'Residents and councillors want regeneration but is there the political will and financial will of KPI to get on and resolve it.'-- Craig Card, leader of Farnborough Lib Dem faction
'This is a unique time for both town centres [Aldershot and Farnborough]. It's very exciting and I can assure people it will be finished. They [the objectors] should support us and stop sniping at us.' -- Peter Moyle, leader of the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor
Several years ago, Kuwaiti-financed St Modwen front company KPI bought Farnborough town centre. Before then Farnborough had a viable town centre, now it is desolate empty town, even the charity shops are starting to move out.
KPI, in collusion with the local council, has laid waste to the town centre. Councillors, far from attacking what the developer has done, have instead attacked objectors. And now having trashed the town, have the gall to demand that the local community back the council and the developer.
Craig Card, leader of the Farnborough Lib Dem faction, is the latest in a long line of Rushmoor councillors to back the developers.
Three councillors have to date been found guilty by the Standards Board for England for abusing their position, pushing the development through the planning committee when they had a vested interest. They were let off because of bad advice from the Borough Solicitor. Three more are currently under investigation.
We have had the ward councillor for the town centre stick two fingers up to the objectors.
We have had the Mayor, whilst he was chair of the planning committee, call the objectors a bunch of troublemakers, and tell GOSE and the Secretary of State to ignore what what the objectors had to say.
Luckily the Secretary of State took a different view, and a Public Inquiry is to be held. Unfortunately it will be of a restricted nature and can only look at road closures, not the development in its entirety.
We have had the leader of the council, who has regular private meetings with the developers, engage in periodic histrionic outbursts against the objectors. His latest outburst at the end of last year, was to call the author of this article 'a serial objector' and try to have an Asbo served to try to stop any further objections being lodged. Typical bully-boy tactics of someone who has lost the argument.
Craig Card is thus the latest in a long line, to act for the developers, rather than local retailers or the local community.
His contribution has been to ask for the development to be speeded up. A development that no one apart from the developer and their friends in the council wants.
Card seems to fail to understand that there is a Public Inquiry next week, or is he asking the developer to go ahead and ignore the Public Inquiry?
What Card and his fellow councillors fail to comprehend, is why GOSE and the Secretary of State gave the objectors the time of day, as that is not the way business is conducted in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor. The norm is to give developers and big business everything they want, and then turn a blind eye to any planning infringements on the way.
Left to Card and his fellow councillors, they would have simply rubber-stamped the road closures.
And what is this development that has so incensed Card that it is being held up?
Half the town centre is to be demolished to make way for a superstore that will face out of the town. A small estate of 28 maisonettes is to be demolished to create a car park for the superstore.
This according to Card and his ilk, is to improve the town centre.
The small estate of maisonettes is in a poor state of repair, and the owners, Pavilion Housing Association, have been told by the council not to bother carrying out repairs.
The residents of the estate, Firgrove Court, have been conned there is somewhere for them to move to, not that many of them wish to move.. They were promised a new life in a new block of flats. A block of flats, not maisonettes, a block of flats which will lack the grassy area their maisonettes overlook, a safe area for their kids to play.
There is no sign of these new dwellings ever being built, the developer does not even own the land.
And why does the developer need this estate for a car park, when there is more than sufficient car parking in the town centre and government planning guidelines are for a reduction in car dependence?
The answer is in their written evidence to be presented to the Public Inquiry:
'The stopping up order [ie road closures] is required to allow for the new surface level car park with a new pedestrian route through it. The car park is essential to the success of the redevelopment and a key requirement of the anchor foodstore [ie superstore] in the scheme Put simply, without the car park there is no anchor tenant and without an anchor tenant, there is no scheme.'
Or in other words, no superstore wants to see its customers migrate to other stores in the town, 'leakage' as it is known in the retail trade, no superstore is even interested if there is a risk that its customers may migrate to other parts of the town.
So much therefore for the lies that this development is about revitalising the town centre, a town centre that was not in need of revitalisation until KPI and its friends in the council trashed the town.
The quality, vitality and viability of any town centre depends on the number and quality of independent retailers within the town centre. These independent retailers are the very retailers Card seems determined to drive out of town.
The latest from Peter Moyle, leader of the council, is to demand that the local community back the council and the developer, claiming it is only a minority that oppose seeing their town centre destroyed and replaced by superstore.
A Public Inquiry is to be held at Rushmoor Borough Council in Farnborough, 24 January 2006.
Fears over town centres unless action is taken, Farnborough Mail, 17 January 2005
Keith Parkins, Rushmoor councillors guilty! Indymedia UK, 8 November 2005
Keith Parkins, Community activist threatened with an Asbo, Indymedia UK, 11 November 2005