Councillors approve Cliftonville shopfront replacement despite officer recommendation for refusal

Shopfront before and after

Thanet councillors have rejected a planning officer recommendation to refuse a retrospective application for a replacement shopfront in Northdown Road, Cliftonville.

The timber shopfront at 274 Northdown Road, previously the base of Kent Scuba, was removed and replaced with a new aluminium shop front for MPH accountants, circa August 2019.

In a report to members on the council’s planning committee, refusal was recommended with the council’s conservation officer saying: “The traditional heritage shop front has been removed and replaced by an aluminium frontage which appears contemporary amongst the traditional environment that exists within the conservation area and throughout principle elevations of nearby properties.

“The new shopfront is of little character or quality and contributes to a diminished level the positive aesthetic given that it has lost all the defining traditional features following their removal.”

At the meeting the planning officer said the modern design and materials lacked “the finesse of the traditional shop front.”

However, the majority of councillors on the planning committee tonight (January 19) disagreed with officer.

Ward councillor Harry Scobie, speaking in favour of the application, said the site had been owned by John Michael   of MPH Accountants since 1977 and he had moved his business to shop level after the exit of Kent Scuba and set about making improvements.

He highlighted improvements such as disabled access and said 100 letters of support had been submitted.

Cllr Scobie urged councillors to “use your common sense and approve the application.”

Members including Cllr sSteve Albon and Jill Bayford said Northdown Road already had an “eclectic mix” of shopfronts and businesses with Cllr Albon adding that using the description “finesse” for Northdown Road was “a little over the top.”

Cllr Paul Moore and Cllr David Hart were in favour of rejecting the application with Cllr Hart saying: “I think it looks appalling,” and branding it a “disgrace” in an attempt to “grab an extra square footage” of space.

In documents submitted for the site owner agent Tony Michael Consulting had expressed frustration at an application for pre-planning advice never being responded to – despite a fee being paid – and a subsequent threat of enforcement action quoting a planning reference that did not exist.

An amended recommendation to approve the planning application was put forward and approved.

Accusation of ‘litany’ of errors by council enforcement over application for Cliftonville shopfront replacement


  1. i would have thought that anyone trying to tidy up cliftonville deserves a medal , not grief from the planning dept.

  2. Is anyone going to bother about a grill ? sure I will walk past and moan it don’t look like the old shop , whilst walking that way get shot of Aldis and the car park it aint right . The Lido needs millions spent on it so bring that back as well , you know it makes sence TDC

  3. Glad to see that common sense has prevailed. I have walked past this shop many times and is a clear improvement from what was there before. High streets need investment as they are quickly vanishing. Hopefully more shop owners will invest in the area before all our High streets come to ruin.

  4. Regretfully this is the first time I have to agree with planning officers. Attempting to retain the original character of the building and Cliftonville is important. Replacing like for like is not a problem with todays technology neither is conforming and introducing todays disabled requirements. At the end of the day it all boils down to £sd. Wood needs care and redecoration more than alloy. Character retention costs but lasts longer.

  5. For the first time I have to agree with the officers. What is wrong with attempting to retain the original character of Cliftonville rather than make every shop front look the same. With modern technology they could have used timbre and incorporated disability requirements. Still at the end of the day it all boiled down to £sd. Timber requires redecoration every 3-5 years alloy colourants last for 10 years. All accountants can see is their bank balance.

  6. What caught my attention was that there was a pre-planning application submitted but it was not progressed in a timely way, so for how long one should have put their affairs on hold for a functionary to deal with their daily works? (see article dated 12th Jan). Yes, the shopfront design should have been in keeping with the historical feel of the area, but in the circumstances with the passage of time the right decision was made. Anyway, why should shopkeepers (or anyone else) be penalised to make good a failings of TDC to provide an efficient service to it’s people?

  7. This is a Conservation Area but TDC Planning has not bothered to do anything about all the other shop fronts that have and still are changing to modern aluminium and bright lights over the past few years so why did they bother about this one? The street is a mess of different styles of modern shop fronts now under their lack of care and extremely long communication response times.

  8. Another symptom of planning committee and planning department malaise.
    Failure in the past by planning officers to recognise the conservation area status has brought us to this. The planning committee failure to question why the pre planning application was not acknowledged and where a non existent reference number came from shows a lack of thinking about what’s going on here.
    And, 100 letters of support for a dismal shop front? Rent a mob or 10% discount off next year’s accounts?

    • There’s a whole other story in respect “non existent reference numbers” , it’s not the only case and in the other i know of the magical number was attached to planning permission that obviously didn’t exist. It was all sorted out in the end, all covered by an NDA so i was never told the full story , just the beginning. Alledgedly Dover had a similar problem.

  9. Common sense , two words I never thought I would read together in one sentence associated with a TDC planning application decision

    Brave new world out there

  10. What’s the point of a conservation area if the council’s not going to encourage people to keep/restore the features which make it one?

    Apropos the 100 letters in support of the new shopfront- these may just be part of the current fashion for disagreeing with TDC about practically everything, and supporting people who ignore planning regulations and just do what the hell they like(The “it’s their house, they can do what they want to it” syndrome.)

    • So Marva-are the empty shops with whited out windows & bits of wood all over them in Cliftonville & Margate Centre that are there year after year in keeping with tradition? Would you rather see them than an aluminum fronted premises that is actually trading & bringing money into the town?

  11. Amazing-these petty individuals are more concerned with what a shop front is made of than having swathes of empty shops with whited out windows/boarded up stores year after year drawing no money & the risk of arson to those buildings.

    They would rather the town dies than have something ‘not in keeping’ with how things were 30 years ago. Hats off to the councilors who would rather have businesses paying rates & taking money, than those snobs who would rather slap themselves on the back for keeping things how they looked in 1970-while swathes of empty shops sit there making it look a total eyesore. I know I would prefer to look at an aluminum front shop of an operating business, than a whited out window with boards all over it.

    • that’s pretty fanciful stuff, Steve.
      I think you’ll find the shops are not empty because the owners are not allowed to replace the frontage – there is a problem in Thanet with low wages, lack of visitors, discount supermarkets and Westwood Cross sucking the life out of local high streets.

      • Lets not forget the rip off parking fees , cost me £1 just to pop in the bank 80p but had no change. Had to go to Margate last year and be parked for 2 hours think that was four quid so didn’t bother.

  12. What a load of crap over a grill ? . My local premier shop don’t look the same cannot chuck a brick through it and steal anymore , if i go to the town I be picked up on cctv well that’s not on is it should be removed, oh the Sally line don’t look the same best get that sorted as well .

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