Posts Tagged ‘planning’

Designing cities for people not developers

April 10, 2019

What I have seen and spent what seems to be a lifetime fighting, is corrupt town halls pandering to greedy developers, fast bucks, palms greased, with result every town looks the same, the same corporate chains dominate the town centre, the same corporate chains find in every ghastly shopping centre.

This neither brings in visitors nor is popular with locals who see familiar landmarks destroyed, lose their sense of place, money is drained out of the local economy, then large chains close, go bust, expanded on debt, leaving behind desolation, as we have seen with BHS, House of Fraser, Debenhams and many other zombie companies kept afloat by their banks.

Corrupt town planners who have not a clue what constitutes good town centre planning or how local economies function love big development. Big development lots of money sloshing around, some of which finds its way into the wrong pockets.

A few examples illustrates failure of good town centre design and planning.

Sincil Street runs parallel to the High Street in Lincoln. A street of Victorian buildings, local indie businesses, or was. Up until a few years ago, Sincil Street between the hours of ten in the morning and four in the afternoon was busier than the High Street, the High Street the same corporate chains find anywhere and everywhere. Now Sincil Street is being destroyed, the local council acting in cahoots with the local coop, local businesses driven out, chains brought in, Victorian building destroyed.

Enter the picture Lincoln BIG and Visit Lincoln. Both are hyping the chains, it gets worse Visit Lincoln being paid to do so.

Many towns now have businesses development groups, accountable to no one, act for and controlled by big businesses, not one vote per business, based upon the size of local business tax.

Experience Guildford employs Town Rangers, no one knows what purpose they serve other than to deliver a glossy A4 newssheet to local businesses which goes straight in the bin. They also subsidise the town centre car parks at Christmas, the one time of the year when the car parks are full to overflowing.

Latest examples of Lincoln BIG, take selfies and post on instagram, install an app that has access to data on phone and if use default facebook log in access to facebook data and that of friends

Ask any local businesses what is killing them. High rents, high local business taxes. The local coop owns the properties hikes the rents, Lincoln BIG exacts a levy on top of the local business taxes. Local businesses see no benefits.

Visit Lincoln masquerades as a tourism body, acts as a quasi-PR agency, is paid to hype the corporate chains moving into and destroying the character of Sincil Street.

Fake-Left Guardian had an article describing the dire state of Sheffield. The local council responded with eight tweets, big development taking place, corporate chains listed, same chains find anywhere. The same Sheffield City Council that destroyed thousands if not tens of thousands of street trees, harassed and criminalised protesters.

Empty two-coach Northern Fail train Lincoln to Sheffield, hour and twenty minutes only starts to fill as nears Sheffield passing through small towns like Worksop, making the point, not worth visiting for corporate chains find anywhere.

One of the chains mentioned, 200 Degrees, a small coffee chain serving mediocre coffee, the same chain hyped by Visit Lincoln and Lincoln BIG.

Oh the irony, when Sheffield has a thriving coffee scene and 200 Degrees empty.

In Sheffield Union St, coffee shop, co-working space, pop up kitchen, community hub located in an occupied building, Now Then, an interesting magazine, supported by local community and local businesses, published by a not-for-profit.

Farnborough destroyed half its town centre for a superstore, an estate of social houses surrounded a grassy green destroyed for the car park. A 17th century inn destroyed for a drive-thru McDonald’s.

Wastegate, chain eateries and a superstore on the edge of Aldershot town centre, destroyed the town centre now boarded-up retail units and the chain eateries pulling out from Wastegate.

In the centre of Guildford Tunsgate Quarter, a sterile shopping centre, boarded-up units, same crap cooperate chains find in every ghastly shopping centre across the country, devoid of people. The only use, provides a handy short cut. One of the crap corporate chains Cosy Club, a fake 1930s bar, so fake a Monty Python parody of fake, Visit Guildford promoted on twitter over a dozen times.

Contrast with North Laine in Brighton, three long streets, similar Victorian street scene as Sincil Street in Lincoln, local indie businesses, butcher, baker cheesemonger, bookshops, music shops, coffee shops, restaurants, worker coops, not a chain in sight, always busy.

When all places look the same they become soul destroying, we lose our sense of place, alienation sets in.

We need to green our cities, protect our existing green spaces.

In Farnborough they are destroying the remaining green space for development, in Sheffield tens of thousands of street trees have been cut down.

City centres should be pedestrianised, delivery vehicles park on the periphery, deliver by hand cart and trolley.

Cities generate data, the data should be used as a common good. Citizens may consent to access to their data receiving benefits in return, the data randomised and made available to local businesses.

The city should support and encourage local businesses and local coops, encourage to network with each other

Citizens need to seize control of their local Town Halls, open to public participation, network with other citizen-controlled Town Halls. No more one party states.

There is not a conflict with locals and tourists. There is only conflict when lose businesses serving locals and replace with businesses selling overpriced tourist tat, when AirBnB moves in, rents are hiked, but that is a problem of over-tourism lack of regulation, rather than tourism per se.

At the time of the English Civil War, the Diggers asked the question: who owns the space? The space they were asking of was land, who owns the land?

They saw God created Man and Woman as equal, the land was owned by everyone and no one, it was a common wealth. 

The question is as pertinent today. Who owns the space, who owns the public parks, public space, the empty buildings, the data we generate?

Space is not static, something to be owned. It is dynamic, only has meaning if used, lived on, shared, enjoyed. Derelict buildings we must occupy, put to use on behalf of the community, fight the loss of community space.

Tragedy for The Tumbledown Dick

October 9, 2013
planning meeting

planning meeting

Rushmoor this evening lived up to its name as the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor when the dysfunctional planning committee voted 7 to 3 to demolish the c 1720s Tumbledown Dick, a popular live music venue, for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

Before the meeting, the head of planning had demonstrated his arrogant contempt for the local community by refusing to live stream the meeting over the net, make adequate arrangements for the numbers wishing to attend. The planning agenda read like PR propaganda for McDonald’s.

The meeting was packed, the venue not adequate for the numbers who attended. The screens were not visible to everyone. The Farnborough News was filming. Hopefully they will upload all their footage to the net to enable everyone to see the disgraceful behaviour of the committee members, bar two.

Excellent presentation by Fran Beauchamp to REJECT the application from McDonald’s to destroy The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

McDonald’s sent a senior executive to address the meeting. He claimed McDonald’s provided good training, excellent job prospects, would create 65 jobs maybe 100 jobs and that McDonald’s was good for Farnborough. He claimed McDonald’s was good for local communities. He claimed McDonald’s cleared litter from the local vicinity. He failed to mention the 65 jobs were part-time, minimum wage, zero hours contacts. He failed to mention the externalisation of health costs, the cost to society of dealing with obesity, type 2 diabetes. His litter patrols would appear to miss a lot of litter.

The committee was told legal advice had been obtained, to ignore planning policy. No one questioned why such perverse action, waste of public money. No one asked to see the legal advice, to ask that it be put in the pubic domain.

The committee has to act on the evidence put before the committee. They were asked to act on legal advice they had never seen, did not know where it had come from, or who had given it. No one asked that the legal advice be put into the public domain.

The legal advice sought was to ignore that health is a material planning consideration and to ignore that The Tumbledown Dick is an Asset of Community Value.

