Posts Tagged ‘The Arcade’

The Arcade boarded-up

August 15, 2013
The Arcade boarded up

The Arcade boarded-up

As of last week, The Arcade has been boarded-up. Or at least that is the impression to anyone in Wellington Street. Nothing to say the other entrance is open. How many people are going to walk round to find out?

I did, to find you can a walk part-way through, but no further. I met people walking in, then walking back out, annoyed to find the short cut they have always used is blocked off.

Unlawful obstruction of a public right of way? Yes, if this way through, used since the original Victorian Arcade was built, has the status of a public right of way.

Last year a developer bought The Arcade with the intention of trashing it. Half the retailers were given six months notice to quit. Planners tried to force plans through on behalf of the developer, but were thwarted by councillors who for once showed some backbone and said no. It went to Appeal where it was lost. But why were objectors not notified of the Appeal, as it was their right to present their evidence to the Public Inquiry, and to cross-examine the developer?

Why is it now boarded-up? The Council advised the developer to board it up as its would save them £12,000 per month in business rates. Should the council be giving such advice? Yet another example of the council acting for developers not local businesses.

It is in the interest of the developer to board up one entrance, as with no passing trade, it will kill off the few remaining retailers.

One of these retailers suffered the same fate when in Farnborough and half the town centre was trashed. Now is suffering the same fate. Whereas one can feel sorry for the retailers, one feels less sorry when they make no attempt to fight what is happening.

The Arcade was earmarked for a Poundland and Wetherspoon pub, but when Wetherspoon saw the strength of public opposition, they pulled out. Wetherspoon are now trying to reopen the derelict Queen Hotel at the top end of Aldershot town centre.

Farnborough Road

February 9, 2013

Farnborough is an urban wasteland. Laid waste by decades of bad planning decisions, a planning department in the pocket of developers.

Folk avoid Farnborough, even folk who live there avoid Farnborough.

Pass down the Farnborough Road and you would not even notice Farnborough exists. You pass straight through.

About the only thing Farnborough can claim in its favour is that it is not as bad as Aldershot. Though a moot point, Aldershot a once proud Victorian town destroyed by decades of bad planning. The same planners, the same council, that has destroyed Farnborough.

Farnborough had Victorian origins, the same Victorian origins as Aldershot, the British Army. Until it was decided to relocate Farnborough and create an artificial town centre. A street of 1960s era ugly buildings, not dissimilar to a parade of shops on an inner city slum estate. To which was then added two of the ugliest shopping centres in the country.

In the late 1990s, St Modwen front-company Kuwaiti-financed KPI, bought a large chunk lock, stock and barrel. Half of the town centre demolished for a large supermarket in an area saturated with large supermarkets, a small estate of social housing demolished to make way for a car park, many small retailers destroyed. Erected buildings even uglier than the 1960s buildings demolished.

Pass down the Farnborough Road and you will see a boarded-up pub, The Tumbledown Dick, a c 1720s coaching inn. A coaching inn that used to stand on a desolate heath by a track that passed over the heath.

Boarded-up and left to rot, The Tumbledown Dick is earmarked for demolition for an unwanted Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

The Tumbledown Dick should be on a local list of buildings of local historical buildings, it meets the criteria for inclusion, and yet it is missing. The suspicion is that deliberate exclusion is to facilitate demolition. If suspicions prove to be well founded, then misconduct in public office, if not corruption. Both being serious criminal offences that attract a prison sentence.

The local council is required by national planning policy to have a pub protection policy. It lacks one.

A sustainable local economy should be part of local planning policy. It is not. It is part of the local planning policy in Cambridge.

Local planning policy should protect local small retailers. There is no provision.

National planning policy requires protection of small retailers, they are seen, as in Islington, the base line. The planning department lies and says protection of small retailers not a planning matter.

The council views the retention of small and independent shops as a baseline and places great weight on the need to retain any shops which currently or potentially could be utilised by small and independent retailers.

National heath policy requires the local planning authority to regulate fast food outlets. There has been a total failure to do so, leaving the locality performing badly on health indices.

Islington recognises the need to address obesity and it is written into their planning policies.

The Government White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England (2010) identifies that more than 1 in 5 children in England are overweight or obese by age 3, with higher rates among some Black and Minority Ethnic communities and in more deprived areas. The paper highlights the role of councils in taking action to improve public health, including regulating the development of new fast food restaurants in their role as local planning authority.

The Farnborough Society claims to speak on behalf of the local community. They do not. They claim to be custodians of the local heritage. They are not. They have a cosy, if not incestuous relationship with the local council. They have regular monthly meetings with senior planning officials to discuss planning applications, that borders on pre-determination. According to the Farnborough Society, The Tumbledown Dick can be demolished, a sign stuck up with the name, and local heritage has been safeguarded.

The local council has commissioned a shoddy report on The Tumbledown Dick, that surprise, surprise, says The Tumbledown Dick has no historical value. It reads as a report written for McDonald’s to facilitate demolition. The consultancy boasts of delivering planning solutions for industry, welcomes the relaxation of planning controls, sees heritage as an obstacle to development.

The local council has sought legal advice on pushing through the application on behalf of McDonald’s. As it has been given by the Borough Solicitor, it is probably worthless.

Local people have decided they have had enough. They have had enough of seeing their town trashed, a local council in the pocket of developers, They have produced a detailed, well researched report on The Tumbledown Dick. They have filed Freedom of Information requests. They have made it very clear, The Tumbledown Dick is not going to be destroyed. As a first step, The Tumbledown Dick has been registered as an Asset of Community Value.

In Islington, a strong local campaign to save a pub will be noted and be taken into account when determining a planning application.

Down the road, Aldershot, a once proud Victorian town, has been all but destroyed by decades of bad planning decisions. Plans are afoot to trash The Arcade, destroying many small businesses that have already been kicked out of The Arcade. Shops in Wellington Street are thereatened with demolition, more small businesses destroyed. The ugly Westgate development, (large superstore, tacky fast food chains) on the edge of the town centre designed to deliver the final death blow to the town.

Islington has a planning policy that sees small retailers as the baseline.

Aldershot and Farnborough would form excellent case studies for any planning schools of bad planning, how not to destroy town centres.

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.

Redevelopment of The Arcade REJECTED

October 10, 2012
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!

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.