'I want to reassure you that the chief executive and I are having regular meetings with the developers in the town centre ...' -- Peter Moyle, council leader, Rotten Borough of Rushmoor
'It's good news that we can now get on with completing the town centre ... It's great news for the public, for the retailers, for the economy ... There is a brighter future for Farnborough and for Aldershot.' -- Peter Moyle, council leader, Rotten Borough of Rushmoor
Following a Public Inquiry held January 2006, the only time there has been any detailed scrutiny of the town centre plans, the Secretary of State has approved the plans for highway closures, the final hurdle the developer and their friends on the council had to overcome, if their unwanted plans were to go ahead.
The nature of the inquiry had a very narrow remit. Objectors could not challenge the plans themselves, only the highway closures needed for the development to go ahead.
In a highly biased report, the inspector has taken as read that the highway closures must go ahead to facilitate the development plans. In his one-sided report, the inspector has virtually ignored everything the objectors had to say.
KPI, a Kuwaiti-financed front-company of St Modwen, owns most of Farnborough town centre. They wish to demolish the entire northern half of the town centre and replace it with a large superstore facing out of the town. Firgrove Court, a small estate of social housing of 28 maisonettes, is earmarked for demolition for the car park for the superstore, the residents to be forced out of their homes.
The next phase, now highway closures has been granted, will be to forcibly evict the residents of Firgrove Court out of their homes.
During the short period KPI/St Modwen has owned the town centre, they have managed to destroy a viable town centre, turning it into a retail wasteland, emptying it of retailers and shoppers. The local council, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor (as it is know locally for good reason), has been only too happy to oblige the developer in every possible way.
The views of local retailers, the local community have counted for nothing. Those who have spoken out, have been publicly vilified, threatened with Asbos in a crude attempt to silence them.
Peter Moyle, Tory leader of the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, who by his own admission, has regular meetings with KPI/St Modwen, true to form, welcomed the decision as 'excellent news'. He then went on to demonstrate his appalling ignorance of local economics by saying it was 'great news for the public, for the retailers, for the economy'.
The public lose out as they will have less choice. What retailers, as most have now been driven out of town, and those who are left are barely surviving? In their place will be one large superstore. Local retailers circulate money within the local economy, superstores, apart from putting other retailers out of business, drain money out of the local economy.
A measure of the collusion, is the Tory party, the governing party, distributing an election leaflet for the May local elections, attacking objectors.
Obviously the message given by Tory party leader David Cameron at their recent spring conference that successful urban regeneration means working with local communities, has yet to filter down to the Tory die hards in Farnborough.
It is not only Farnborough that St Modwen are keen to destroy. They are also keen to destroy the century old Queen's Market at Upton Park in the East End of London.
If nothing else this exposes the Government's commitment to sustainable development as nothing but a load of bullshit.
It makes interesting reading to compare the St Modwen Annual Report and Accounts for 2005, with what they actually do on the ground.
'St. Modwen is committed to improving the built environment, and undertakes projects that seek to transform areas of dereliction and decay into sustainable communities. One of the company’s key strengths is its ability and willingness to undertake difficult and long-term projects in the remediation of contaminated brown field land, the regeneration of tired town centres, the reuse of redundant former employment complexes, and the restoration of heritage assets of both local and national importance.'
Farnborough had a viable town centre. St Modwen trashed it. It is now little more than a brown field site. Residents of Firgrove Court are to be forced out of their homes to make way for a car park for a superstore, many local retailers have lost their livelihood. St Modwen wish to trash Queen's Market at Upton Park in the East End of London.
'We recognise that our business should be undertaken in a socially as well as an environmentally responsible way, and so we strive to conduct all our business activities in a fair and balanced manner, respecting and responding to social and ethical issues arising from our commercial activities. Our policy is to work for the advantage of the local communities around our developments and to treat all of our business partners as we would hope to be treated ourselves.'
St Modwen has trashed Farnborough town centre, driven many retailers out of business, the few who are left are suffering. All to construct a superstore. Residents of Firgrove Court are to be driven out of their homes, their homes to be razed to the ground for a car park for the superstore.
'It is the company’s policy to undertake extensive consultation at an early stage on any project to ensure the highest possible level of local involvement. All public consultations are led directly by St. Modwen, rather than relying on external consultants. This ensures that feedback is accurate and informed, and that a genuine dialogue takes place, often resulting in improvements to the scheme.'
There has been no consultation with local retailers, no consultation with the local community.
In Farnborough, St Modwen manned an information office for a few days. Local people went in and gave them an earful, made it very clear this was not what they wanted. St Modwen told them this is what you are getting. They are doing the same at Upton Park. At Upton Park, where St Modwen are known as 'the Developer from Hell', over 12,000 people have signed a petition opposing the destruction of Queen's Market. Local people have asked St Modwen to take them down to Farnborough to show what St Modwen claims to be a 'success'. St Modwen has refused. What don't they want the people of Upton Park to see?
'St. Modwen is fully committed to the principle of sustainable development which has been put at the heart of the planning system.'
'Consequently, our developments seek to encourage modes of transport other than the car and to integrate with local facilities. Where these facilities do not exist we are able to use our considerable experience of mixed-use development to provide them.'
Developments planned for both Farnborough and Upton Park involve the destruction of existing viable mixed-use retail, to replace with superstores. This will in turn increase car use. It will wipe out many local retailers, suck money out of the local economies. Sustainable development it is not.
‘St. Modwen is committed to improving the built environment, and undertakes projects that seek to transform areas of dereliction and decay into sustainable communities.’
Farnborough was not an area of urban decay until St Modwen moved in and trashed the town centre. Upton Park will be an area of urban decay if St Modwen gets its way and moves in and destroys Queen's Market.
Farnborough is not the only town centre the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor has managed to destroy. Aldershot town centre is facing meltdown. Boarded-up shops, shops with closing down signs. The Co-op is the latest retailer to announce it is pulling out of Aldershot.
Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006
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Julian Oram, Molly Conisbee, Andrew Simms, Ghost Town Britain II, New Economics Foundation, 2003
Keith Parkins, Trashing of Farnborough Town Centre, November 2002
Keith Parkins, Sell out of Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 5 June 2004
Keith Parkins, Delivering the final death blow to Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 2 July 2004
Keith Parkins, Redevelopment of Farnborough town centre, July 2004
Keith Parkins, The Scandal of Firgrove Court, Indymedia UK, 31 August 2004
Keith Parkins, Redevelopment of Farnborough town centre, October 2004
Keith Parkins, Queens Market, Indymedia UK, 11 April 2005
Keith Parkins, Community activist threatened with an Asbo, Indymedia UK, 11 November 2005
Keith Parkins, Tragedy of Firgrove Court, Indymedia UK, 30 January 2006
Keith Parkins, Public Inquiry into road closures in Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 30 January 2006
Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, Biotech Indymedia, 5 April 2006
Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, April 2006
Keith Parkins, Stench of hypocrisy, Indymedia UK, 8 April 2006
Jen Rivett, Another store set to close, Aldershot News, 14 April 2006
Andrew Simms, Petra Kjell and Ruth Potts, Clone Town, New Economics Foundation, 2005