? It was also drawn to his attention, the residential properties that overlook the green.

For some perverse reason, the ‘highways expert’ objected to a site notice that the footpath was to be closed for yet another unwanted hotel. Under cross examination, he was no clearer. Especially as part of their argument why they should be granted the Stopping-Up Order, was because they wished to build their hotel.

This also indicates a serious flaw in the entire process. At planning, committee instructed to ignore loss of a public right of way. At Public Inquiry, the demand is that loss of the public right of way be automatically granted on the grounds planning has been granted.

Objectors gave their views, the footpath gave a convenient short cut, has been in use over a very long period of time, it was safer as not likely to be jostled into a busy road, that fencing off of the green and illegal obstruction of the footpath gave the opportunity to observe what it would be like.

The highway expert, had produced a quick ball park figure, which would indicate few people on the footpath around the green. This did not match what local people had observed. He was also forced to admit there had been no survey carried out of the number of people actually using the various paths.

He was asked could he produce any crime data to support his assertion the path across the green was not safe. He admitted he could not.

Each objector was cross examined by the barrister for the developer. Much of his questioning was of no relevance as he referred to their objection to the planning application. The chairman in his opening statement, had made very clear, we could not go over the grounds of the planning application, a decision had been made to grant planning, and that could not be reversed. All we could consider were matters relevant to the public right of way. And yet, the chairman failed to intervene.

The second line of questioning, was to ask, is a wider path not preferable, is a path well lit not preferable, is it not better to walk a safer route?

A moment of light relief, Rushmoor lack more than a couple of brain cells to rub together.

The barrister made much in his cross-examination, that the path across the green, was narrower than that around the green, were it to be fenced in. This was challenged by one of the objectors. What was under discussion, was the legal right to cross the green, not the width of a specific path, the highway authority could choose to widen the path, and it would be churlish of the developer to fence it in and deny access to the green. The barrister wisely chose not to cross-examine on these points.

In his summing up, the barrister gave the impression Bride Hall was a benign organisation, their only interest in the stopping-up, to direct people around a safer route. His view of safe, was different to that of objectors, who do not regard safe, being jostled into a busy road.

He also summarised, that as Bride Hall had planning permission (the application being fairly handled by Rushmoor), then it was only proper they be granted a Stopping-Up Order, else their hotel could not go ahead.

The formal part of the inquiry was then closed.

There then followed a site visit. No additional information could be supplied. But, attention could be drawn to various aspects relating to the inquiry, for example CCTV and apartments overlooking the site, The Tumbledown Dick which will generate additional foot traffic.

The objectors made a very good case. They were also able to expose the flaws in the developers case. They had a fair hearing, which is more than can ever be said before Rushmoor planning committee.

The Planning Inspector now has to write a report and present his findings to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then grants or does not grant the Stopping-Up Order.

Present: a member of the planning committee, a planning official and a local troll who delights in posting abuse.

Focus on Farnborough

August 28, 2013
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.

Firgrove Green: Council tree officer did not inspect trees he condemned as unhealthy

August 23, 2013
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

At the planning meeting in June to decide the fate of Firgrove Parade (destruction of open green space, cutting down of trees, destruction of four local businesses) the planners blatantly lied. They lied about the state of the trees. To be exact, they repeatedly lied on several counts, but pivotal to the outcome, was the lies they told about the trees.

They claimed the trees were unhealthy, were at the end of their lives. They let the councillors believe they were discussing a tree report by their very own tree officer, although no tree report was before them, no tree report was included in the Agenda, even though the state of the trees was pivotal to the decision to be reached that night.

Councillors questioned the integrity of the tree officer, questioned why he was not standing before them to be cross-examined on the state of the trees. One even said, if they had a different report on the trees, they would be reaching a different decision that evening.

The councillors voted to destroy Firgrove Parade, voted to destroy four local businesses, cut down trees and destroy the only remaining green space in that part of Farnborough town centre.

They reached their decision based upon a pack of lies fed to them by planning officials who were determined to push through a development on behalf of Bride Hall. The same developer wishing to destroy The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

The tree report the councillors were discussing, and unbeknown to them as they did not have it before them, was a tree report from the developer Bride Hall.

