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.