Planning consent was applied for, and following two successful legal challenges, finally granted in November 2004.
The final stage in gaining consent was a Public Inquiry into road closures held Tuesday 24 January 2006. The Inquiry Inspector has to report to the Secretary of State and we wait to hear whether or not he will sign the Stopping Up Order which will close the roads.
KPI wish to redevelop the town centre. Half of the town centre is to be demolished to make way for a superstore, which will face out of the town centre. Firgrove Court, a small estate of social housing of 28 maisonettes, is earmarked to be demolished to make way for a car park for the superstore.
As KPI told the planning inquiry: To put it simply, without the car park there will be no superstore.
The first the residents of Firgrove Court knew of these plans, was when they woke up one day and noticed hoardings around the town showing their homes as a car park.
Since then there has been a war of attrition between Pavilion Housing Association (who own the estate) and the tenants. For the last five years the tenants have not had repairs carried out, the estate has been allowed to fall into rack and ruin. Water pours down the walls from the gutters when it rains, windows are so badly rotted that it possible to poke a finger into the rotted woodwork and tenants dare not clean the windows in case they fall out. The tenants fear the winter as the cold wind howls through the rotted windows. Tenants do their best by stuffing the holes with newspapers.
Along comes Pavilion and tries to persuade the tenants to sign that they wish to leave by offering them a new block of flats nearby.
First problem is the tenants do not wish to move from maisonettes with a grassy area surrounding the block of flats, to flats, especially where they lack the grassy area.
Second problem is, where are these new flats.
At the public inquiry, last week, to consider road closures, the developer assured the Inspector, that no one would be moved out until the new flats were available. [see Public Inquiry into road closures in Farnborough town centre]
The following day, on a tour of the town centre with the Inspector, the developer was asked to show us these new flats. He refused. He offered instead to send plans of the new flats. It came as no surprise that he refused, as the promised new flats do not exist.
These new flats have been a fictitious carrot dangled in front of the tenants to persuade them to sign that they wish to leave.
Questions to Pavilion get nowhere. Firgrove Court is an extremely sensitive issue with Pavilion. Mention Firgrove Court and they become paranoid, don't wish to discuss it. Why, what are they trying to hide?
The most we have ever been able to extract out of Pavilion is that it is a can of worms, it is an avenue down which the do not want to go, that they are being pressurised into it by the Council, that it is good for the town.
Half a dozen or more properties are lying empty at Firgrove Court, have been empty for 2-3 years or more. To ensure they are uninhabitable, and remain uninhabitable, Pavilion have ripped out the kitchens and bathrooms.
If the Stopping Up Orders are approved by the Secretary of State, following whatever report is submitted by the Inquiry Inspector, Firgrove Court will immediately lose right of public access.
We were assured by the developer that this did not matter as the interests of Firgrove Court will be looked after by the Council and Pavilion.
Er, no. It is the Council who are pushing through the development, even going so far as to threaten objectors with Asbos. It is Pavilion who are wishing to sell the land, assuming of course they can kick out all their tenants. In the closing minutes of the Inquiry, a letter was submitted from Pavilion saying they fully backed the development.
Pavilion raised no objection to loss of highway rights. This is strange, as a parcel of land with no access rights immediately loses a third of its value.
Pavilion does not even seem to be seeking the maximum value for the land.
As an RSL (Registered Social Landlord) regulated by the Housing Corporation Pavilion has to maximum the value it obtains for any assets it disposes of. As an RSL Pavilion has to safeguard the value of its assets. It cannot dispose of these assets for the benefit of the town, as that is to act outside of its remit as an RSL.
There is a covenant on the land, that says if it is disposed off, it must still be used for housing.
No surprise then that Pavilion is none too keen to discuss these issues.
The tenants on the other hand are all too keen to see these issues discussed. It will set a dangerous precedent. No ones home is safe, if a developer can make Pavilion an offer for the land and Pavilion will be happy to oblige by evicting its tenants.
In recent days, Pavilion have been going door to door, asking tenants what repairs need to be carried out. But it appears all they are doing is going through the motions. They will be doing the minimum they think they can get away with, and have made it very clear they have no intention of carrying out all the repairs that are needed.
Keith Parkins, Farnborough Lib Dems back town centre destruction, Indymedia UK,
Keith Parkins, Public Inquiry into road closures in Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 30 January 2006