As a Freedom of Information request has shown, there was no report from the tree officer, as the tree officer never produced one. Nor did the tree officer inspect the trees. The tree officer simply endorsed the tree report from the developer without troubling himself to actually get off his backside and check the state of the trees.

1.    Details of any tree inspection carried out by the Council and a copy of any inspection report prepared by the Council
No such inspection was carried out and there therefore is no such report.
2.    Confirmation that the Council saw Bride Hall’s tree report and any details of any endorsement or comments on it
I can confirm that the Council received and reviewed Bride Hall’s Arboricultural Report (a copy of which I attach).  As is the usual process, the Council’s Arboricultural Officer is consulted in respect of a planning application and their response is included in the report to the Development Control Committee. In this instance, the Council’s Arboricultural Officer reviewed this report responded to the consultation that they had no objection to the proposals.  This is stated in the Committee report (also attached – see page 27).  Beyond this, there are no other endorsements or comments on Bride Hall’s Arboricultural Report.
3.    Details of checks were made for nesting birds
The Council has no such details of checks that may have been made for nesting birds (nor would we expect to given that the responsibility for compliance with the relevant legislation lies with the owner of the land and/or the party carrying out works to the trees).
4.    Notes on any internal discussions on these trees and copies of e-mails
Having reviewed our files, the only information we can find regarding this issue is the Arboricultural Officer’s consultation response which was included in the relevant Committee report.
5.    Notes on any discussion, meeting, telephone call and e-mails between Bride Hall and the Council
Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act (“the Act”) makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for local government is set at £450 (by the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulation 2004, “the Regulations”). This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 18 working hours in determining whether the Council holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information.  Given that Bride Hall own a number of sites in the Borough and have done so for many years and the extremely wide nature of your request, I believe that it would take substantially in excess of 18 hours to deal with your request. Therefore we will not be processing your request any further.

Local people delayed the cutting down of the trees, but all have now gone, bar one. Healthy trees were cut down in a crude attempt to hide the fact the planners lied to push through a planning application on behalf of Bride Hall. One tree remains. Its fate was decided by a nesting bird.

It is reasonable to expect expect all council officials to discharge their duties and responsibilities with due diligence. This would not appear to have been the case with the council tree officer.

The council tree officer endorsed the tree report from Bride Hall without he himself inspecting the trees. This to say the least beggars belief. Far from exercising due diligence, he has shown gross dereliction of duty, misconduct and maladministration.

How can the council tree officer possibly review and endorse the Bride Hall tree report without inspecting the trees it refers to? How does he even know the species of trees or their number is correct, let alone the health or amenity value of those trees?

It is difficult for the liars to keep their stories straight.
The tree officer is forbidden to discuss his non-existent tree report.

Sarita Jones, planning case officer, has claimed tree officer inspected the trees and produced a report. Would not have approved the Bride Hall report without checking the trees.

Jeremy Rosen, temporary borough solicitor, has said emergency Tree Preservation Orders could not be put on the trees as this would stop the development taking place.

Keith Holland, head of planning, said cutting down the trees had nothing to do with the development.

The trees that were cut down, were, contrary to the lies to the planning committee, healthy trees.

Occupy Firgrove: Two more trees cut down

July 31, 2013
turning felled tree into logs

turning felled tree into logs

This morning an alert went out, tree surgeons are back, more trees being cut down.

The fear was, the tree with a nesting pigeon was being cut down. The police were notified, as to disturb a nesting bird, its nest, its eggs, its young, is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

It turned out to be a false alarm, yes there were trees being cut down, but not the one with a nesting bird.

The tree surgeons will not be back until the autumn, the end of the bird nesting season, as they are well aware to cut down the one remaining tree would be an offence under Wildlife and Countryside Act.

The logs that were left when most of the trees were cut down last week have been removed. These were than rapacious developer Bride hall could stomach, as they sent a very clear signal healthy trees had been cut down, and the extent to which planning officials had lied to push the planning application through on their behalf to build an 80-bed Premier Inn hotel on this site.

The fence around the green is here to stay. THe fencing brackets that hold the fence panels in place, need a special tool, they cannot be unbolted with an ordinary spanner.

