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Big business to decide future of town centre

Keith Parkins | 30.10.2006 15:48 | Repression | Social Struggles

Three business groups are to decide the future of Farnborough town centre.

Having colluded in the destruction of Farnborough town centre, the local council, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, has appointed three business groups, St Modwen, TAG Aviation and Slough Estates, to a body known as Forward Farnborough to decide the future of Farnborough town centre. Noticeable by their absence from this body are members of the local community, local businesses and retailers.

Recently discussions were held with the Council, Asda who operate a superstore in the town, were also invited to participate. Again, local people were excluded.

It should be local people, local retailers, who decide the future of their town centre, not outside business interests who have no interest in the town other than the profit they can milk out of it. Of particular concern is the track record of two of the participants.

St Modwen has a track record of trashing town centres. Through their Kuwaiti-financed front-company KPI and with the help and collusion of local councillors and council officials, they have already trashed Farnborough town centre. The derelict northern half of the town they are wishing to turn into a superstore, a small estate of social housing to be demolished for a car park for the superstore.

The leader of the council has regular closed-door meetings with St Modwen! What these meetings are about no-one knows as he does not report back to the council. He does though promote the St Modwen agenda, including launching attacks on local people who have objected to St Modwen trashing their town.

The commitment KPI has to the town is shown by the fact that the only part they have so far built, an ugly building on The Mead housing High Street names and linking the two halves of the town centre, has already been sold off to Standard Life in a desperate attempt to resolve their cash flow crisis.

At Upton Park in East London, St Modwen with the help of the local mayor, are seeking to destroy Queen's Market, a traditional East End Market. At the weekend, local people held a successful rally against St Modwen, their stated aim to drive St Modwen out of town. On hand was one of the mayor's special advisers to report on the proceedings. Let's hope he tells his master that St Modwen is not wanted. Not that the mayor should be any doubt, not after 1200 people signed a petition to say St Modwen was not wanted.

TAG Aviation operate Farnborough Airport as a business airport. Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. Private aircraft, business aircraft, with their low load factors, are an obscene mode of travel. Already causing misery for the local community, TAG Aviation wish to double their weekend flights. Having had this turned down by the local council, they have now appealed to a Public Inquiry.

There is still time to object to TAG's plans to double the misery they inflict at weekends on the local community. Please e-mail your objections to Debbie Smith at the Planning Inspectorate before 9 November 2006.

Slough Estates have built office blocks on what was part of the old airfield site. Part of their acquisition has subsequently been sold off for a 450-home housing estate.

Earlier this year, consultants no-one had ever heard of, were appointed to decide the future of Aldershot and Farnborough town centres.

If there was a genuine commitment to revive either town centres, rather than the usual bullshit and hot air, there would be the direct involvement of local people, advice would be sought of the New Economics Foundation who have done a lot of work on reviving and halting the decline of town centres, of recycling money within the local economy.

Town centre regeneration does not work by top down edict, it works bottom up, through the involvement of the local community and local businesses, recycling money within the local economy. It certainly does not work through the involvement of outside businesses interests whose track record to date had been to act against the best interests of the local community.

Reference and further reading

Chris Bentley, Anguish as town centre talks stall, Farnborough Mail, 24 October 2006

Joanna Blythman, Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets, Fourth Estate, 2004

Big business brains plot a bright new future, Farnborough Mail, 24 October 2006

Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006

Molly Conisbee et al, Clone Town Britain: The loss of local identity on the nation’s high streets, New Economics Foundation, September 2004

Consultants to create new masterplan, Farnborough Mail, 6 June 2006

Felicity Lawrence, Not on the Label, Penguin, 2004

Markets create twice as many jobs as supermarkets and food is half the price, New Economics Foundation, 22 May 2006

George Monbiot, Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain, Macmillan, 2000

George Monbiot, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, Allen Lane, 2006

Neighbourhood regeneration plans ‘need strong retail strategy to protect local shops’, press release, Joseph Rowntree Trust, 9 October 2001

Keith Parkins, Queens Market, Indymedia UK, 11 April 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, April 2006

Keith Parkins, Expansion of Farnborough Airport rejected!, Indymedia UK, 17 June 2006

People's Market or Supermarket, The Land, Summer 2006

Peter Marshall, Queen's Market - Women's March, Indymedia UK, 30 October 2006

Pauline Rowe, Saving Queens Market from the developers, Indymedia UK, 17 October 2006

Guy Rubin, Nina Jatana and Ruth Potts, The world on a plate: Queens Market, New Economics Foundation, 2006

Andrew Simms et al, Ghost Town Britain, New Economics Foundation, 2002

Andrew Simms et al, Ghost Town Britain II: Death on the high street, New Economics Foundation, 2003

St Modwen: By Appointment to the Town Cloning Department, The Land, Summer 2006

Supermarkets 'losing battle with market stalls', Mail on Sunday, 22 May 2006

Think-tank set up to promote town centre revamp, Farnborough News, 20 October 2006


Keith Parkins
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