The councillors who spoke, with the exception of the two who spoke against the application, did not have a clue what they were talking about, and often rambled about stuff that was of no relevance.

The councillors who spoke in favour of McDonald’s, clearly did not know what they were talking about (and often blatantly lied), had not bothered to read submissions from the public.

It was claimed a police van was often parked outside The Tumbledown Dick, that it was not viable and was not very busy or popular, that there was a problem with noise and antisocial behaviour.

John Marsh was as always a disgrace. He showed arrogant contempt for the local community. He claimed health and obesity were not a planning issue.

It was referred to that The Tumbledown Dick was sitting derelict. This is not only the fault of Bride hall, is also the fault of the Council for refusing to serve enforcement notice.

Councillor Alan Chainey spoke about the traffic and on several other issues. Councillor Frank Rust spoke on health. These were the only two councillors who knew what they were talking about and said they would vote against. These were the only two who seemed to know what they were talking about.

When Alan Chainey and Frank Rust spoke, eloquently and well informed, their comments were referred by the chairman to planning officials to comment on. This was not done for councillors who spoke in favour of McDonald’s, no matter how ill-informed or inaccurate their comments, no attempt was made to correct, the only correction came from shouts from the public, who were immediately told to keep quiet.

Milestone Surgery across the road from the site had an application to expand rejected on the grounds of traffic. The committee was told by officials traffic from the Drive-Thru would have no impact, it was even claimed it would not generate traffic, it would be cars passing by which would drive in.

a Drive-Thru McDonald's will feed into this

a Drive-Thru McDonald’s will feed into this

a Drive-Thru McDonald's will feed into this

a Drive-Thru McDonald’s will feed into this

Fact: The traffic on this stretch of the A325, a major arterial highway at peak times is stationary or walking pace, it backs up from the roundabout to the next roundabout.

It was claimed there was no traffic problems at Farnborough Gate, the location of a Drive-Thru McDonald’s a mile up the road.

Fact: Traffic backs up from Farnborough Gate onto the A325, this in turn backs up down the slip road leading off the Blackwater Valley Road.

The committee were told to ignore health issues, because legal advice had been obtained. Legal advice no one has seen, has not been placed in the public domain. Were told to ignore that Islington has health as a planning consideration when determining the location of of fast food outlets. The committee was told to ignore the health issue of fast foods, as people could exercise.

The committee was not told that local doctors, a retired naval surgeon, two local head teachers had raised concerns on health grounds.

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 was mention made 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

Health is a material planning consideration. At least one school is within the zone which national planning policy does not permit fast food outlets.

Councillor Frank Rust spoke eloquently on health, he referred to lots of policies and statistics, the obesity epidemic at a local school, the rise in Type 2 diabetes. Obesity was not only a weight problem, it led to low self-esteem, poor performance at school, low job prospects, mental health problems.

His comments were dismissed out of hand by official as not relevant, as little weight should be placed on health.

Councillor John Marsh demonstrated his level of ignorance, by stating health was not a planning issues, referred to a Nanny State, and it was the responsibility of parents if kids were fat.

Roland Dibbs came out with the perverse comment, that he could not see a need for a live music venue in Farnborough, when there was the West End Centre in Aldershot. And for good measure he objected to the West End Centre receiving public subsidy.

Fact: Aldershot is not Farnborough. The Tumbledown Dick never received public subsidy when it ran as a popular live music venue. The local community are not seeking public subsidy to run The Tumbledown Dick as a live music venue.

Fact: The Barn in Farnham, West End Centre in Aldershot, The Tumbledown Dick in Farnborough, would establish a network of live music venues, cultural art centres, running through the Blackwater Valley. Musicians need venues to play, artists need exhibition space.

If Dibbs cannot see a need for a live music venue in Farnborough, when there is one in Aldershot, then why is there a need for a multiplex cinema in Farnborough when there is one in Aldershot, and why is public money being used to subsidise a commercial cinema in Farnborough?

Note: Originally reported that Marsh made the comments on West End Centre and no need for a live music venue in Farnborough. It was Dibbs, and this has now been corrected.

And to reinforce that he is a blathering imbecile, Marsh claimed Farnborough Abbey, Fast Museum and the Airship Hanger were older than The Tumbledown Dick. And if the public had not yet got the message Marsh was a complete moron, he claimed there was no evidence for the age of The Tumbledown Dick.

No attempt was made to correct what Marsh or Dibbs had said, the chairman did not ask the officials to comment. The only time the chairman asked the officials to comment, was when a councillor spoke in favour of The Tumbledown Dick.

Most of the time, those who spoke in favour of McDonald’s rambled on matters of no relevance. One fool, wanted to know what age were the people in the public gallery when they visited The Tumbledown Dick! When councillors rambled off topic, no attempt was made by the chairman to bring them to order.

Tumbledown Dick demo 2008

Tumbledown Dick demo 2008

One of the dumb questions of absolutely no relevance to the planning application was where were the objectors in 2008 when The Tumbledown Dick closed? Could it be outside The Tumbledown Dick at a demo at its closure? Not that we would expect councillors to know this as they seem to be pretty clueless as to what actually goes on in Farnborough, let alone what people want. Though they seem to know what developers want (and be happy to give it to them).

The chairing of the meeting was appalling. The chairman was nothing but a puppet, with head of planning Keith Holland (an official) pulling his strings and all the time whispering in his ear, telling him what to say, how to think.

The committee was repeatedly told, a Drive-Thru McDonald’s was what Farnborough wanted.

Fact: 590 people sent in written objections, several thousand signed two petitions to object.

In what was a classic example of newspeak (George Orwell would have been proud), the committee was repeatedly told by head of planning Keith Holland demolishing The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s would save the building, help retain local heritage, that it was bringing the building back into use.

Whilst it is true, bringing a heritage building back into use, is the best way to safeguard a building, its demolition is not.

The best way to safeguard The Tumbledown Dick is to bring it back into use as a pub, live music venue, local community arts and cultural centre, which is what the local community wishes to do, but they are being denied the opportunity.

The Tumbledown Dick is listed as a building of local historical importance. It is contrary to that policy to demolish a locally listed building. No reference was made to the policy.

The committee were instructed by Keith Holland to ignore that The Tumbledown Dick was listed as an Asset of Community Value. Legal advice had been sought because the Localism Act was new legislation. No one has seen the legal advice. It has not been tested in Court. Thus worthless.

John Marsh praised local ward councillors and local Member of Parliament Gerald Howarth for the hard work they had done to save The Tumbledown Dick. Gerald Howarth posted similar bollocks on his website the day before.

Fact: Gerald Howarth and the ward councillors went behind the backs of the local community and stitched up a behind closed doors dirty little deal with McDonald’s. It was that dirty deal that Marsh and other low life scum councillors were determined to rubber-stamp.

When the local community tried to have a meeting with local councillors to discuss the future of The Tumbledown Dick, that meeting was vetoed by an official with the Orwellian title of Head of Democratic Services. You could not make it up if you tried. It also exposed the lie from Marsh and his cronies, that the local community had not done anything.

Why has the local community not done anything, was repeated by several of the councillors batting for McDonald’s.

