Here’s what one Farnham resident believes.
— While feelings in Farnham, both among residents and the town’s many visitors, reflect a mixture of grief, anger and disbelief that we have allowed the catastrophe that is Brightwells to befall us, should we not reflect upon who exactly is responsible?
I don’t mean those that drew up the scheme in the first place since it was roundly and rightly rejected immediately by the Farnham public. But what about those that continue to support it now that it can be seen to be so completely outdated in concept and design and has proved to be a commercial flop before a single brick has been laid?
Latest in this group is Surrey County Council leader David Hodge, who has at the last minute committed £30 million of our money into dragging the scheme from the scrap heap where it belongs, having failed to raise any interest whatsoever from professional commercial investors?
In terms of council responsibility, it goes without saying that Waverley’s joint planning committee members cannot take all the blame since only eight of its current members actually live in Farnham against 38 that don’t (such is local democracy in our town these days), the latter presumably being only too pleased that schemes such as this don’t take place on their patch.
There are two local public servants, however, that do spring immediately to mind. The Right Hon Jeremy Hunt has maintained a complete and unforgivable silence on what is by far the most massive development ever to take place in Farnham, right in the heart of his constituency, arousing many querulous inquiries as to his motives. Then there is Julia Potts, leader of Waverley Council, who has remained pugnaciously opposed to any criticism of the scheme and immune to the deafening public outcry against it.
For Crest Nicholson’s part. a name familiar to those that attended the 2013 meeting to approve the compulsory purchase and closure of The Marlborough Head pub will be Chris Tinker, the company’s major projects chairman. His evidence’of commercial funding about to be confirmed for the project tipped the Government Inspector in favour of the purchase so allowing the project to proceed, a promise that evaporated as quickly as it had appeared.
Then finally there is Pam Alexander CBE. Ms Alexander is chairman of something called Design Council CABE whose raison d’être is to ensure that developers provide us with decent, appropriate, popular and well-designed schemes. CABE’s website states that “crucial to inclusive design is consultation with user groups, putting people who represent a diversity of age, ability, gender and community at the heart of the design process” and that “the effect (that such schemes) will have on the surrounding landscape and its distinctive historical and cultural context has to be evaluated as do the implications for the area’s circulation patterns, neighbouring activities and property uses. The views and sensitivities of the surrounding community should also be given weight”.
It is impossible to imagine a scheme less in line with the stated aims of CABE or with the needs and aspirations of a community such as Farnham than Crest Nicholson’s monstrous and destructive Brightwells development. One is led to wonder what convinced Ms Alexander to keep her eyes and ears so firmly closed with regard to the scheme during the six-year period to January this year while she was employed by Crest Nicholson as a non executive director on a ‘fee’ of 50,000 per annum, so making a mockery of her position at CABE.
So there we have it, my list of the wanted. Would it not be appropriate to spend the £100,000 pounds promised by Waverley and Crest on ‘public art’ for their scheme on a fitting monument of some kind to these people? Suggestions welcome. For starters, what about an edition of ‘Wanted’ posters to decorate the new East Farnham Wall that now surrounds the site …?
Andrew Jones, Fox Yard, Farnham