Mid-afternoon, after the tree surgeons has left, the fencing panel that had been unlawful blocking a public right of way for over a week, have been removed. Whether or not Highways have carried out enforcement, as they were well aware of the unlawful obstruction of public highway, is not known.

Around the corner Bride Hall are wanting to destroy the 16th century Tumbledown Dick. Earlier this week, a planning application was submitted by McDonald’s to turn The Tumbledown Dick into a Drive-Thru McDonald’s. The Tumbledown Dick is in a very poor state of disrepair, gaping holes in the roof, due to deliberate neglect by Bride Hall and failure to carry out enforcement on repairs by the local council.

Occupy Firgrove: Unlawful obstruction of public footpath

July 30, 2013
Firgrove Green blocked footpath

Firgrove Green blocked footpath

Last Wednesday, tree surgeons employed by greedy developer Bride Hall, arrived mob handed with riot police, private security thugs and fencers to cut down trees on Firgrove Green.

They unlawfully blocked a public right of way, a footpath that cuts across the green.

The police were asked was it ok to remove the obstruction. Their response was no, anyone who attempted to do so would be arrested for aggravated trespass.

Aggravated trespass is to stop someone on private land going about their lawful business.

It would appear, according to the police, aggravated trespass is stopping someone on a public footpath, stopping someone on a public footpath going about unlawful business, namely unlawfully blocking a right of way.

The contractors had no right to obstruct a public highway, they had made no application to stop or divert the right of way, no notices had been posted notifying of any application.

This morning a notice appeared from Knight Security claiming private property.

Either Knight Security or local trolls removed posters on the fence. It would appear Bride Hall do not like the truth being told about their rapacious greed. But no sooner do Knight Security remove posters, the local community put them back. Maybe they should learn the story of King Canute trying to hold the tide back.

Bride Hall are wanting to destroy the green for an unwanted 80-bedroom Premier Inn hotel. They are also wanting to destroy four local businesses.

Around the corner Bride Hall are wanting to destroy the 16th century Tumbledown Dick. Earlier this week, a planning application was submitted by McDonald’s to turn The Tumbledown Dick into a Drive-Thru McDonald’s. The Tumbledown Dick is in a very poor state of disrepair, gaping holes in the roof, due to deliberate neglect by Bride Hall and failure to carry out enforcement on repairs by the local council.

Note: Thanks to Arthur for picture of blocked path.

Firgrove Parade – Rushmoor Borough Council’s position

July 28, 2013

More bullshit from Rushmoor

secret report on quashing restrictive covenant

secret report on quashing restrictive covenant

secret report on quashing restrictive covenant

secret report on quashing restrictive covenant

There have been a significant number of posts to our Facebook page and other pages over the last couple of days about the removal of the trees at Firgrove Parade, Farnborough, as part of the redevelopment of the site by the landowner, Bride Hall.

There are too many comments for us to be able to respond individually but we do recognise that emotions are running high and that there are strong feelings about the loss of the trees.

We have also seen a number of inaccurate claims and allegations made about the council and individual members of staff relating to Firgrove Parade and we understand that some of these are a result of those strong feelings.

We have previously published statements setting out our position on both Firgrove Parade and its trees, but we would like to respond to the latest comments with further clarification.

Sale of Firgrove Parade

The council identified Firgrove Parade as a potential redevelopment site in the 1980s, providing a key gateway into the town centre.

We sold the site in 1987 to Bride Hall for £600,000 plus an obligation on the landowner to pay further sums on any future redevelopment of the land.

A restrictive covenant was put in place to secure payment of these further sums on any future development.

The covenant was not intended to prevent redevelopment or protect green space.

Revised financial arrangements

Given that 25 years have since passed, the council renegotiated the financial arrangements with the landowner earlier this year.

Under the new arrangements, the council – and therefore the people of the borough – will receive 25% of any increase in value of the Firgrove Parade site following redevelopment.

As part of that arrangement, the council will also receive a nominal £1,000 payment ‘up front’.

This £1,000 has caused some confusion. To be clear, the council did not sell the land for £1,000 nor did we release the existing covenant for £1,000.

As we’ve said previously, we sold the land for £600,000 (plus the arrangements to receive further sums) in 1987. We agreed to replace the existing covenant with a new restriction to secure the revised financial arrangements, with a nominal £1,000 ‘up front’.

