The owner of a former Farnborough pub has cited a rise in ‘violent’ incidents as the cause of his contested decision to turn it into flats.
Ruchir Gupta, of Siya Properties, has broken his silence on plans to sell The Ham and Blackbird by telling the News & Mail that declining sales and a number of security issues were to blame.
Permission has been granted by Rushmoor Borough Council to demolish the Farnborough Road pub after two attempts to gain permission to build homes there were refused, but an appeal has been submitted in an attempt to force through the plans.
Siya Properties has run The Ham and Blackbird for two years and also owns the nearby Falcon Hotel, which was purchased in 2008.
Speaking of his decision to sell The Ham and Blackbird, Mr Gupta said: “The general crowd behaviour in Farnborough was rougher than we really expected.
“Too many security issues and violent fights broke out throughout the operation period and it was a huge drain on our energy and resources.
“Ironically, the same people now want to keep the pub open when they can’t really behave properly in public places.” Mr Gupta said the pub also struggled to compete with the nearby Tilly Shilling Wetherspoons.
The Ham and Blackbird closed suddenly last March after a planning application was submitted to demolish the pub and erect two residential buildings on the site, to provide a total of 62 flats.
However, the proposal was withdrawn in August following a public consultation and a revised application was put to the council the following month for 62 flats, along with a community, arts and food and drink venue, plus a public plaza and parking for 62 properties.
Rushmoor’s development management committee refused the scheme in January, due to safety and traffic concerns. However, a prior approval notice for demolition of the building was served in March, which council planners had no power to block as legislature states it is permitted development for an unlisted building.
With a prior approval application, the council can only consider if the proposals are acceptable in terms of whether the method of demolition and the site’s proposed restoration are satisfactory.
Shortly after the demolition notice was served, an appeal was lodged by Inland Homes against Rushmoor Borough Council’s refusal for the planning application.
Mr Gupta said it was a hard decision to sell the site and a number of options were considered for alternative uses.
If planning permission for flats is not granted, Mr Gupta said he will look at building another hotel or serviced apartments for short let instead.
A date has not yet been set for The Ham & Blackbird appeal hearing. Siya Properties still currently owns the site and Inland Homes has an option to buy, subject to planning permission.
Since the pub’s closure, Siya Properties has focused its efforts on the Falcon Hotel, also situated in Farnborough Road.
After the purchase of the hotel, it carried out extensive refurbishment and work to replace all of its windows is now complete. The 30-bedroom boutique hotel, opposite Farnborough Airfield and FAST Museum, is run as a bed and breakfast and caters for functions.