The Arcade

The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

These signatures have just been collected from customers coming into two shops in the Arcade – we haven’t even gone out to collect them on the high street. – Reza Asjadi, who owns Aladdin’s Cave

The Arcade in Aldershot is illustrative of all that is wrong and rotten with our local planning system.

Aldershot is a Victorian town, though you would not realise this as you wander through the town as you see the tacky shops fronts (the fault of the useless council), but look up above the shop fronts and you will see lovely Victorian architecture, and reflect on what might have been at ground level.

Aldershot grew very rapidly from a small village surrounded by heathland when Queen Victoria decided it would be a suitable location for the British Army, the heathland providing excellent training ground.

Aldershot used to have a Victorian Arcade, one of only a few in the country, a listed building. The Arcade was opened by Messrs Park and Sparkhall in July 1914. The local council, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor as it is known locally, allowed its destruction. In its place a cheap plastic replica. The boarded-up empty shops units had painted the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Planning conditions were laid down, it had to be a walk through arcade, it had to be open to the sky. The new cheap replica arcade probably never exceeded 50% occupancy.

A new developer has taken over The Arcade. The first act of the new developer was to kick out the existing retailers to make way for a large bar, possibly a J D Wetherspoons, plus a large retail unit, possible Poundland.

This is bad news for Aldershot on several grounds.

Aldershot is a black hole of deprivation in an otherwise affluent South-East. Housing Benefit claims are double that of the surrounding area.

Local retailers recycle money within the local economy. A J D Wetherspoons would suck money out of the local economy.

It is also believed a large retail unit will be created, possibly for Poundland. Poundland employ slave labour, unemployed are forced to work at Poundland for nothing, or risk losing their benefits if they refuse. This is unfair competition to other retailers.

The Arcade used to have a lovely coffee shop. Forced out by the developer. It also had an old fashioned shop where you could buy almost anything, how shops once used to be. They have been forced out in the last few days. They have managed to relocate, but into a much smaller shop than the one they used to have.

Friday and Saturday night, the streets in the centre of Aldershot are full of drunken scum, fights break out. This is a drain on local policing resources, they have to call for backup from outside Aldershot. It is a drain on the Accident and Emergency at Frimley Park Hospital, putting staff at risk who have to deal with the drunken scum.

The Arcade provides a convenient short cut, especially so when it is raining. It was a planning condition that this had to be maintained.

What has to be seen as a sick joke, the developers in their planning application say closing the popular short cut will reduce antisocial behaviour in the evening! This is like saying the rubbish bins are overflowing, we will solve the problem by removing the rubbish bins. Retailers in The Arcade say their walk through arcade is not a source of antisocial behaviour and never has been.

Fleet, Camberley, Guildford all have large J D Wetherspoon bars, all are known hotspots for drunken scum on Friday and Saturday nights.

Reza Asjadi, who owns Aladdin’s Cave, until recently in The Arcade, has collected 4,000 signatures opposing redevelopment of The Arcade, without really trying, just from people popping into his shop. He has been forced out of The Arcade and as a consequence had to sell off four van loads of stock at knock down prices as no room in his new shop.

The local planning committee is stacked with cretins, clueless imbeciles who have no vision or imagination and lack any understanding of either planning or how local economies function. They have presided over the destruction of Aldershot town centre:

  • a shopping centre that gutted the heart of Aldershot
  • an out of town Tesco superstore
  • an eyesore development on the edge of town out of character with the town, which will relocate the retail centre of gravity away from the town centre

Were it not for the ethnic food shops that keep springing up like mushrooms after heavy rain, Aldershot would be dead.

Farnborough has fared no better under a council that has no vision, has no pride in its local towns. Half of Farnborough town centre has been demolished to make way for a Sainsbury’s superstore (in an area saturated with superstores), local businesses kicked out of their retail units, a housing estate of social housing demolished to make way for the car park. Farnborough town centre is now a ghost town.

It sadly is not only Aldershot and Farnborough where local people are let down by their local councils.

Totnes in Devon and Southwold in Suffolk are both towns with character. Costa against the strong opposition of local people, local businesses, decided to muscle its way into both towns.

Last week the local council rubber-stamped an unwanted Costa Coffee Shop for Totnes, last night the local council rubber-stamped an unwanted Costa Coffee Shop for Southwold.

The only people who are best placed to decide what is best for a local area are those who live, work and play there, not local councillors, not local planners and certainly not Big Business and developers who are looking to make a fast buck and milk what they can out of an area.

Time and time again, two fingers are stuck up to local people, those who should be acting for the local community are too preoccupied with their snouts stuck firmly in the trough.

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2 Responses to “The Arcade”

  1. keithpp Says:

    The planning department pushed on behalf of the development, but councillors showed some backbone said no and have rejected the planning application.

  2. keithpp Says:

    Aldershot News finally catches up with the news (I have known of this for at least two weeks):

    It is excellent news that Wetherspoon have pulled the plug on plans to trash The Arcade. It makes a mockery of the planners who fell over backwards to push the plans through and well done those Aldershot councillors on the planning committee who threw the plans out.

    People power works. Wetherspoon pulled the plug on The Arcade due to the adverse publicity it was getting.

    It is good news The Queen Hotel is not going to be demolished or turned into a block of flats.

    But we do need to keep this under very close scrutiny Looking at the size of The Queen Hotel, it is big enough for a bar downstairs, dining upstairs. It needs to be made very clear to Wetherspoon, a pub is welcome, a large bar for binge drinkers is not.

    It is though a pity that yet another chain moves in as this is yet more money drained out of the local economy, more money drained out of a deprived area.

    Nor can it be stressed often enough, this pub must be listed and there must be a pub protection policy in place.

    If the pub is listed, it cannot be demolished, cannot easily be altered.

    A pub protection policy makes it very difficult to sell pubs off for development.

    London Mayor Boris has issued guidelines on pubs to all the London Boroughs.

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