We took independent valuation advice on these revised financial arrangements and the Cabinet agreed that they would only be put in place if planning consent was obtained.

Our position on the redevelopment of Firgrove Parade and our planning policies

As we’ve already said, we identified Firgrove Parade as a potential redevelopment site in the 1980 and our position since then has been consistent and reflected in our planning policies for Farnborough town centre.

Most recently, we identified Firgrove Parade for potential redevelopment in the town centre masterplan that we published last year following a month of public consultation, to which nearly 300 people responded.

When we develop planning policies for the borough, we look at how they will best serve our whole population of 94,400. These policies generally cover the long-term development of the borough and are agreed by the council following public consultation. We understand that there may be a difference between what is best for the wider population and for individuals and in making decisions on these policies, our councillors aim to strike the right balance.

Firgrove Parade planning application

It can sometimes be difficult for those not closely involved in the council to understand that we have a number of different roles and take decisions in different capacities. The Cabinet’s decision to agree revised financial arrangements was taken entirely separately from the Development Control Committee’s decision to grant planning consent for Firgrove Parade.

In considering any planning application, the key question is whether the proposed development is in accordance with our development plan. In the case of Firgrove Parade, Bride Hall’s application met fully with our planning policies for the town centre, as we had previously identified and agreed the site as suitable for redevelopment. The council would not have had the right to refuse planning consent for a hotel simply because there is another one close by.

There have been a number of queries about the report provided on the trees at Firgrove Parade. It is entirely proper for the person applying for planning permission to commission an arboricultural report for consideration by the council as part of their planning application. This was the case for Firgrove Parade and the report was made publicly available as part of the consultation on the planning application.

Comments and allegations against the council, its staff and councillors

There have been a number of comments and allegations made about the council, its staff and councillors relating to Firgrove Parade. Again, we understand that feelings are high, but these comments are very public and it is not easy for individuals, in particular, to defend themselves. We believe the council, its staff and councillors have acted entirely properly.

Two press releases from the Council in less than than two weeks trying to justify what they are doing. They must be getting desperate.

One word could summarise this latest press release: bullshit.

We are used to seeing the local community treated with arrogant contempt. Now they are treating local people as fools.

The latest press release is a mix of lies, half truths, misinformation and smears.

Gateway into the town. Er no, this is a back service road, part of which does not even have a footpath. But at least a green, covered with trees and crossed by footpaths, looks far more attractive than an ugly 80-bedroom Premier Inn hotel.

The impression is given the Council negotiated a better deal with the developer. Simply not true. In an exchange of e-mails, the developer Bride Hall demanded of the Council that the restrictive covenant be quashed as it would stop their development taking place. In October 2012, Cabinet met and a secret report stated the restrictive covenant was to quashed because it was ‘onerous’ for the developer. A grubby little backroom deal was stitched up behind closed doors. But we are asked to believe that this was to get a better deal for the Council. Erm, a developer goes to the Council and asks them to quash a restrictive covenant, because it stops their development taking place, as they would not like to go ahead because they are not paying the council enough money. Similarly it is ‘onerous’ to them not to be paying the Council more money. This from a developer registered overseas to avoid tax.

The secret report to Cabinet by the then-Borough Solicitor Karen Limmer could not be less unambiguous:

Authority is sought … to replace the existing land covenant with a new covenant

The present covenant dates from 1987 and restricts development on part of the site. The covenant is considered to be onerous and effectively prevents redevelopment and regeneration taking place …

THe existing covenant to be replaced with a fresh covenant to enable Bride Hall’s develpment to proceed ….

Bride Hall will pay the Council £1000 ….

The existing land covenant to be replaced by a new covenant …

This simply gives to the developer what Bride Hall had been demanding of the Council the year before, namely that the existing covenant be quashed as otherwise their development cannot take place. Nowhere in this report does it say it is the Council quashing the covenant to get a better deal. The report could not be clearer, the covenant is to be quashed because ‘onerous’ for the developer. The report also makes clear, the original covenant ‘restricts development on part of the site’. The report dismisses planning consent as a formality.

The decision by Cabinet was to prejudge the planning decision.

