Popular South Norwood garage run by Richard Hough can be can be bulldozed by developers, court rules

Richard Hough, owner of Autoclutch

Richard Hough, owner of Autoclutch

First published in News
Last updated
Croydon Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

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."

Comments (7)

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3:59am Wed 4 Jun 14

JoJo G says...

This farce is nothing short of shocking. Mr Hough has fought an honest battle to defend his business and the integrity of the local area for so many years. The development has never been wanted by the local people but it would appear that money talks far louder than the residents and what is good for the area and people that live in it. It is well documented that Mr Hough provides far more to this community than being the local mechanic you can trust, but this appears to count for nothing. Am saddened but not surprised at the Judge's poor decision. Good luck in your appeal Mr Hough.
This farce is nothing short of shocking. Mr Hough has fought an honest battle to defend his business and the integrity of the local area for so many years. The development has never been wanted by the local people but it would appear that money talks far louder than the residents and what is good for the area and people that live in it. It is well documented that Mr Hough provides far more to this community than being the local mechanic you can trust, but this appears to count for nothing. Am saddened but not surprised at the Judge's poor decision. Good luck in your appeal Mr Hough. JoJo G
  • Score: 0

9:03am Wed 4 Jun 14

Ciara1985 says...

How does a piece of land on prime real estate that can potentially be developed into a multi -million pound development sell for £112,000?
I wonder how much the land was put up for in 2012?
Something stinks!

There is so much uproar in the community about this, why does the local community not get to decide???
How does a piece of land on prime real estate that can potentially be developed into a multi -million pound development sell for £112,000? I wonder how much the land was put up for in 2012? Something stinks! There is so much uproar in the community about this, why does the local community not get to decide??? Ciara1985
  • Score: 4

10:16am Wed 4 Jun 14

rockindaddy says...

This stinks, local residents totally support Richard, there are loads of empty and derelict buildings round here that could be renovated for housing. Leave the garage alone
This stinks, local residents totally support Richard, there are loads of empty and derelict buildings round here that could be renovated for housing. Leave the garage alone rockindaddy
  • Score: 3

12:44pm Wed 4 Jun 14

Crease2000 says...

It's going to be wonderful to see that part of the area regenerated.
It's going to be wonderful to see that part of the area regenerated. Crease2000
  • Score: 2

6:40pm Wed 4 Jun 14

Howard 10 says...

This atrocious that this is allowed to happen...clear case of money talks
This atrocious that this is allowed to happen...clear case of money talks Howard 10
  • Score: 5

9:41pm Wed 4 Jun 14

Dodhiambo says...

To ask someone who has been occupying the property for 40 years is illegal and utterly unacceptable.The judge got it wrong on this occassion,if at all there is need for redevelopment the current occupant should be given appropriate consideration.
To ask someone who has been occupying the property for 40 years is illegal and utterly unacceptable.The judge got it wrong on this occassion,if at all there is need for redevelopment the current occupant should be given appropriate consideration. Dodhiambo
  • Score: 6

6:29pm Fri 6 Jun 14

john nunn says...

Judgement by a council Judge? Well so much for this judge who I can bet is Not in any way part of the South Norwood neighbourhood.
Who is this judge? What is his or her relevance?What party does this judge follow? The power of the "judge" appears misgiven.
Croydon council should be given the the opportunity to decide in this issue, and ignore the powerful developers.
DO NOT let money rule our society.
Judgement by a council Judge? Well so much for this judge who I can bet is Not in any way part of the South Norwood neighbourhood. Who is this judge? What is his or her relevance?What party does this judge follow? The power of the "judge" appears misgiven. Croydon council should be given the the opportunity to decide in this issue, and ignore the powerful developers. DO NOT let money rule our society. john nunn
  • Score: 2

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