Posts Tagged ‘planning system’

Developer shocked by refusal to allow them to trash The Arcade

October 18, 2012
The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

The Arcade a Victorian arcade destroyed by greed!

The developer who wishes to trash The Arcade in Aldershot and turn many small units into two large units, one assumed to be J D Wetherspoon, one a Poundland, claims to be ‘shocked’ that the planning committee refused their application.

Why is the developer shocked, was the developer given a nod and a wink, a green light that the application was a foregone conclusion, that it would be pushed through?

The planners did everything they could to push the application through on behalf of the developer. Even to the extent of blatantly lying.

The developer claims only weak planning reasons to throw out their application. Actually not true, there were plenty of good reasons to refuse, but strange the developer should use the same words as the planning officials, especially as the developer was not at the meeting.

For once the councillors showed some backbone and acted for Aldershot.

Aldershot is in dire straits due to years of bad planning decisions by a dysfunctional planning department more interested in promoting the interests of developers and High Street chains, than the town and small businesses who try to earn a living in the town.

One example is the Westgate development on the edge of Aldershot. An appalling eyesore on the edge of the town centre, a development that is not in keeping with a Victorian town. It is likely to be a White Elephant, but if not it will relocate the retail centre of gravity away from the town centre and towards the out-of-town Tesco, thus delivering the final death blow to the town.

The retailers earmarked for Westgate, Nando’s, Pizza Express and similar cheap tacky fast-food chains that do not serve quality food, that contribute to the obesity crisis facing Aldershot, and will drain yet more more money out of a deprived area and do nothing to enhance the reputation of Aldershot.

Having not got their way, the developer acting like a baby throwing its rattle out of the pram has now threatened existing retailers with the closing of one end of The Arcade to kill off passing trade, and thus kill their businesses. A threat they have repeated in the Aldershot News.

Should they try to close the thoroughfare through The Arcade, they will have a problem as this route has acquired the status of a common law public right of way due to years of continuous usage over a period of in excess of twenty years.

The Arcade was a Victorian Arcade, unil trashed by a developer. It was replaced by a plastic replica. For many years the units sat empty, passers-by mocked by boarded-up shops depicting the butcher, baker and candlestick makers. Slowly, slowly, the retail units were occupied. Many now stand empty, not due to lack of demand or the recession, they stand empty because the developer has kicked them out.

The Arcade

August 15, 2012
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.