A legal agreement is drawn up, the council gets an upfront payment of £1000. This on a development deal where the Council tell us they will get 25% of the development deal on a multimillion pound development. Pull the other one.

The legal agreement will not be worth the paper it is written on. Any half arse lawyer is going to walk all over this two-bit council.

Let us see this legal agreement. Publish it. Let us see this marvellous deal negotiated on behalf of the local community, a deal the local community were not party to and has not agreed should take place.

The Council decided what is best for the wider population. Having a laugh are we? Since when has this council acted for the local community, done anything that is in the best interest of the local community?

It is not for the Council to decide what is best for the town, in reality developers out to make a fast buck, it is for the local community. People have had enough of seeing St Modwen, and now Bride Hall, trash the town.

It is laughable when the leader of the council describes laying a few paving slabs as exciting news.

There may have been consultation, consultation few knew about. Nearly 300 people may have responded. Were those comments taken on board, were polices changed?

Local people have made it very very clear, they do not wish to see the green destroyed, do not want to see trees felled, do not wish to see local businesses destroyed. But no one is listening.

Yes, developers do submit their own assessment of trees. But what is not acceptable, is for that to form the basis of discussion at a planning committee, for the committee to be left to labour under the false impression they are discussing a council report, for planners to blatantly lie to the committee and say healthy trees are in a poor state of health. Officials did not correct councillors when they though they were discussing a report from their own tree officer. The tree report crucial as it was, was not included in the Agenda.

Planning officials blatantly lied when they said trees were in a poor state of health. That no doubt is why they were so keen to see the trees destroyed. Get rid if the evidence.

If the Council feels its staff have acted properly, then let us have an independent inquiry into head of planning Keith Holland, case officer Sarita Jones, and tree officer Ian May.

In the light of all what has happened, local people have remained remarkably cool. Even a senior police officer present last week when the trees were destroyed, thanked those present for remaining peaceful.

I have seen people seething with anger over the trees being cut down on Firgrove Green, on seeing a public footpath crossing the green unlawfully blocked, on local businesses threatened with destruction. I have yet to see anyone loose their temper. Under the circumstances, it is remarkable people have kept their cool.

It is not only Farnborough. Across the country, people are saying enough is enough, they have had enough of corrupt councils in bed with developers and Big Business trashing their towns and countryside. People of Britain are concluding, like a hobbit in The Lord of the Rings ‘If we all got angry together, something might be done.’

Firgrove Parade: Rushmoor press release

July 17, 2013
Save Firgrove Parade

Save Firgrove Parade

Save Firgrove Parade

Save Firgrove Parade

The history of the Firgrove Parade site can be understood by looking at it from three perspectives, the original sale of the land, the Council’s strategic planning and economic growth policies and the recent planning application.

Land sale and covenant

In 1987, Rushmoor Borough Council sold the current Firgrove Parade site and some adjoining land to Bride Hall for £600,000.

At this time, a covenant was put in place to protect the Council’s interests by ensuring that a fair share of any future profits from the redevelopment of the land came back to the Council to support the provision of public services.

Due to the current financial climate, there has been a recent renegotiation of the financial arrangements, again to protect Rushmoor Borough Council’s interests on any redevelopment of the site. These new arrangements secure 25% of any future uplift in value of the site following development for the Council.

Strategic planning and economic growth

The council has a strategic role to enable the future growth and prosperity of its town centres, including Farnborough.

The Farnborough Town Prospectus was agreed in May 2012 following public consultation. This built on the Farnborough Town Centre Supplementary Planning document (adopted in 2007) and identified Firgrove Parade and the adjoining space as a key gateway site which would benefit from redevelopment. The prospectus envisaged that this could be a mixed-use scheme offering a range of commercial, leisure and retail space.

Planning application

In February, Bride Hall submitted a planning application which was fully in accordance with current planning policy. The Council, in its role as Local Planning Authority, considered and approved the application in June after public consultation. This development will represent a significant investment in the town.

In terms of the protesters’ concerns about the trees, as with many planning permissions, there is often a balance between development and protection of the existing environment. The trees are not covered by a Tree Preservation Order, but there’s no doubt that they add some amenity value. However we need to weigh this up with the investment benefits that the new development will bring to Farnborough.