Attempts to talk to developer Bride Hall, to discuss or negotiate the sale of The Tumbledown Dick have also been refused.

It is known, someone within the Council is claiming a fee of £20,000 from McDonald’s for this scheme. Who, we do not know as McDonald’s will not say. Someone within the Council had a vested interest in seeing these plans approved.

A year ago, in an exchange of e-mails (dated 27 April 2012), Rotten Borough of Rushmoor chief executive Andrew Lloyd, then borough solicitor Karen Limmer and someone only identified as Richard, could not contain their glee at the news that McDonald’s were to acquire the site, subject to Rushmoor granting planning consent.

Richard: This may be just what is needed … all in a gift wrapped un-solicited package … The sun is shining at last … Lots of potential for a great weekend with this package.

Andrew Lloyd: Well said!

WTF!

Six months later, Andrew Lloyd, in an e-mail to councillors (dated 29 October 2012), denied all knowledge of the sale to McDonald’s!

Rushmoor are denying all Freedom of Information requests on their dealings with Bride Hall and McDonald’s. A matter the Information Commissioner must investigate and if necessary, bring a criminal prosecution.

Following the planning meeting, a couple of the councillors had the nerve to walk into the Tilly Shilling. They took exception to being referred to as scum, though it was pointed out to them, that was how they had referred to the clientele of The Tumbledown Dick.

There was an attempt to have a reasonable conversation with them, to try and understand why they had behaved the way they had, after all they are our elected representatives. They did not though stay to talk as they clearly felt intimidated, though it should be emphasized, no attempt was made to intimidate. All what was learnt, was that they were lay people, did not understand what was going on, and felt they had to vote how they were told by officials.

If they are not up to the job then they should not be on the committee.

In Guildford, councillors on the planning committee, know their way around the planning system, know planning policies, and do not have officials telling them how to vote.

In Waverley the planning officials say they do not tell councillors how to vote.

There should be an impartial presentation of facts. This is not happening in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor.

Where now?

There is probably grounds for a Judicial Review, the Secretary of State has been asked to look into what happened, how the meeting was conducted.

It is easy to see why it was not wished for the meeting to be live streamed over the net. Too many people to bear witness to the travesty that took place Wednesday night.

There should be an independent investigation into the dysfunctional planning department.

Head of planning Keith Holland should resign.

A boycott of McDonald’s?

John Marsh, Roland Dibbs, Diane Bedford, Rod Cooper, Brian Parker spoke against The Tumbledown Dick.

Alan Chainey, Frank Rust spoke very eloquently and were the only ones who knew what they were talking about, were in support of The Tumbledown Dick.

Top Story in The Digital Mission Daily (10 October 2013).

OBJECT: Demolition of The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s

September 5, 2013
The Tumbledown Dick

The Tumbledown Dick

The Tumbledown Dick

The Tumbledown Dick

a Drive-Thru McDonald's will feed into this

a Drive-Thru McDonald’s will feed into this

a Drive-Thru McDonald's will feed into this

a Drive-Thru McDonald’s will feed into this

trash McDonald's

trash McDonald’s

Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of or damage to a heritage asset the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any [planning] decision. — National Planning Policy Framework

planning ref: 13/00512/FULPP

Deadline for objections: Friday 6 September 2013

Note: late objections will be considered, but please get in as soon as possible.

Objection to:

plan@rushmoor.gov.uk keith.holland@rushmoor.gov.uk

Note: You may also wish to copy your objection to members of the planning committee, other councillors, Gerald Howarth MP and the media.

Note: Please encourage your friends to object. Please spread the word.

Introduction

Dating from the 1720s, The Tumbledown Dick is one of the oldest buildings in Farnborough. A once popular live music venue, it is is now sitting derelict, with holes in the roof.

McDonald’s have submitted a planning application to demolish The Tumbledown Dick and erect a Drive-Thru McDonald’s. They will retain the front façade of the building.

Heritage

The Tumbledown Dick is a locally listed building and an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and is therefore a ‘Heritage Asset’ which means the planning committee cannot permit development which would result in destruction of the building. McDonald’s proposal to keep only the façade but demolish the rest of the building, is thus unacceptable and must be REJECTED.

As a local listed building, it is contrary to that policy to demolish. The only exception is if to be replaced by a building of outstanding character. A Drive-Thru McDonald’s does not meet the exception.

Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect by the owners (it has been wilfully neglected) the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any planning decision, ie it cannot be decided it is ok to demolish due to deliberate neglect by the developer.

There are holes in the roof, water is pouring through these holes. The situation will rapidly deteriorate with winter storms.

As a matter of urgency enforcement action must be taken to install a new roof, put good all the internal damage. If the owners refuse, the Council should undertake repairs and bill the owner. In the meantime, scaffolding must be erected and the building enclosed within a waterproof membrane.

Why is the Council refusing to take enforcement action?

Heritage gives a sense of place, of well being.

The best way to protect heritage is to put it to some use. Proposals have been put forward to bring the building back into use as a community owned cultural centre.

Asset of Community Value

The Council recognises the importance of the building by registering it as an Asset of Community Value. Were it to come up for sale, the local community has the opportunity to purchase the building and run it as a local cultural centre. Friends of the Tumbledown Dick have in place such plans, but they will only be granted that opportunity if the plans to demolish the building and turn it into a Drive-Thru McDonald’s are rejected.

The building is also locally listed as a building of local importance.

Culture

Farnborough is a cultural desert.

Proposals have been put forward to bring the building back into use as a community owned cultural centre cf the West End Centre in Aldershot.

A refurbished Tumbledown Dick would feature live music, art exhibitions, serve good food and coffee, source wherever possible locally, provide meeting space, possibly a recording studio, employ local people on a living wage, recycle money within the local economy.

Traffic and pollution

By its very nature, a Drive-Thru is a traffic generator.

The Farnborough Road, A325, is a main arterial route, at peak times approaching gridlock, the traffic between the two roundabouts either very slow moving or not moving.

The Drive-Thru would feed directly onto this main road, very close to a major junction.

How many cars queuing before there is a tailback onto the main road? This already occurs at the Drive-Thru at Farnborough Gate. A tailback onto the main road, close to a very busy junction, this then feeds back down the slip road to the Blackwater Valley Road.

Queuing traffic causing potential tailbacks onto a main arterial route between two of the busiest roundabouts in Farnborough could be dangerous, as drivers exiting the Pinehurst Roundabout may have to slow down or quickly change lanes to avoid the queuing traffic for the Drive-Thru. This could be dangerous and may lead to accidents.

Deliveries to service the site will be carried out by large articulated lorries, due to the limited space on the site, the tracking shown in the plans means the lorry will have to block 7 parking spaces plus 1 disabled space during their deliveries (potentially blocking parked vehicles for up to an hour).

To exit the site, the articulated lorry would have to carry out a very difficult manoeuvre and go over both lanes of the A325 dual carriageway. This could lead to accidents or traffic delays.

Parking – there are insufficient parking spaces for the site and size of the 2 storey restaurant proposed. This will lead to further traffic queues and is not in keeping with local planning requirements for 63 spaces minimum as only 30 spaces are proposed.

The prevailing wind is from the west. The unpleasant stench of cooking oil will drift across residential areas 18 hours a day.

