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Clone Towns


Despite thousands of objections being lodged, work begins this weekend to build an underground car park in Farnham in Surrey.

Campaigner David Wild with reporter Polly Billington outside the Bowling Club.


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The diggers move onto the bowling green in the centre of Farnham in Surrey this weekend to start preparing for an underground car park. Objections have been lodged with the council over their plans to build a shopping and housing development that residents complain is entirely out of keeping with the architecture of the market town and threatens to make it a clone of other towns across the country. They say the council isn't listening to their concerns, has been secretive and they have had to battle just to know what is going on.

David Wild with Brightwell House behind
Campaigner David Wild in front of Brightwell House - a listed building that will survive if the new development goes ahead.

It's not just the bowling green that will go, the theatre will disappear and the tennis courts will be moved elsewhere. David Wild has been campaigning against the development of an eight screen cinema, nearly three hundred homes and 10 thousand square meters of shopping restaurant and café outlets.

Bowling Green
Brightwell Bowling Club. It closes its door for good this weekend.

"If they had given the people of this town a choice between a small scale community development or a large scale commercial one we would have chosen and got on with it. As it is we have had no choice and all these lovely community things are being destroyed without us being asked."

Max Lyons is head of the Farnham Society. He wants to preserve the town's character, and says the four storey buildings in the development by Crest Nicholson won't do that. "It's like dumping an aircraft carrier in the middle of Farnham", he says.

Borelli's Yard  
Borelli's yard - an example of Farnham's "vernacular" architecture. 

Max Lyons says the town's vernacular architecture is little yards like the one pictured above.

Lion and Lamb Yard 
The Lion and Lamb Yard. Built in the 1980s.

Some are more genuine than others, the yard pictured above was built in the 1980's. But developers say pastiche isn't the way to go.

You can see the plans for the development by clicking on the Waverley Borough Council link here.

Castle Street, said to be one of the best Geogian streets in England (even though 15% of it was built in the 1930's).

Castle Street
Castle Street.

Critics complain of secrecy and say they've had to use the Freedom of Information Act just to get hold of copies of the master plan. Details in the contract have been blanked out - and campaigners like Brian Davey say commercial sensitivity is an excuse to keep things secret.

Chris Mansell outside Redgrave Theatre
Cllr Chris Mansell outside the Redgrave Theatre that will be knocked down if the plans are approved.

Chris Mansell is the councillor who holds the brief for the development. He defends the decision to be cautious with details and says "There are a number of people that think that councillors should act for people who shout the loudest. But that's not the job of a councillor."

There are 650 objections lodged and only six against. There are nearly four thousand more comments to be categorised. If they are in similar proportions Cllr Mansell will be facing stiff and articulate opposition.

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