In terms of a public right of way crossing the land, as with other developments, as long as there is an alternative route then the right of way can be extinguished or rerouted, provided the proper procedures are followed.

— Andrew Lloyd, chief executive, Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

How kind of Andrew Lloyd to issue a press release on Firgrove Parade. Shame he fails to address any of the issues.

Andrew Lloyd is past master at saying something without saying anything. This press release issued yesterday, is a classic example, as it is basically waffle.

We are told that ‘due to the current financial climate, there has been a recent renegotiation of the financial arrangements’.

What does that mean, it does not say? Has the borough got a better deal, it does not say? What we do know is that the Cabinet met October 2012 and quashed the existing restrictive covenant. They did so behind closed doors, therefore we do not know what grubby little deal was cooked up. They did so without any consultation with the public. What we do know is that the existing restrictive covenant was ‘onerous’ for the developer, and that was why it was quashed. What we do know is that the quashing of the restrictive covenant was squashed on payment of £1000 by the developer Bride Hall. What we also know is that the previous year before the restrictive covenant was quashed, Bride Hall in an exchange of e-mails demanded of the Council that they quashed the restrictive covenant as it would otherwise stop their development taking place.

This paints a different picture to what Lloyd is telling us of the Council negotiating a better deal. It would appear from Lloyd is telling us, and from what we already know, that Lloyd is not telling the truth.

We are told the town has to grow. The obvious question is why? And we are told this is the strategic gateway into the town, ie a back service road into a Sainsbury’s car park.

To date the town centre has been trashed, raped may be a better word, to satisfy the rapacious greed of a developer. A large number of independent business have been destroyed for a Sainsbury’s supermarket, an estate of 28 maisonettes social housing destroyed for a car park for the Sainsbury’s supermarket. We are left with a Poundland, tax-dodging Starbucks selling rubbish coffee, a tattoo parlour, a few High Street chains, charity shops and boarded-up shop units. £1 million of tax-payers money is being squandered on poorly laid paving slabs which no one sees as an improvement.

This is called town centre regeneration. George Orwell would be proud of this use of newspeak.

Into this mix steps Bride Hall, with a planning application to destroy the only remaining green area in the town centre for an unwanted 80-bedroom Premier Inn hotel and a block that will destroy four remaining small businesses (one of which as already been forced out). The gateway into the town, ie into a service road, will be an ugly Premier Inn hotel, that in mass and bulk and height, will dominate the site, a site that is currently open green space with trees.

A budget hotel, when there is another budget hotel a few minutes walk down the road, is clearly of little benefit to the town. A budget hotel that will only have seven car parking spaces.

Lloyd says ‘as with many planning permissions, there is often a balance between development and protection of the existing environment’. No attempt was made to achieve a balance. We have a harsh ugly urban environment, with the green area and the trees helping to give some respite.

It is true the trees have no TPOs, trees which Lloyd admits have amenity value, and to his credit he does not repeat the lie peddled at the planning committee that the trees are in a poor state of health.

As the trees have no TPOs, are at risk, then why does not Lloyd instruct that Emergency TPOs be served.

The investment brings no benefits to Farnborough, but we lose valuable green space, the trees on a busy junction helping to keep the air clean.

Lloyd correctly recognises that no development can take place whilst public rights of way cross the land, and if these are to be extinguished proper procedures must be followed, to which he should have added, these can be challenged.

As Lloyd recognises public rights of way cross the land, he must make it clear contractors cannot obstruct these rights of way, as tree surgeons did last week when they tried to cut down the trees.

Lloyd fails to address the most important issues, and presumably because he cannot, and that is that the planning application was predetermined by the quashing of the restrictive covenant in October 2012 to facilitate a development for which an application had not yet been submitted and the discussion which took place with the developer before that where the developers was demanding the restrictive covenant be quashed as it would stop their development taking place.

Lloyd has failed to address a related issue of the restrictive covenant which if had not been quashed would have stopped a multimillion pound development, that of it being quashed for a mere £1000.

Lloyd has failed to address the destruction of four local businesses, the Firgrove 4, but then Lloyd has never had an interest in local, family run business. Indeed for more than a decade Lloyd has been pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing of small, independent, family run businesses from local town centres within the borough, as we have seen in Aldershot and Farnborough.