Health

Nationally we have an obesity epidemic and associated health problems such as type 2 diabetes. Health care costs are spiralling out of control.

Type 2 diabetes used to be known as late middle age onset diabetes. It is now effecting young people in their mid-twenties.

Two-thirds of British adults are overweight and one in four is classified as obese.

Contrary to myth, children do not exercise less. They are not getting fat because they exercise less, they exercise less because they are getting fat. They are getting fat because of what they eat.

By 2001, obesity in the UK had doubled in men and trebled in women. And it was rising. Two years later WHO published a ground-breaking report that said the food industry marketing to children high calorie foods and the increased consumption of sugary drinks was having a major impact on obesity.

Bad as health statistics are nationally, these are even worse in Aldershot and Farnborough, due to lack of education on healthy diet, lack of exercise, poor diet and too many fast food outlets serving high fat, high sugar, high salt, energy dense, junk food.

Rushmoor has a rising obesity problem (it is above the national average in children of Reception Age and Adults), should the council approve yet a further fast food outlet, especially one aimed at families due to the soft play centre?

You only have to walk through the town centres of Farnborough and Aldershot and notice the number of fat, overweight and clinically obese people, often with some disgusting fast food in their hands, eating on the hoof. Then look around and observe the number of tacky fast food outlets. Try counting the number in Aldershot town centre, one soon runs out of fingers and thumbs on both hands.

Even more noticeable the dire situation locally, if you then take the same walk in Alton, Farnham, Godalming and Guildford and do a comparison.

At the McLibel Trial, McDonald’s admitted they serve junk food.

The plans for the Drive-Thru will have a soft play area. This is to entice children into a lifetime of bad food, poor health and an early death. Do our children not deserve better?

Health is a national and local material planning consideration.

Islington has health and control of the number of fast food outlets and their location built into its local planning policies. Why does not Rushmoor?

Islington has an excellent pub protection policy, as does Cambridge. Were a pub protection policy in place locally, as required by national planning policy, there would be no planning application from McDonald’s, as The Tumbledown Dick would have had to be put on the market as a pub, free of pubco ties.

Noise and Pollution

The constant hum of traffic passing through the Drive-Thru lanes, 6am to midnight, 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, is going to cause more traffic noise and pollution in a zone already at the high-end range of pollution. It will lead to an increase in litter around the area and the Empress ward, plus an increase in anti-social behaviour in light of what already occurs at Farnborough Gate.

The Rushmore core strategy and the SPD (Supplementary Planning Document) where Rushmoor states they want to provide a “clean and healthy place to live.” There are also planning regulations in the National Planning Policy Framework about Noise and Pollution.

Stationary or slow moving traffic generates far more pollution than free-flowing traffic. This will become a pollution hot spot.

By its vary nature, a Drive-Thru generates car journeys, this leads to increased pollution, increased CO2 generation.

How is the increase in CO2 compatible with the statutory obligations of the Climate Change Act (2008)?

Climate Change Act (2008) sets a legally-binding target for the UK to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

At a recent talk entitled Focus on Farnborough (Wednesday 28 August 2013), looking at the past, present and future of Farnborough, Andrew Lloyd Rushmoor chief executive agreed there was congestion on this stretch of road and action was required. Mitigation is not pouring many more cars and lorries onto this congested stretch of highway. If action is required to reduce the traffic, then it is not possible to approve an application that by its very nature is a traffic generator and would pour many more cars onto this congested arterial highway.

A precedent has been set. Opposite, on the other side of the road, plans to expand a doctors surgery were rejected on the grounds that it would pour additional traffic onto this stretch of highway. The number of extra cars would have been insignificant compared with that generated by a Drive-Thru whose very businesses model is based on traffic generation. If the doctors surgery was rejected on the basis of extra traffic onto the same busy road, then the Drive-Thru must be REJECTED.

Litter and antisocial behaviour

Polystyrene burger boxes cannot be recycled. These will be destined for landfill or incineration, assuming of course not thrown in the street.

Walk past any Drive-Thru McDonald’s and note the amount of litter not only in the vicinity but also scattered down the road. McDonald’s claim to employ litter patrols. The very act of employing litter patrols, is an admission of causing a litter problem, and clearly these litter patrols are not effective, else we would not see the litter. Has anyone ever seen a litter patrol?

McLitter finds its way as far away as the top end of George V Playing Fields.

At Farnborough Gate, staff were dumping the rubbish in the bushes.

At the McLibel Trial, evidence was submitted that showed the litter problem caused by McDonald’s.

For whatever reason, Drive-Thru McDonald’s attract anti-social behaviour. A place for the low-life to congregate.

The Metropolitan Police have OBJECTED to a two-story Drive-Thru McDonald’s at Wallington near Croydon on the grounds that it would lead to an increase in antisocial behaviour. Local residents have handed in a petition with 1,200 names objecting.

There is an easy way to stop the litter and anti-social behaviour, REJECT the planning application.

Employment

McDonald’s, as with Sports Direct and Vue Cinema, is a bad employer, low pay, temporary part-time jobs, zero-hour contracts, low skill, high employee turnover, a revolving door with the Job Centre down the road.

Low-skill jobs, otherwise known as McJobs. The businesses model of Ray Kroc, was based on job de-skilling.

A good restaurant, employs skilled chefs, newcomers learn new skills, important life skills, how to prepare and cook meals.

The number of jobs McDonald’s claim they will create should be seen as a gross exaggeration and taken with pinch of salt. Unlike their junk food which has more than a pinch of salt. 65 jobs, which is an estimate at the high end, is not 65 full-time jobs. These are part-time, temporary, zero-hours contracts McJobs, which equate to a handful of real jobs.

McDonald’s state this site will create 65 full-time but mostly part-time jobs, but any jobs lost in the family-run takeaways opposite due to competition in the immediate vicinity should be mitigated against this. In addition, McDonald’s operate their employment contracts for 95% of their ‘crew’ on zero-hour contracts, which means they do not have to guarantee any set hours of employment and staff will only be paid for hours worked. Crew staff are paid minimum wage, which can lead to continued reliance on additional employment or the benefits system.

No one can survive on zero-hour contracts, not knowing how many hours worked, how much money will come in on any week. Bills land on the doormat with monotonous regularity.

We should be looking to good employers, who at the very least pay a living wage, who give guarantees on working hours, who are wishing to employ skilled people, and when a person leaves, they do so with enhanced skills, improving their prospects in the job market

Local economy

McDonald’s is an international chain. It will drain money out of the local economy, not recycle money within the local economy.

We then have the externalised costs of dealing with the health costs, the stress of living on low wage and uncertain hours, the cost of subsiding the low wages through the benefit system.

Rushmoor is (allegedly), committed to tackling local pockets of deprivation, much emphasis was put on this by Andrew Lloyd at his recent talk.

You do not tackle deprivation by draining money out of the local economy. You do not tackle deprivation by opening yet more fast food outlets. You do not tackle deprivation with McJobs.

You tackle deprivation by paying living wages, improving skills, improving diet and health, plugging the leaks and recycling money in the local economy.

