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Farnborough town centre crisis worsens

Keith Parkins | 03.07.2008 17:33 | Repression | Social Struggles

Empty shops, boarded-up retail units, a failing town centre.

'I am conscious that there may be some problems down the road. But it is business as usual in Farnborough.' -- Michael Auger, development manager, St Modwen

Via KPI, a Kuwaiti-financed front-company, St Modwen a decade ago bought Farnborough town centre. St Modwen has spent the last ten years trashing the town. There is now little left, an empty demolition site, boarded-up shops. During the last six months many more shops have decided to pull out, closed down or declared their intention to do so.

If the unwanted development ever goes ahead, it will be a large superstore facing out of the town centre. Firgrove Court, a small estate of social housing, is to be demolished for a the car park for the superstore. The last few remaining tenants are expected to be kicked out of their homes some time this month.

Glossy pictures on hoardings surrounding the demolition site show lots of shops moving in, but on closer inspection these are seen to be fake shops with fake names, a clear case of 'passing off', using another's well known brand name to enhance one's own piss-poor reputation by association.

On Tuesday, the local comic living up to its reputation as a public relations arm of big business, devoted its front page to a puff piece on St Modwen.

If St Modwen are to be believed, the current economic situation, the collapse of the property and housing market, will have no impact on St Modwen.

This when the Westgate project in nearby Aldershot has collapsed in bitter recrimination, when a major property company has seen its share price half when it was unable to raise finance from its shareholders, when a profit warning from M&S saw its share price fall by 25% in a day, when new mortgages have fallen to a record low and the Bank of England has warned it will get worse, when oil prices have hit record highs ...

Across the country retail rents are at their lowest level since the 1990s, half the projected new retail space has been halved, major retailers are expected to jettison at least 20% of their shops to remain solvent.

Today, oil prices hit a new record high.

One lie that was the exposed, St Modwen will not be meeting the completion date shown on their gaudy hoardings. Not that anyone expected they would other than their backers at the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor and the gullible hacks at the local comic who regurgitate everything they are told and repackage it as news.

Last year, the local rag reported Christmas shopping 2008, a month ago it was Christmas 2009, now the date has been pushed back to summer 2010! The glossy hoardings still say summer 2009!

No critical reporting or questioning of what St Modwen has done to Farnborough, their 'passing off', their bad reputation across the country.

It is not just in Farnborough, St Modwen hit problems wherever they operate.

At Upton Park in London, they are known as the Developers from Hell and 12,000 people have signed a petition to say they are not wanted. Last month in Walthamstow saw a big demonstration against St Modwen. In Bognor Regis, local people in a referendum have overwhelmingly said no to St Modwen. At Swindon when St Modwen tried to trash a community woodland they were driven out of town. St Modwen are currently facing a legal challenge and strong local opposition for trying to impose an unwanted eco-town.

St Modwen claim that Farnborough is their largest project in the UK. If that be the case, then Farnborough should serve as a stark warning to everywhere else threatened by the St Modwen bulldozers.

We do not know whether to laugh or cry. Midlands Insider magazine has listed Anthony Glossop, Chairman of St Modwen Properties plc, in 16th place in their Power 100, a list of the 100 most influential people in the region. Jaqui Smith, Home Secretary, is beneath him at 17th. They say money talks!


Reference and background

Pete Castle, Promise on town revamp, Farnborough Mail, 1 July 2008

Keith Parkins, Redevelopment of Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 9 April 2008

Keith Parkins, Starbucks v cowboy developers, 25 April 2008

Keith Parkins, More shops to close in Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 23 June 2008

Keith Parkins, Firgrove Court demolition to begin soon, Indymedia UK, 23 June 2008

Keith Parkins, Aldershot Westgate Scandal, Indymedia UK, 26 June 2008

Keith Parkins, Aldershot ghost town, Indymedia UK, 30 June 2008

Keith Parkins
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