Occupy Firgrove Press Conference

July 15, 2013
Save Firgrove Green Betrayed by Rushmoor

Save Firgrove Green Betrayed by Rushmoor

This Green Space is Being Destroyed for Another Empty Hotel!

This Green Space is Being Destroyed for Another Empty Hotel!

Restrictive Covenant Sold for £1000

Restrictive Covenant Sold for £1000

Stop the Chop at Firgrove

Stop the Chop at Firgrove

On Friday, the local community successfully occupied the green at Firgrove Parade and stopped the trees being cut down. At 10 am this morning they held a press conference with Amy Hopkins of the Farnborough News.

Amy spent about two hours talking to everyone, but then asked could everyone please stay as a press photographer was turning up at 12-30.

Lunchtime, many office workers came by, they were all interested in what was happening. They were unanimous in their support, this is the only green space we have, they were also critical of the paving in Queensmead which they saw as a waste of money, and saw Farnborough as a dump.

During the afternoon a councillor came by and gave his support. He said he was none too happy with what was going on, the loss of green space, loss of trees, and that other councilors were not happy either. He was able to see the trees were healthy and that planning officials had lied.

But if councillors are not happy, then the onus is on them to instruct officers to serve Tree Preservation Orders and they should clean up their planning department. And if they want to have a chat, they know where to find people, on the green, safeguarding the trees.

At the planning meeting where consent was given to Bride Hall to build an unwanted 80-bedroom Premier Inn hotel on this site, councillors questioned why they were being told healthy trees were in a poor state of health, questioned the competence and integrity of their own tree officer, questioned why he was not present to answer their questions. They were not corrected that they were labouring under the false impression that the tree report had been produced by their own officials, a tree report that was not included in the agenda, a tree report that had been produced by the developer Bride Hall.

The tree surgeons tasked to destroy the trees, expressed incredulity that they were being asked to cut down healthy trees.

Concerned local residents who contacted the council tree officer Friday, had still as of Monday evening, not had the courtesy of a reply.

Bride Hall who are trying to destroy this green site, are also trying to demolish The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

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Activists save trees at Firgrove Parade

July 12, 2013
Save Firgrove Green

Save Firgrove Green

public footpath obstructed and taped off

public footpath obstructed and taped off

healthy trees a greedy developer is trying to destroy

healthy trees a greedy developer is trying to destroy

Green Frontage: The town has an abundance of green edges, including in those spaces adjacent to main roads. This characteristic is a positive asset for the town, and enhances environmental quality. — Supplementary Planning Guidance for Farnborough town centre

Shame on you RBC, I had the chance to speak to the poor men who were hired to do this job, they were outraged and said that this wouldn’t happen in their council, they had no idea they were walking into the middle of all of this. I am disgusted RBC. — Clairey Marshall

An alert went out this morning, perfectly healthy trees were being cut down at Firgrove Parade on the edge of the ugly concrete wasteland that is Farnborough town centre.

The trees, and the little green area in which they are growing, is important to the town centre and highly regarded, as although it is small, it is the only green space in the town centre, and helps soften the urban environment.

Members of the local community quickly descended on the green, unfurled their banners, and stopped any further work. Passers by gave their support, as did passing motorists.

The one exception to the support, was a pathetic little troll posting his usual garbage on twitter. He clearly has nothing better to do in his sad, pathetic life.

The guys cutting the trees, were politely informed they were unlawfully obstructing public highway, that is they were blocking public footpaths that cross the green space. When asked to prove they had lawful authority to block the footpaths this they were unable to do. They were then asked to leave.

Sadly a lovely flowering cherry tree has been cut down, another flowering cherry and an apple tree.

And what was the local council doing?

They were notified. The response people got from a planning official was what people have come to expect, a mixture of bloody-minded obstruction and misinformation.

We have been contacted by a number of residents about the tree works currently taking place adjacent to Firgrove Parade.

Your question about the technical procedure for seeking a TPO is something which our Arboricultural Officer would normally advise on and I will ask him to contact you in this regard if you wish.