Rushmoor is (allegedly), committed to tackling local pockets of deprivation, much emphasis was put on this by Andrew Lloyd at his recent talk. You do not tackle deprivation by draining money out of the local economy. You do not tackle deprivation by opening yet more fast food outlets. You do not tackle deprivation with McJobs. You tackle deprivation by paying living wages, improving skills, improving diet and health, plugging the leaks and recycling money in the local economy.

There is a strong argument to be made for the social and economic value of a community pub. IPPR’s recent report Pubs and Places: the social value of community pubs, placed the wider social value of a sample of community pubs at between £20,000 and £120,000 per pub. It noted that pubs inject an average of £80,000 into their local economy each year, besides their cultural and practical community value.

Need for not demonstrated

The need for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s has not been demonstrated.

There is a Drive-Thru McDonald’s a mile up the road, there are takeaways opposite, behind as part of the cinema complex, two restaurants, with the possibility of more to come.

On the other hand, we know the abysmal health statistics due to the locality saturated with too many fast food outlets.

Lack of vision

Farnborough and Aldershot town centres have been destroyed by lack of vision and decades of bad planning decisions. Boarded-up shops, tacky chains, charity shops, fast food outlets, gambling joints. All the signs of failing town centres. The places to avoid, and those who have the means go elsewhere.

A few new paving slabs in Queensmead is not going to bring the punters in. Even less a festival to celebrate an appalling waste of public money.

A Drive-Thru McDonald’s is simply going to reinforce the bad image of Farnborough.

Towns need heritage, a sense of place, diversity.

In Paris, we still see street markets. In Alton, Farnham, Godalming, the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer.

With fresh, cheap, easily available food, people cook. They lead healthier lives.

Heritage, good food, diversity, a sense of place, leads to well being.

Farnborough is a cultural desert.

The Tumbledown Dick as a community owned cultural centre, would safeguard heritage, it would provide music, art, good food, support local businesses, it would link in with The Barn in Farnham, West End Centre in Aldershot, Electric Theatre in Guildford, it would enhance diversity, not reduce.

A Drive-Thru would simply reinforce all that is bad about Farnborough.

Conclusion

Bad on several grounds: noise, litter, traffic congestion, pollution, health, destruction of local heritage.

The planning application to demolish The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s must be REJECTED.

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.

Westgate

October 30, 2012
Westgate ugly eyesore on edge of Victorian town centre

Westgate ugly eyesore on edge of Victorian town centre

Westgate is indeed a comprehensive scheme that will be a fantastic asset for Aldershot and its residents. … all round it is great news and I’m delighted to see it opening. — Peter Moyle, council leader Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

It’s just a fantastic addition to the town and will be a huge boost to residents. … Westgate will serve as an excellent conduit to the town centre itself. — Andrew Lloyd, chief executive Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

Westgate is an appalling eyesore of a development literally on the edge of Aldershot town centre, totally out of character with a Victorian town.

At least that is how it looks from the outside, looking from the town centre. Within not a lot better.

Outside two blocks of stone causing an obstruction. Edge on, barely visibly, the stone similar colour and blending in with the paving stones. A hazard for anyone with poor eyesight.

Entry to Westgate is up a flight of steps (there is also a slope for wheelchairs and cyclists). This leads into a stark, windswept plaza. Freezing cold in the winter, very hot in the summer. The design is very reminiscent of old Soviet Bloc architecture.

Lampposts have at their base a raised block about a brick in height. An ideal trip hazard for anyone not looking where they are going or of poor eyesight.

None are yet open, when complete, the plaza will be lined either side with tacky fast food chain restaurants.

Through the plaza, to the left a broad flight of steps leading down into the plaza and a travelator that leads down to an underground car park.

The car park is free, time limited to three hours. If only three hours in Aldershot, then the place to park to avoid expensive car parks.

Wandering around the plaza, more people than would see in the centre of Aldershot.

Then Morrisons.

I am no great fan of Morrisons, I would usually place near the bottom with Asda and Tesco.

Walking in, I was struck by the size, the sheer number of people, and that it was open and airy.

There was more people in Morrisons than you would see in Aldershot town centre in a month, maybe in a year.

Wandering around I was struck that this was not a typical Morrisons. It seemed to be aimed to compete with Waitrose, but with Tesco or Asda prices. Lots of fresh produce, fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, raw meat, cooked meat, a bakery. The meat section was making sausages on the premises, the bakery preparing tarts using fresh fruits. Though on closer inspection the cheeses were not of the quality of Waitrose and you do not slice cooked meats then leave to dry out.

Morrisons has its only little café. A dumb system, queue at one till to order, then queue at another till to pay. This is the norm for Morrisons. Cakes are on open display for everyone to cough and sneeze over. Scampi, peas and chips, not very good, but then on the other hand par for the course for Aldershot where nowhere decent to eat.

I had a chat with a lady who was there as an advisor to Morrisons. She said, yes, this was a different Morrisons, they had opened a couple like it in Scotland. She called it a Store of the Future.

Leaving Morrisons, I wandered into the town. No signposts pointing into the town centre, only a few pendants flapping in the wind on lampposts.

Upper Union Street leads into Union Street. The pavement flows across the road. I realised I was walking into the road. Very dangerous.

The Morrisons is going to kill the centre of Aldershot dead. It is probably going to have a big impact on local supermarkets too, as far better. It will also impact on the fruit and vegetable stalls on the Thursday market, one of the few reasons to visit Aldershot. The fishmonger on the market is unlikely to survive.

Maybe there will be some trickle down into the town, though I saw no evidence of this. What was the centre of town now becomes the bottom end of town. Maybe the top end of Union Street, which is usually dead, will see a few more people.

I passed a Nepalese café with a girl outside handing out leaflets. I cannot see anyone going in it. It looked dirty, the door was wide open, meaning it would have been freezing cold inside.

For anyone coming in on the No 1 bus from Camberley, Frimley or Farnborough, access is easy. Get off at Princess Hall and walk up the steps. It needs a bus stop outside Princess Hall for the return journey.

A couple alighted off the bus with me, and asked where to go. I showed them. They also asked where was the town centre.

From Westgate it is not obvious where the town centre is.

It is unbelievable the local council has not erected signposts directing people from Westgate into the town centre. How many months have they had?

From Upper Union Street crossing the road into Union Street, there needs to be a pedestrian crossing, a zebra crossing, not so much to help people across the road (though that is always useful), but to actually alert people that they are crossing the road.

The fast food chains when they open will drain money out of the local economy. Morrisons may bring people in from further afield. There may be some trickle down of people from the development into the town centre but so far the local council has done nothing to encourage this. The only money flowing into the local economy will be from the minimum wage staff, and unless they were previously unemployed, will only have relocated from other jobs. A supermarket of this size destroys a thousand jobs in the local economy.

Aldershot is a deprived area, the town centre a slum of fast food restaurants, gambling joints, charity shops and large bars. A place most people avoid. The last thing it needs is yet more money drained out of the local economy.

The impression given is that the local council, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor as it is known locally, is deliberately trying to destroy Aldershot. Somewhat perversely they are promoting this developmental on the front page of their website. Even more perverse that they were co-promoters of the development.

What local council wishes to destroy its own town centre?

