RUMOURS that Crest Nicholson is lining up as many as eight pubs and bars in its burgeoning Brightwells Yard development have been met with a mixed response.
The construction giant’s 2012 planning consent for the town centre regeneration scheme includes provision for up to five A4 (drinking establishments), three A3 (restaurants and cafes) and 25 A1 (shops) premises.
However, while Crest’s marketing material clearly states there are 25 retail units up for grabs – it is less specific when it comes to the eight so-named “restaurant and leisure” premises.
A Crest Spokesman told the Herald these units could ultimately be restaurants, cafes or bars, “depending on commercial interest”.
Development partner, and local planning authority, Waverley Borough Council was more firm – reiterating that the plans allow for three A3 units and up to five A4.
But a council spokesman added: “There is a certain amount of flexibility within the plans in terms of the use of these units.”
In addition, the fact one of the ‘leisure’ units – RU6/RU6a – is spread across two floors and measures a huge 5,893 square feet in total floor space has fuelled speculation that it could herald the arrival of a large national pub chain such as Wetherspoons.
This has been met with alarm by David Quick, owner of Borelli’s Wine Bar and treasurer of Farnham Pubwatch, who recently met with Waverley head of planning Zac Ellwood and MP Jeremy Hunt to convey his concerns that an influx of licensed premises – and larger operators such as Wetherspoons – could add to the town’s anti-social behaviour issues.
The tantalising prospect of a Wetherspoons-style operator arriving in Farnham has been celebrated by others, however, with Kevin Travers, of Surrey Hants Borders CAMRA, confirming that his group would “welcome a new Wetherspoon in Farnham town centre”.
Mr Travers added: “At their best Wetherspoon offer an outstanding range of very well-kept real ales, including several from small, local breweries. This range of good beer is sadly lacking in the town centre.
“Overall, the company does a lot to promote good beer and provides an affordable option to a lot of pubgoers who would struggle to pay the prices charged elsewhere.”
Responding, both Crest and Wetherspoons have denied they are in talks – although, as reported on the front page, a Crest spokesman did confirm “we are now in the final stages of agreements for a number of tenants to take on new premises in Brightwells Yard”.