I am sending you this interim reply, first, because he is currently out on site, and secondly because what you seem to be asking, is whether this procedure can be invoked immediately in order to prevent further felling of trees on the land next to Firgrove Parade. I hope this prompt reply reassures you that your urgent enquiry has not been overlooked. However this is not a circumstance where action of the type you suggest would be appropriate.

In coming to a decision on a recent development proposal for this site, the history, type, condition and amenity value of the trees was assessed and considered. This did not however justify refusal of planning permission nor did it identify trees worthy of TPO designation.

We understand the contractors on site to be working on behalf of the landowners Bride Hall Holdings. As this is privately owned land and the trees are not protected by a Tree Preservation Order, the landowners are within their rights to carry out this work.

He refers people to the tree officer. But does not give a name, does not give an e-mail.

He was asked to provide the procedure for issuing a TPO. He fails to do so.

He repeats the lie Rushmoor produced a report on the trees. The report on the trees was from Bride Hall, the developer that had issued instructions to the tree surgeons to cut down the trees.

He repeats the lie that the trees were in a poor state of health. Not true.

He also lies when he says the trees have no amenity value.

Has he ever seen the trees?

The only truth in his entire e-mail, is that as the trees are on private land, lack TPOs, Bride Hall can cut them down. Only they have local people determined to stop them being cut down.

But what is interesting, he does not say, TPOs cannot be issued.

A few weeks ago, a planning committee gave planning consent to build on this land. But they did so on the basis they were lied to and misled and misdirected by planning officials.

They were told the trees were in poor state of health. A statement that simply was not true, as anyone who has seen the trees can confirm, and has also been confirmed by two independent surveys of the trees. A careful examination of the stumps of the three trees cut down showed no sign of disease.

Even the tree surgeons tasked to cut down the trees were at a loss why they were being asked to cut down healthy trees and were upset at having to do so.

If the council tree officer is unable to differentiate between a healthy and unhealthy tree, then why is he still employed by the council? Surely he should be fired for incompetence? If the council tree officer is clearing the way to facilitate a development, as appears to be the case, should he not be under investigation and charged with Misconduct in Public Office?

The committee were left to labour under the false impression they were dealing with report by their own tree officer. The Agenda before them perversely did not actually contain the report on the trees. They were left to labour under this false impression, it was not corrected by planning officials, not even when councillors questioned the competence of the tree officer (who was not present to be questioned). The tree report was from the developer Bride Hall.

But is gets worse.

The planning application had been predetermined by senior councillors October 2012, when they quashed a restrictive covenant on the grounds that it was onerous for the developer.

But it gets even worse.

A set of e-mails, heavily redacted, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, shows the council was discussing the development over a year before the senior councillors quashed the restrictive covenant, and part of that discussion, was Bride Hall telling the council that the restrictive covenant must be quashed, as otherwise their development could not go ahead.

When senior councillors quashed the restrictive covenant they were not told of these discussions, neither was the planning committee. Indeed, the head of planning who was party to these discussion, blatantly lied to the committee when he said the planning application had not been predetermined.

These back-door behind closed door discussions should have taken place before the committee, but no, a grubby little deal was stitched up long before a planning application was submitted, let alone before the plans went out to consultation or were put before the committee.

This would be like, one side of a case, having back-door secret discussions with a judge to determine the outcome of a case.

Bride Hall thought obtaining planning consent and all was over. If so, they were very much mistaken.

Today it was the local community who won the day. It is now one each, with everything to play for.

Bride Hall are trying to destroy the green space, and four local businesses, to build an ugly 80-bedroom Premier Inn hotel. Are Premier Inn happy with the bad publicity Bride Hall are generating for them?

Bride Hall are also wanting to demolish The Tumbledown Dick and redevelop the site as a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

The developers may have the local council in their pocket, but as we saw today, they do not have the local community in their pocket.

At a time of austerity when everyone is having to cut back, tighten their belts, the local council is wasting £1 million of local taxpayers money in the town centre to lay new paving slabs, plant a few trees and install a few benches. On the other hand for £1000 they quash a restrictive covenant to protect open green space because it is onerous for a developer.

In bed with developers, the council has allowed the town centre to be trashed. Do they really think cosmetic changes, tarting up the town centre, is really going to bring the punters in?

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