Other actions indicate a desire to destroy Aldershot

The Arcade, what was the centre, but must now be seen as the bottom end of the town centre, is a plastic replica of a Victorian arcade that once stood on the same site. All the small retailers kicked out to make way for a large bar (Wetherspoon) and a large retail store (Poundland). An unwanted redevelopment that was not good for the town, and yet the planners fell over backwards to push it through on behalf of the developers. For once the councillors on the planning committee showed a bit of backbone and threw the application out.

If the tacky fast food chains kill off KFC and McDonald’s, then some good has come of Westgate.

What though of Aldershot?

The only way the town centre will survive is with specialist shops, something to bring people into the town, and yet these are the very businesses the local council has for years been doing its best to kill off.

The couple I walked though the plaza with, I asked them would they come from Camberley to any of the fast food chains. They said no, why would they come from Camberley for something that was in Camberley. They added all towns looked the same, with the same shops.

Aldershot has a town centre manager. But that is a non-job.

A town survives because of its hard working small retailers.

Aldershot needs a Master Plan, people with vision to draw it up, but that will not come from the council as they are without vision.

Aldershot bid for Mary Portas cash. They failed. But it would only have been frittered away. And the money available was less than a major retail chain would spend on a store refit.

Westgate also has a Travelodge and a Cinema. Begs the question why would anyone wish to stay in Aldershot. The cinema opened last week, just in time for the release of the new James Bond film Skyfall.

All Westgate does is relocate the centre of retail gravity away from the town centre and towards Westgate, whilst at the same time draining money out of the local economy.

Westgate is the local council delivering the final death blow to Aldershot as a viable town centre.

Costa Franchisee of the Year Award beggars belief

October 18, 2012
Costa obstructing the highway in Guildford

Costa obstructing the highway in Guildford

Bruno Costa regrets selling the company he founded and which bears his family name.

It is easy to see why. Costa has squired a well deserved reputation as a rogue corporation: muscling into towns unwanted, serving lousy coffee, poor working conditions, and less we forget, opening stores without planning consent.

What were Stuart and Lynn Montgomery named UK Franchisees of the Year for, opening two stores in Bristol, Whiteladies and Gloucester Road, without planning consent?

A Bristol councillor has said he is “astounded” by the award. Is this a green light to flout planning legislation? It would seem so when Costa grants awards to those who do.

It cannot even be claimed, they did not know what they were doing when they opened their Costa coffee shops without planning consent, as they made an application and were refused.

This is the second year in a row these two have received the award.

Green councillor Gus Hoyt was none too pleased:

I am quite astounded by this news. Costa are often accused of not caring about the communities they enter and here they are rewarding the man who caused such an upset on Gloucester Road.

Costa claim they add to the local high streets but in this case Mr Montgomery moved into a street with a great abundance of local and independent coffee shops. His shop will affect these business adversely.

If profit and a store on every street is their only motivator then at least they are honest in awarding Mr Montgomery as someone they look up to and treasure.

The people of Bristol in the localities where these franchisees operate have a very simple solution, Boycott Costa! The indie coffee shops in the area should implement the Costa (dis)Loyalty Card scheme and of course accept the Bristol Pound.

If nothing else it exposes as a liar Costa chief executive Chris Rogers following a recent visit to Totnes to hold discussions with the local Member of Parliament and opponents to Costa muscling their way into Totnes.

Developer shocked by refusal to allow them to trash The Arcade

October 18, 2012
The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

The developer who wishes to trash The Arcade in Aldershot and turn many small units into two large units, one assumed to be J D Wetherspoon, one a Poundland, claims to be ‘shocked’ that the planning committee refused their application.

Why is the developer shocked, was the developer given a nod and a wink, a green light that the application was a foregone conclusion, that it would be pushed through?

The planners did everything they could to push the application through on behalf of the developer. Even to the extent of blatantly lying.

The developer claims only weak planning reasons to throw out their application. Actually not true, there were plenty of good reasons to refuse, but strange the developer should use the same words as the planning officials, especially as the developer was not at the meeting.

For once the councillors showed some backbone and acted for Aldershot.

Aldershot is in dire straits due to years of bad planning decisions by a dysfunctional planning department more interested in promoting the interests of developers and High Street chains, than the town and small businesses who try to earn a living in the town.

One example is the Westgate development on the edge of Aldershot. An appalling eyesore on the edge of the town centre, a development that is not in keeping with a Victorian town. It is likely to be a White Elephant, but if not it will relocate the retail centre of gravity away from the town centre and towards the out-of-town Tesco, thus delivering the final death blow to the town.

The retailers earmarked for Westgate, Nando’s, Pizza Express and similar cheap tacky fast-food chains that do not serve quality food, that contribute to the obesity crisis facing Aldershot, and will drain yet more more money out of a deprived area and do nothing to enhance the reputation of Aldershot.

Having not got their way, the developer acting like a baby throwing its rattle out of the pram has now threatened existing retailers with the closing of one end of The Arcade to kill off passing trade, and thus kill their businesses. A threat they have repeated in the Aldershot News.

Should they try to close the thoroughfare through The Arcade, they will have a problem as this route has acquired the status of a common law public right of way due to years of continuous usage over a period of in excess of twenty years.

The Arcade was a Victorian Arcade, unil trashed by a developer. It was replaced by a plastic replica. For many years the units sat empty, passers-by mocked by boarded-up shops depicting the butcher, baker and candlestick makers. Slowly, slowly, the retail units were occupied. Many now stand empty, not due to lack of demand or the recession, they stand empty because the developer has kicked them out.

Redevelopment of The Arcade REJECTED

October 10, 2012
The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

Aldershot used to have a Victorian Arcade. Something any town would be proud of. It was destroyed, to be replaced by a plastic replica.

For many years, the units stood empty, boards mocking passers by with images of the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Then slowly slowly, the units have been taken up by a diverse range of local businesses: a copy shop, a lovely independent coffee shop, an emporium of everything you wished to find and never knew you needed, a travel agent, games shop, second hand bric-a-brac, dressing up shop, scanty sexy underwear, a popular café on the corner.

Then along came a property developer last year out to make a fast buck, retailers were given six months notice and kicked out. Several have gone out of business, some have managed to relocate.

The property developer, Dunedin Property, wishes to close the walk through, turn it into a large bar (assumed to be J D Wetherspoon) and a large retail unit (assumed to be Poundland) by consolidating several smaller units vacated by kicked out tenants.

The dysfunctional local planning department (which most local people see as corrupt and rotten to the core) recommended APPROVE. The agenda placed before the planning committee failed to summarise objections against, and without any supporting evidence made the bold assertion that the application would enhance the vibrancy and vitality of the town centre.

Aldershot is run down, a hot spot of deprivation, drunken scum on the streets late at night.

The last thing it needs is yet another large town centre bar. The last thing it needs is yet more national chains draining money out of the local economy.

For the retails units left in The Arcade, they would be in a dead end, no longer a popular short cut. With no passing trade they would be left to die a slow lingering death.

