The following Press Release was sent to the National Press:
30 Nov 2012
The Tumbledown Dick is a pub and music venue in Farnborough, Hants. But not just any old pub.. it is a 300 year old heritage building that dates back to the early 1600’s from the era of horse and carriages and highwaymen when it was a Coaching Inn on the barren road between Portsmouth and London. This building pre-dates nearly all of Farnborough and the town slowly built up around it. This is therefore a treasured site for our town. However just come and see the condition it has been allowed to fall in? With weeds growing from it and shutters across the windows it seems a scandal does it not that the building has never been Listed and is not even on the local Council’s ‘Buildings of Local Importance’ list affording it no protection whatsoever!
‘Friends of the Tumbledown Dick’ was formed in October 2012 following the closure of the pub some years earlier in 2008 to save it from its growing dereliction. It is our aim to make the local community aware of the historical value of this building and we also wish to acquire the building ourselves using the new legislation of the Localism Act as a Community Group to restore it and return it into use as a dedicated music venue, pub and community arts centre. However as a final injustice we have recently discovered that the present owners (a commercial property developers called Bride Hall) have entered into an agreement to sell it to McDonald’s Restaurants, subject to planning, who want to demolish it and build a ‘supersize’ 2-storey drive-thru instead. We already have a major McDonald’s drive-thru and restaurant only a mile up the road from the Tumbledown site called Farnborough Gate and now this one is also set to be extended to a new supersized 2 storey drive-thru. The health impact of having so many take-away and fast food outlets in one town is obvious and is already impacting local health services.
We have started talks with the Council, which on the face of it seemed helpful and encouraging, but having carried out Freedom of Information requests with the Council we have discovered the real extent of the relationships between McDonald’s, Bride Hall and the Council and very cosy it is too. We have seen the full pre-application plans were submitted to the Council in April to show the demolition of the Tumbledown despite our campaign, we were never informed of this.
Bride Hall also own another piece of prime real estate next to the Tumbledown called Firgrove Parade which currently has 5 independent retailers with flats above and parking right outside. This is also being sold off by Bride Hall to Whitbread to build a huge Premier Inn budget hotel with a Beefeater restaurant below, thereby demolishing the independent retailer units. This would take the total number of large hotels in Farnborough to 7, the most recent of which includes a Travellodge and Weatherspoons within spitting distance of Firgrove, which is severely under-occupancy most days of the week. Why the demand for another large hotel (on a key site) we cannot fathom?
Finally Bride Hall’s Chairman Mr Danny Desmond, is on the rich list in this country, reportedly worth £90 million. His sons now run the business however their shares are in trust in Bermuda. As a consequence Bride Hall pay virtually no Corporation Tax in the UK. The main benefactors of both these morally questionable property deals will infact be Bride Hall, non UK tax payers… the people of Farnborough however stand to lose a once grand heritage building, an evening culture and have a skyline of yet more ugly buildings at the gateway to the town that are of little actual benefit to local people, plus many local independent traders will lose their business. How is this in the best interests of our community?