Posts Tagged ‘Occupy Firgrove’

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.’

A society grows great …

July 23, 2013
when old men plant trees

when old men plant trees

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

Thanks to Pandora.

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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