The owner of a Cliftonville furniture store who removed the property’s display case window, thought to date to the 1920s, says the work was carried out because the structure was ‘dangerous.’
Derick Holt, who owns Northdown Furniture and has been in business in Cliftonville for 16 years, says he removed the arcaded shopfront because it was in a dilapidated state. But the work has caused anger amongst some residents who say the shopfront was part of Northdown Road’s valuable architectural history..
Mr Holt said: “The floorboards at the front of the shop have rotted and started to drop. The display case does not have laminated glass and could shatter.
“It was dangerous and I have to think of the safety of my customers. It is my building and I need to make sure it is safe, when you need to do repairs then you do.”
Dan Thompson, author of Pop Up For Dummies and High Street expert, criticised the removal as ‘inexplicable.’ He said: “Northdown Road’s heritage and the collection of small, quirky shopfronts and interesting spaces is the thing that is finally turning the street’s fortunes around. To destroy your shop’s best asset is inexplicable and it’s heartbreaking to see valuable heritage lost.”
The chairman of community group GRASS, Simon Bell, says he has now asked Thanet council to put more protection in place for historically valuable assets.
He said: “Cliftonville’s architectural heritage is as good as, and quite often better than, some of the most treasured Victorian streets in the UK. Whilst not everyone here recognises, or respects, this heritage, there is a large number of people who do, and it’s up to those people to ensure the unique character of the place is preserved for future generations.
“The people who do care pushed for protection, and it’s because of them that much of Cliftonville is now a Conservation Area. Unfortunately this status is not enough to stop the architectural vandalism we are seeing almost daily, so I am asking TDC Planning Enforcement to implement further protections, known as an ‘Article 4 Direction’s’, which will make it more difficult to remove or replace original windows, doors, railings, etc. without permission.”
But Mr Holt says the shop is not listed and his priority is to make sure the building can be used. He said: “I contacted the council twice to say they needed repairs and didn’t hear back from them. They have now been here and I have explained the situation. I have been liaising with my architect and in the new year will be putting a new shop front in which will be in keeping with the road.
“People see these old things but do not realise the problems they can cause.”
Thanet council has confirmed the property is not listed but says it does fall within a conservation area. The designation of a conservation area is intended to encourage a sensitive approach to proposals for development. It also brings the requirement to apply for planning permission to demolish most buildings.
A Thanet council spokesman said: “”Our planning enforcement team is actively investigating this property and the works being carried out. While the building is not listed it does fall within a Conservation Area, meaning any development requiring planning permission will be required to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the area.”
An Article 4 Direction can be placed on specific buildings or areas. This enables the local planning authority to require permission for what is otherwise allowed without consent. This does not mean that permission would be refused but allows the authority to assess any potential impact to the buildings, the street scene and the conservation area.
Whilst I sympathise with Mr Holt, to destroy something of character is unforgivable. Unfortunately we have to blame TDC for this. So often they allow buildings to be altered without considering the consequences.. I also live in a conservation area. Large commercial signs were placed upon a building in a 99.999% residential area. No planning application was made. 6 months after objecting and after two followup communications with planning whereupon I was told Mr Livingston would get back to me. Nothing has happened.
File a formal complaint with the council and then escalate it to the Local Government Ombudsman. The process is shown on the Thanet council website. Use their process to hold them accountable
I remember TDC doing nothing at all when the Kent hotel architectural frontage was cannibalized into a ghastly neon arcade.
Poor town planning values..just look around the area.
The council planning department do not adhere to their own policies and neither to the listed building application process or guides to conservation areas. They are a waste of time and their excuse for everything is they do not see it as a priority. Complaints are not followed through quickly enough, sometimes just ignored. Rude replies from enforcement officers if you push them to act. The department is an embarrassment to all in Thanet who wish to look after it! No wonder people are just doing what they like to their properties and whatever. Conservation! what conservation? Enforcement! what enforcement?
If Mr Holt genuinely did not realise the value of his shop front, and then was not fully informed of this by TDC, then I have some sympathy for him. But it is a sad loss, all the same. I have read that there is a similar situation down in Dover where the District Council has so few people working in the Planning Dept that historical buildings are sitting empty and rotting because there is simply not enough money or staff to take legal enforcement procedures to oblige owners to act.
We now have a situation in this country where private individuals have more money than democratically-elected bodies so the rich and powerful can completely ignore the Planning Laws because they know they have more money and more lawyers than the legal authorities have. It is very like the career of Donald Trump who would just deny any wrong-doing and scare off Law Enforcement because he had more cash and powerful friends. Now we have it in Britain. It’s called “austerity”.
He could replace it with a new version using laminated glass and new floorboards. It would look the same but conform with modern safety standards.
As a trader in Northdown rd I can tell you that no shops received any notice when Northdown rd was made a conservation area. The ones that supported making the area a conservation area were also expecting a lottery grant with money available to redo worn out leaking shop fronts like so many of them are.
I also kept asking the council for a guide of the conservation area which I thought they had to have. They have not got one!!!
This is the reason that shops can still do with readon what they like I even showed the council conservation area guides they could follow from dover council and Hackney borough council.
As I am refitting and investing alot of money in a shop and want it to look old and fit in. As I have to apply for changes to the shop front. I did point out to the council asking how costa coffe changed the usage the shop front and the layout of the old Martell press shop without any planning. The answer I got was because it’s Costa.
That is not good enough. That chain has enough money to invest in period frontage and blinds.
Im very into keeping Northdown roads character. I draw alot of people to the area with advertising and would love more retail shops to move in to the few remaining empty shops. I feel the council tends to forget about Cliftonvilles Northdown rd which was once thr longest high street in Kent. Most of the signs in Margate pointing to Northdown rd shopping area have been removed. The traders in Northdown rd tend to be more realistic with business expectations unlike Margate’s. We have hardly any shops the close. This should be something the council should be proud of and letting people no.
I do feel for Mr Holt’s as it was a hard decision but like he said ‘it was unsafe’. If a child fell through the glass window which was not laminated they would get seriously hurt. What would people say then!