The situation was summed up by the town centre manager:

raises concerns about the proposal on grounds that The Arcade currently provides a walk-through between shops in Wellington Street and Victoria Road. The proposals will block this access route and leave a cul-de-sac from Victoria Road. Units remaining in this part of the centre will not benefit from any passing trade and will have to survive as destination shops. Furthermore another public house in this area of the town centre, so close to a cluster of other licensed premises, could potentially exacerbate anti-social behaviour problems

Paul Semple, a chartered planner Associate Director of JWPC, engaged on behalf of the few remaining retailers, spoke very eloquently on why the development was bad for Aldershot, loss of retailers, loss of diversity, retailers left in a dead end to die a slow death, failure to comply with local and national guidelines on revival of town centres, failure to heed the recommendations of Mary Portas on town centres.

His excellent presentation fell on deaf ears and he was completely ignored.

But, to everyone’s amazement, the councillors spoke out against the development. Aldershot councillor Jennifer Evans spoke very eloquently against the development, and was backed by her colleagues Sue Dibble and Don Cappleman.

Their main focus was on Aldershot with all the problems associated with the existing bars, in an area saturated with bars did not need yet another large bar, especially at the loss of local businesses.

Don Cappleman also raised disabled access. Not access to the building itself, but that the walk through gave a way through the town for disabled people and there was no alternative route.

The loss of the popular café on the corner was also raised. Several councillors noted business within The Arcade was picking up, that businesses could not afford to relocate and for many it would mean going out of business. This was contrary to the desired aim of wishing to revitalise a dead and dying town centre.

The behaviour of the planning officials was appalling and at times they blatantly lied.

It was claimed the application would revitalise the town. No evidence was produced to justify such a bold assertion.

It was claimed it was not for the committee to consider change of use to a pub that was for the licensing committee to consider.

Before the committee was an application, change of use from Class A1 (retail) to Class A4 (public house).

It beggared belief when either Keith Holland (Head of Planning) or his sidekick said it was ok for the café to be kicked out as they could find somewhere else in the town.

They claimed The Arcade was regularly closed with shutters thus had not acquired a common law right of way. No evidence to support this statement.

Empty units would be filled, thus good for the town. No mention units empty because developer had kicked out the existing businesses.

There was no mention of the Localism Act and its use to stop inappropriate development.

One councillor questioned why the developer had not bothered to turn up to argue their case. No need when the planners can be relied upon to do an excellent job on their behalf.

When it became apparent the councillors could not be browbeaten to approve the application, Keith Holland pulled his usual trick: If you do not pass this application it will go to appeal and we will lose.

To their credit, the councillors voted against the application.

It was a good day for Aldershot, a good day for local democracy.

The result was worth it just to see the look on Keith Holland’s face!

Relaxation of planning controls

September 5, 2012

It is a sad state of affairs when a Government Minister, Justine Greening, is sacked for stalwartly defending Government policy. — AirportWatch

Last week George Osborne called for a third runway at Heathrow, an expansion of Heathrow. At the weekend he called for a relaxation of planning controls. Yesterday Justine Greening who has steadfastly opposed Heathrow expansion was sacked as Transport Secretary. Her deputy was also fired.

Today London Mayor Boris has called for clarity, a categorical no to a third runway and expansion of Heathrow. He has not got it, instead there have been attacks on Boris.

George Osborne has been a disaster as Chancellor of the Exchequer. His polices have been to hit the poor and disadvantaged, slash public services, lower taxes for the rich and turn a blind eye to tax dodgers.

David Cameron has shown himself to be a spineless individual who has caved in to businesses interests and developers who for some time have been calling for Justine Greening to be fired.

What of localism? This has proved to be weasel words from Cameron, as has the Big Society. Big Lie more like.

Business wishes to see Heathrow to be expanded as a hub. Passengers fly in, passengers fly out. Heathrow already serves more destinations than other airports. There are no benefits to being a hub, many disbenefits.

Heathrow has more flights to business destinations than any other airport in Europe: more than the combined total of Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt. London airports as a whole have the highest number of flights to key markets in Asia, the Middle East, North American and Australasia. More passengers fly in and out of London than any other city in the world. Paris, our so-called nearest competitor, is in fifth place.

Heathrow aside, there is the wider issue of relaxation of planning controls, letting developers do as they please. It is difficult to see how planning can be relaxed any further, local councils already fall over backwards to rubber-stamp whatever developers want, ignoring the wishes of local communities. We see the result with towns and cities across the country trashed.

Farnborough: Half the town centre demolished for a superstore, social housing demolished for a car park for the superstore.

Aldershot: An edge-of-town-centre development which if not a white elephant will destroy what is left of the town centre.

Aldershot: The Arcade, a Victorian arcade destroyed, replaced by a plastic replica with boarded-up shops, pictures of the butcher, baker, candlestick maker painted on the boards. Someone’s idea of a sick joke. Now the plastic replica is under threat, retailers kicked out to make way for a large bar.

Totnes: Local community with a strong sense of civic pride, wished to retain the character of Totnes and strongly opposed a Costa Coffee shop. The local council rubber-stamped the application.

Southwold: As with Totnes, local community with a strong sense of civic pride oppose a Costa Coffee shop, rubbeer-stamped by the local council.

When it comes to companies like Costa, they simply ignore the planning rules.

Far from a loosening of planning controls we need a tightening and placing local communities firmly in control of what takes place in their locality.

Local people should decide, not planners, not councillors and certainly not developers.

The High Street as we know it is dead, says Simon Freakley

August 19, 2012

He’s the “retail doctor” that companies turn to in times of trouble. Simon Freakley tells Andrew Cave why big-name stores need a revolution.

The high street as we know it is dead, says Simon Freakley

The High Street as we know it is dead, says Simon Freakley

Simon Freakley is not afraid of being controversial. The chief executive of corporate advisory and restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper Europe thinks high streets outside London are dead and will never recover their former glories.

Freakley, 50, is also sceptical about the future for Marks & Spencer and other mid-market retailers and believes Britain’s commercial property industry has hardly changed since the Magna Carta and needs reform.

These are provocative views and more so because Freakley is far from a disinterested observer. His firm specialises in retail as well as the financial services, leisure and automotive sectors and has run high-profile high street administrations including Clinton Cards, Habitat, Hawkin’s Bazaar and womenswear chains Jane Norman, Fenn Wright Manson and Ellie Louise.

He is clear about the reasons for such collapses – generally bad management, failure to grasp the opportunities presented by the internet and social media, and being squeezed by converging retail sectors. He is the retail doctor and sometime undertaker, and as such his opinions matter.

Take Clinton, which Zolfo Cooper sold in June to American Greetings, its main supplier of greeting cards, after axing 380 of the group’s 780 shops and shedding 3,000 of its 8,000 jobs.

“It had been very profitable,” says Freakley. “But it grew very fast and took on a lot of leaseholds, many of which, frankly, were over-rented. When trading conditions got tough, the property costs were killing the business. The chain’s estate was ludicrously out of step with market requirements.

“In some large shopping mall locations, there were as many as four Clinton Cards stores. You don’t need to be a retail expert to work out that that’s a massive oversupply issue.”

Freakley says retail management teams are “behind the game” unless they’re on the cutting edge of online marketing and distribution strategies with a strong grasp of social networking that’s not just about Facebook and Twitter but also location-based sites such as Foursquare and content sharing service Pinterest.

“That’s what the really smart people are doing in the retail sector,” he says. “It’s absolute hand-to-hand combat between retailers out there in terms of who gets the customer and who doesn’t.

