Popular South Norwood garage run by Richard Hough can be can be bulldozed by developers, court rules
A popular mechanic has been ordered to leave the garage where he has worked for 40 years so developers can bulldoze it.
Richard Hough last week lost a crucial legal battle with Greathall Ltd, which owns the land in Station Road, South Norwood, where he runs his beloved car repair business Autoclutch.
Developers have drawn up plans to build 11 flats and two shops on the plot, by Norwood Junction, and have been striving to force out Mr Hough for 12 years.
A judge at Croydon County Court on Thursday dismissed Mr Hough's application for a new tenancy and said he must leave by August 29.
But the mechanic, who believes the proposed development is an "elaborate charade" and that Greathall instead plans to sell off the land, refused to admit defeat.
Greathall bought the land on which Mr Hough's garage sits from Railtrack for £112,000 in 2001. It first unveiled proposals for a housing development in 2003 but failed to secure planning permission until 2011.
But the developers also toyed with the idea of selling the land, which they put up for auction in 2012 before withdrawing it from sale.
They also considered embarking on a joint venture with another company last year - after Mr Hough learned in May they would be activating a break clause in his tenancy.
During a two-day hearing, his lawyer, Richard Alomo, told the court: "The evidence before the court is overwhelming.
"The landlord in this case could not possibly have had intention to demolish and develop at the time notice was served."
Alan Steynor, representing Greathall, denied the company sought simply "to make a quick buck." He said: "It is contested by Mr Hough that the whole scheme is an elaborate charade to get hold of his premises to sell them on.
"We say such a lot of work has been done that it really defies common sense to suppose that this is all a put-up job."
Judge David Ellis said he was satisfied Greathall's plans to develop were genuine and ruled Mr Hough should vacate the site.
Speaking after the ruling, Greathall director James Groux said he was "relieved".
He added: "Nobody wants to see somebody lose something that they have but I'm sure there are plenty of other premises in the area and Mr Gough will do fine. He has a good reputation."
But Mr Hough, who began helping out at Autoclutch as a boy before landing a job and eventually taking over its running in 1991, said he would take his fight to the Court of Appeal.
He pointed to floods of supportive messages as proof the proposed development was unpopular.
He said: "I'm not unhappy, I'm disgusted. The only person who seems to want this to go ahead is the developer. This is far from over."
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