Redevelopment of The Arcade REJECTED

The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

Aldershot used to have a Victorian Arcade. Something any town would be proud of. It was destroyed, to be replaced by a plastic replica.

For many years, the units stood empty, boards mocking passers by with images of the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Then slowly slowly, the units have been taken up by a diverse range of local businesses: a copy shop, a lovely independent coffee shop, an emporium of everything you wished to find and never knew you needed, a travel agent, games shop, second hand bric-a-brac, dressing up shop, scanty sexy underwear, a popular café on the corner.

Then along came a property developer last year out to make a fast buck, retailers were given six months notice and kicked out. Several have gone out of business, some have managed to relocate.

The property developer, Dunedin Property, wishes to close the walk through, turn it into a large bar (assumed to be J D Wetherspoon) and a large retail unit (assumed to be Poundland) by consolidating several smaller units vacated by kicked out tenants.

The dysfunctional local planning department (which most local people see as corrupt and rotten to the core) recommended APPROVE. The agenda placed before the planning committee failed to summarise objections against, and without any supporting evidence made the bold assertion that the application would enhance the vibrancy and vitality of the town centre.

Aldershot is run down, a hot spot of deprivation, drunken scum on the streets late at night.

The last thing it needs is yet another large town centre bar. The last thing it needs is yet more national chains draining money out of the local economy.

For the retails units left in The Arcade, they would be in a dead end, no longer a popular short cut. With no passing trade they would be left to die a slow lingering death.

The situation was summed up by the town centre manager:

raises concerns about the proposal on grounds that The Arcade currently provides a walk-through between shops in Wellington Street and Victoria Road. The proposals will block this access route and leave a cul-de-sac from Victoria Road. Units remaining in this part of the centre will not benefit from any passing trade and will have to survive as destination shops. Furthermore another public house in this area of the town centre, so close to a cluster of other licensed premises, could potentially exacerbate anti-social behaviour problems

Paul Semple, a chartered planner Associate Director of JWPC, engaged on behalf of the few remaining retailers, spoke very eloquently on why the development was bad for Aldershot, loss of retailers, loss of diversity, retailers left in a dead end to die a slow death, failure to comply with local and national guidelines on revival of town centres, failure to heed the recommendations of Mary Portas on town centres.

His excellent presentation fell on deaf ears and he was completely ignored.

But, to everyone’s amazement, the councillors spoke out against the development. Aldershot councillor Jennifer Evans spoke very eloquently against the development, and was backed by her colleagues Sue Dibble and Don Cappleman.

Their main focus was on Aldershot with all the problems associated with the existing bars, in an area saturated with bars did not need yet another large bar, especially at the loss of local businesses.

Don Cappleman also raised disabled access. Not access to the building itself, but that the walk through gave a way through the town for disabled people and there was no alternative route.

The loss of the popular café on the corner was also raised. Several councillors noted business within The Arcade was picking up, that businesses could not afford to relocate and for many it would mean going out of business. This was contrary to the desired aim of wishing to revitalise a dead and dying town centre.

The behaviour of the planning officials was appalling and at times they blatantly lied.

It was claimed the application would revitalise the town. No evidence was produced to justify such a bold assertion.

It was claimed it was not for the committee to consider change of use to a pub that was for the licensing committee to consider.

Before the committee was an application, change of use from Class A1 (retail) to Class A4 (public house).

It beggared belief when either Keith Holland (Head of Planning) or his sidekick said it was ok for the café to be kicked out as they could find somewhere else in the town.

They claimed The Arcade was regularly closed with shutters thus had not acquired a common law right of way. No evidence to support this statement.

Empty units would be filled, thus good for the town. No mention units empty because developer had kicked out the existing businesses.

There was no mention of the Localism Act and its use to stop inappropriate development.

One councillor questioned why the developer had not bothered to turn up to argue their case. No need when the planners can be relied upon to do an excellent job on their behalf.

When it became apparent the councillors could not be browbeaten to approve the application, Keith Holland pulled his usual trick: If you do not pass this application it will go to appeal and we will lose.

To their credit, the councillors voted against the application.

It was a good day for Aldershot, a good day for local democracy.

The result was worth it just to see the look on Keith Holland’s face!

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7 Responses to “Redevelopment of The Arcade REJECTED”

  1. keithpp Says:

    An inquiry into the planning department and they way they act for developers not the local community is long overdue.

    Objectors took the trouble to make their objections known, and yet what they had to say was not put before the committee. Do they have to explicitly request their objections are placed before the committee? And even if they do, it is no guarantee their objections will be put before the committee.

    An example of the dishonesty of the dysfunctional planning department is the following summary

    A late representation has been received from Mr Keith Parkins giving no address and accompanied by the request that his objections are brought to the attention of the Committee. The correspondence states that the ‘destruction’ of the Arcade would not be in the best interests of Aldershot and should be rejected. Aldershot has a bad reputation due to bad decisions rubber stamped by a weak and ineffectual planning committee; vacancies within the Arcade have been caused by the landlords; the Arcade is a public right of way; large bars are detrimental to the town; the proposal will exacerbate antisocial behaviour.

    of the following objection

    To approve the destruction of The Arcade would not be in the best interests of Aldershot. The proposals for a large bar and retail store should be REJECTED.