“Increasingly people are making their purchases at places like Westfield and the bigger out-of-town shopping centres, rather than shopping on the high street.”

Freakley’s analysis is that while the value and luxury parts of Britain’s retail sector are holding their own in the recession, the mid-market and upper-mid-market sectors are under pressure.

“If you look at the Austin Reeds, the Jaegers and the Aquascutums… they haven’t been smart enough and quick enough at moving their strategy…

“I think it’s one of the most pressurised places to be in the high street right now. M&S is in that space. I think it’s going to find it increasingly difficult to compete against value plays in its propositions.

“That business has to be fundamentally repositioned over the next few years. It’s lost its bellwether crown to John Lewis. What was once smart, refreshing and invigorating now looks stale.

“Marks & Spencer is a supertanker. It takes some time to turn around and what it needs is strong and visionary leadership.”

Is the current M&S chief executive, Marc Bolland, up to the task? “I don’t know,” says Freakley carefully. “I think the jury’s out actually.”

Freakley is a 28-year veteran of Britain’s insolvency scene, having run the corporate restructuring business of Arthur Andersen in the early 1990s before selling it to corporate investigations group Kroll, which was in turn bought by insurance brokerage Marsh & McLennan.

He stayed throughout and in 2008 led a buyout, renaming it after the European operations of US corporate restructuring business Zolfo Cooper, which he had bought for Kroll in 2003.

Zolfo Cooper famously handled the restructuring of Enron, and its US operation, with 60 people in New York, is now run as a sister business to Freakley’s operation, while another sister partnership is based in the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands.

Freakley is at pains to point out that retail is only a part of his firm’s remit, as are insolvencies, with Zolfo also undertaking other corporate and pensions advisory work.

However, the retail administrations are what has given the firm its media profile and Freakley certainly holds outspoken views on the future for Britain’s high streets.

“Outside London, the world is very, very different,” he argues, saying how he was shocked by a recent drive through Croydon.

“Quite a lot of retail space is now being converted into residential. There are only so many charity shops and newsagents that you can put on a secondary high street.

“These units that have stood empty for so long are now finding alternative use and secondary residential is one of the ways that’s happening.

“I think that’s going to be an issue outside London. The high street as we have known it in secondary towns is largely dead, I think it will be redefined.

“I don’t think many of those units will ever be occupied again by commercial retail space. People’s buying patterns have forever shifted.”

Freakley argues that it is not the volume of Britain’s retail sales that’s the problem – total retail sales in the UK have actually risen by about 3pc in the past year – the issue is where they are taking place.

Some 10pc of all retail sales now happen online, and major edge-of-town shopping centres are stealing market share from provincial high streets.

“Those online sales are not coming back to the high street,” he says, going on to disparage the Government’s £5.5m package of support to help revive nearly 400 ailing British high streets under a plan suggested by Mary Portas, the retail expert dubbed the “Queen of Shops”.

“There will never again be the amount of retail activity that there has been on the British high street.

“I think the Portas report reflects a lot of wishful thinking. I don’t think it’s a strategy that’s going to re-establish the high street to its former glory.”

He expects the effect of the Olympics in keeping visitors out of central London for two weeks in mid-summer will soon find its way into retail profit warnings later this year.

So are we going to see another spate of retail failures? Freakley thinks it is possible.

“The difficulty is when you get into a situation where your profits really only allow you to service your interest, rather than pay down your debt or do some of the more expensive restructuring that’s fundamentally required to turn around the fortunes of your business.

“For retail operations, property is their biggest cost along with labour but their ability to buy themselves out of or renegotiate their property costs sometimes is limited because they don’t have the working capital to do it.

“Landlords have pretty much had their own way since the Magna Carta. In 1215, enshrining property rights at the hands of the landowners at the time seemed a very good idea. In 2012 where we’ve still got quarterly rental payments with upward-only rent reviews and rent paid in advance, it’s an absolutely outdated model.

“Other than in the super-prime areas, I think landlords are going to have to fundamentally rethink the way the contract between themselves and their tenants works. You’ll see more turnover-based rentals and monthly rentals or maybe even shorter-term ones.”

It should all mean plenty more work for the likes of Zolfo Cooper but Freakley insists that the firm keeps more businesses alive than it helps to dismember, saying that most of the firm’s work never gets announced.

“Frankly, if you can get into these businesses early enough, you can make a difference,” he says. “You can change the trajectory they are on.”

Is it frustrating then to be seen as an axeman? “Sometimes, yes. Most of the stuff we do is quite complicated surgery but much of that necessarily remains below the waterline. We pride ourselves on the fact that we’re able to solve these problems before they require more public remedies.”

Published in The Telegraph.

I agree with Simon Freakley on M&S. The service is appalling. Often I go in and there will be one member of staff serving, a long queue and the other tills sitting idle. And even when all the tills are manned, still long queues. The reason is the removal of tills, to be replaced by automated tills, and insufficient check-out staff employed. What this shows is complete and utter contempt for customers.

We used to have bookshops, now we have Waterstone’s, minimum wage staff who unless you are very lucky, know nothing about books, as I learnt last year when I asked about Aleph, a new book from Paulo Coelho. Unfair competion, offering best sellers at half-price or less (a discount not made available to independents), is killing off the few remaining bookshops.

Greedy developers and absentee landlords.

On the street leading down to the church in Godalming was a lovely wholefood shop. It closed its doors last year. Driven out by a greedy landlord who wished to jack up the rent.

In Alton was a lovely wholefood shop. The man running the shop was hoping to continue for a couple of years in the hope of finding a buyer, then retire. The greedy absentee landlord wanted a long-term lease signing. The shop closed last summer, one year on it sits empty.

The High Street is dead, but it did not die of natural causes, nor can we finger the internet, poor service weakened it, but what killed it, a clear case of murder, was greedy developers, High Street retailers and corrupt town planners and councillors in their pockets.

Why would anyone wish to visit a High Street when it is the same Clone Town in Any Town, with every High Street looking the same?

When Costa, indicative of all that is rotten and corrupt about our local planning system, muscle their unwanted way into towns like Totnes and Southwold, then tried to claim they are an attraction for the town, that they bring vibrancy and vitality to the High Street, we have to at best treat it as a sick joke.

Costa though may have taken a step too far. I see parallels with London Greenpeace handing out flyers outside McDonald’s. McDonald’s countered with the McLibel trial which spectacularly backfired on McDonald’s.

Costa trying to muscle their way into Totnes and Southwold has spectacularly backfired on Costa. It has brought them national publicity, all of it bad. They are facing boycotts in both towns.

Costa has also highlighted that the local councils in responsible for planning in the two towns to be not fit for purpose with local councillors failing to act for the locality they are elected to serve.

Not that local councillors failing their local communities is unique to these two towns.

Aldershot used to have a wonderful Victorian Arcade. It was demolished, to be replaced by a plastic replica. The plastic replica, home to small retailers, is now itself facing destruction, to be replaced by a large bar and a High Street chain that keeps prices low by employing slave labour.

Bad planning has destroyed Aldershot.

Nearby Farnborough has fared no better. Planning consent was granted to demolish half the town centre to be replaced by a superstore, an estate of social housing was demolished for the car park.

Farnborough is now a ghost town.