Opposing groups fight for future of TumbledownBy Tim Harris
March 15, 2013
PLANS for a McDonald’s restaurant on the site of an historic Farnborough pub have received backing in the same week that a protest was held against the move.
It came to light at the end of last year that the Tumbledown Dick, in Farnborough Road, was linked with a sale to the international fast food chain.
McDonald’s says a planning application for the proposed restaurant on the Tumbledown site will be submitted in April meanwhile there has been the emergence of a new support group.
Support Tumbledown Dick McDonald’s came to life on March 10 – a day after the rally by opposing group the Friends of the Tumbledown Dick.
The new group harbours different hopes to those of the campaign, which began last October to save the Tumbledown.
North Farnborough resident Gavin Harris, creator of the chain’s support group, described his view that a McDonald’s restaurant could save the pub from dereliction.
He said: “I have seen the Tumbledown fall into disrepair over the years and nothing has really happened to it. [A McDonald’s] would bring job creation for the area, regenerate the area and reduce congestion in north Farnborough.
“I think there is a silent majority in Farnborough who want the McDonald’s.”
Mr Harris said if the Tumbledown remained as it was now, this would be the ‘worst case scenario’. He voiced concerns that the Friends group might not be able to follow through with their proposals to make the pub a community/live music venue, and it could remain ‘a derelict building’.
“I am not against the idea of having a community venue,” added Mr Harris. “It is just not clear what their main aim is, what they are trying to achieve from the support group. The cost to actually fix the venue would be so prohibitive.
“My concern is they have got their rose-tinted glasses on and they want to relive the days from 15 years ago.”
The protest rally last Saturday saw around 50 people march from the Tumbledown up Farnborough Road, ending at the Farnborough Gate McDonald’s. The protesters were armed with whistles, tambourines and megaphones.
Fran Beauchamp, of the Friends of the Tumbledown Dick, defended the group’s aspirations for the pub.
She said: “We are just a community group, a group of committed people in Farnborough trying to save an old building from demolition. We are a community group, a set of local people who want to save our pub. This guy hasn’t got a solid argument, it is ridiculous what he is saying. The support group is undermining a hard-fought campaign.”
Ms Beauchamp added that the Friends group will only reveal their business plan once it actually has a right to bid for the Tumbledown, which at the moment is not the case.
She said the dispute about the Tumbledown, on social media websites, has got ‘out of hand’. Support Tumbledown Dick McDonald’s currently has around 41 supporters on Facebook in comparison to the 2,749 supporters on the Friends’ page.
Sir Gerald Howarth, MP for Farnborough, put his view that if the Friends group can’t fund a community use for the pub then there would be ‘no other option’ than the McDonald’s restaurant.
Sir Gerald confirmed he met representatives of the fast food firm, and persuaded it to consider retaining the frontage of the Tumbledown.
The landmark Tumbledown Dick, which is believed to have been around since the 1600s, has previously hosted bands like Reuben, Hundred Reasons and The Jam.
The Tumbledown Dick has been empty since 2008, after it failed a health inspection.
A McDonald’s spokesman added: “We welcome support for our application, which we believe to be the most viable proposal for the Tumbledown Dick.”