After a long-running fight to save the Tumbledown Dick, work to turn the vacant Farnborough pub into a McDonald's is due to begin today (February 24).
Planning permission to redevelop the site was granted last October and the fast food chain said construction work is due to begin on Monday.
The Friends of the Tumbledown Dick was established in October 2012 to protest against plans to turn the pub into a fast food restaurant.
The Friends have agreed a deal with McDonald’s that they will share any artefacts that are uncovered during the demolition work.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s said: "Our intention is to open the restaurant and start serving customers in August.”
Last week claims were made that the campaign to save the Tumbledown was sabotaged by someone within Rushmoor Borough Council offices.
Edits to the online information site Wikipedia were made while campaigners fought to save the pub from redevelopment. Campaigners created an online entry on the website on January 6 last year, documenting the history of the building and the campaign to save it.
A number of revisions were made to the page, which can be done by members of the public, on April 15 and 16 last year, from an IP address traced back to the council’s network. Ten revisions were made on April 15 within minutes of each other.
A statement made by the campaign group said the page was ‘systematically edited’ in a bid to water down or discredit the information that had been included.
Kevin Carter, 45, of Nightingale Close, worked in the Tumbledown Dick in the late 1980s and took part in two of the demonstrations that were held to try and save it. He said: “Although anyone has the right to edit Wikipedia information that in their own opinion is incorrect, doing so anonymously from within offices of the council is unacceptable and cowardly.
“Talk about conspiracy, corruption and McDonald’s money within Rushmoor Borough Council will now obviously be rife once again.
“The council needs to announce who the editor is to resolve this issue and regain some local trust. Are we talking about a misguided office junior who just made a mistake, or was it a councillor or official in the planning department who benefited from the sale of the site to McDonald’s?”
Edited sentences related to the council publishing a report commissioned by Turley Associates into an inspection of the building.
Following the sentence “In response to the Turley Report, The Friends of the Tumbledown Dick have commissioned and published their own heritage report into the historical value of the pub,” a contribution was added saying: “The author(s) of the report did not however have access to the building.”
A minute later, a heading on the page entitled ‘English Heritage Report’ was changed to ‘English Heritage Decline to List the Building’.
A sentence which said the pub was believed to have been built prior to 1600 with a small portion of the front of the original building remaining at the rear of the pub was edited to remove the latter part of information.
McDonald’s had planned to submit a planning application last April - the same month as the edits were made - however, this was delayed and submitted in July.
A spokesperson for the council said: “Rushmoor Borough Council did receive a complaint from the Friends of the Tumbledown Dick group that a number of changes had been made to the Wikipedia entry and that these changes had been tracked back to the council’s IP address. At the time, we investigated this complaint fully and discovered that a member of staff, acting entirely on their own initiative, had made some changes to the Wikipedia information, believing they would improve the factual nature of the entry.
“These changes were made without any request or authorisation from the council. However, following the complaint and subsequent investigation, we did instruct staff that they were not to edit Wikipedia articles in their professional capacity without first seeking guidance or permission.”
An appeal to overturn the decision to make the Tumbledown Dick a McDonald’s was rejected on the same day as the campaign chairman Fran Beauchamp resigned last autumn.