    Contrast Aldershot with neighbouring towns of Guildford, Godalming, Farnham and Alton. Aldershot is a dump. Fast food takeaways, large bars, gambling joints, drug deals on the streets, disaffected youths hanging around. Aldershot has acquired this status and a bad reputation due to years of bad planning decisions by a dysfunctional planning department. Bad decisions rubber-stamped by a weak and ineffectual planning committee.

    Aldershot used to have a Victorian Arcade. Something to be proud of. It was destroyed. One of many bad planning derisions that have helped lay waste to Aldershot.

    The Victorian Arcade was replaced by a plastic replica, but at least there was some attempt to retain its historic character, a walk through with inward facing shops. The shops provided retail space for local businesses, local businesses that provide local employment, not only directly through local people employed, but also indirectly through the use of local services. Local businesses that help retain and recycle money within the local economy.

    The walk through has acquired the status of a public right of way through 24 hour, 7 days a week access over a period of many years. There has never been a sign at either end stating it was a permissive use.

    By denying this walk through, a convenient short cut, especially when wet and cold, will also have a knock on effect on the few reaming retailers. They will be in a dead end, lose all passing trade, and die a slow lingering death.

    Many of the retail units in The Arcade are currently standing empty, but that is not due to lack of demand, it is because the current absentee landlord is refusing to let and has terminated the leases of existing tenants and forced them to vacate the units on 6 months notice even though they expressed a desire to remain. The existing units will be condemned to die a slow death due to lack of passing trade.

    Aldershot is a hot spot of severe deprivation in an area of affluence. It is vital that all efforts are made to recycle money within the local economy and plug any leakages out of the local economy.

    Friday and Saturday nights drunken scum roam the streets.

    To destroy The Arcade will simply make a bad situation worse.

    Two large units, one a large bar (assumed to be J D Wetherspoon), one large retail unit (assumed to be Poundland). Neither unit available to local businesses. If national chains, money drained out of the local economy. If a large bar, simply adding to bad situation on the streets at night.

    Contrast Aldershot with Guildford. Recognition large bars are having a detrimental impact on night life and drawing up an action plan to deal with.

    Contrast Aldershot with Bristol. Recognition of draining of money from local economy. A local currency has been introduced or is about to be introduced.

    The Localism Act grants councillors greater leeway to act on behalf of their locality.

    It is recognised nationally that town centres are in crisis. Aldershot is at one end of that crisis spectrum. The plans put forward do nothing to enhance the vibrancy and vitality of the town centre, on the contrary reduce choice, drain money out of a deprived area, will exacerbate an already chronic problem of antisocial behaviour.

    The plans are contrary to both national and local polices for improving town centres. They will have an adverse impact on the vitality and vibrancy of what is a dead and dying town.

    Town centres are the heart of communities, or should be. They can only be when they provide an opportunity for local businesses. It is local businesses that help dead and dying towns to recover from years of neglect and bad planning decisions.

    The committee should heed the summary of the town centre manager who has given very good reasons why these plans should not go ahead.

    To act in the best interest of Aldershot, the submitted plans for The Arcade must be REJECTED.

  2. keithpp Says:

    Shopkeepers and local residents are delighted that the Council has rejected plans for The Arcade.

  3. keithpp Says:

    If we look at growth in the economy, it is is with small family businesses, Big Business destroys jobs,and yet still we have dysfunctional planning departments doing everything they can to destroy small family businesses and falling over backwards to give Big Business and property developers out for a fast buck everything thing that they want.

    It is small family businesses that give towns their character, that recycle money within the local economy.

    Why the government can’t afford to ignore family businesses

  4. keithpp Says:

    Instead of trashing local businesses, destroying local towns, is it not time the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor started to actually help revive their local towns?

    The Westgate development in Aldershot is an attempt to destroy what is left of Aldershot. it will either be a massive White Elephant or it will relocate the centre of retail gravity towards the out-of-town Tesco and away from the town centre.

    There are sufficient small, independent businesses in Aldershot to support a local currency. Why has one not been launched?

    Bristol last month successfully launched a local currency, the Bristol Pound. It has already signed almost a thousand people and hundreds of businesses.

  5. Claire Q Says:

    Thank goodness that didn’t go through!

  6. keithpp Says:

    Yes, it got thrown out. For once the councillors showed some backbone and acted on behalf of the local community.

    What was appalling was the behaviour of the planning officials who blatantly lied, claiming there were no planning grounds to reject the application. They did everything they could to browbeat the councillors and did their best to try and push the application through on behalf of the developer.

    A planning consultant who gave evidence against the application said there was more than sufficient grounds to reject the application.

  7. keithpp Says:

    Aldershot Wetherspoon application thrown out

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