Councillors approve International Food Centre shop front application against officer recommendation

International Food Centre Photo Alan Currie

Councillors have approved a retrospective application for installation of an aluminium shopfront at the International Food Centre in Cliftonville despite officers recommending refusal.

The store, in Northdown Road, had previously been refused permission for the installation in March. In June last year the council approved plans for reinstatement of the traditional timber shop front but the aluminium front and shutters were put in place instead.

If again refused the store owner would have faced thousands of pounds in costs to rip out the shop front and replace it with the approved timber design.

Speaking in support of applicant Yildirim Cankat, ward councillor Alan Currie said there had been some miscommunication between the owner and his agent over the approved plans.

He said: “The business has completely transformed a rundown part of Northdown Road and brought long term empty units back into use.

“The current shop front design was actually based on other nearby businesses. The shop front is impressive, and fits the need of a large modern business which must be safe and secure when both open and closed  and offer good mobility access.

“There are 40 or so aluminium style shop fronts on Northdown Road, however few are designed as well as the one being discussed.”

Cllr Alan Currie

Cllr Currie noted a petition in support of the store had gained more than 1,000 signatures and pointed out that although the building was in a conservation area it was not listed by the council as a heritage shop front.

He also highlighted the vandalism suffered by many businesses with timber and large window designs, forcing the closure of some due to the crippling costs of repair.

He added: “The last thing we all want to see is a new business which offers so much to the local community incurring tens of thousands of debt replacing a state of the art shop front with a timber design which is just not practical for this type of business.”

Officers had recommended refusal based on the “modern design and materials (which fail) to preserve the architectural and historic merit of the building, detracting from the special character and significance of the Conservation Area as a designated heritage asset, resulting in harm which is not considered to be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal.”

The meeting was also told there had been “ongoing planning enforcement” following the aluminium installation which was a planning breach.

Photo Alan Currie

Cllr Steve Albon said he was torn but later added: “This is the second time the same application has been submitted. It was refused the first time so I can’t see how the planning committee can overturn that and approve it.”

However, Cllr Heather Keen said it had been refused by officers and had not been brought to the planning committee previously.

Planning chief Iain Livingstone pointed out the council had refused it and it made no difference whether that was by members or officers.

Cllr Keen also gave her support for retaining the current shop front saying it was a “huge improvement” on what had been there before.

Councillors rejected the advice to refuse the application and instead approved it on the basis of the benefits of a ‘consistent design.’

Following the meeting Cllr Currie said: “I was happy to speak at the planning meeting to support the retrospective planning application for the retention of the International Foodstore Centre shop front. Although the correct planning permission was not originally obtained I felt this had a lot to do with miscommunication between the owner and his agent during the covid lockdown in 2021.

“The shop front that is now in place is in my opinion far better than what was previously there and modern businesses such as this need a design that is safe and secure.

“I’m pleased to say both my fellow ward councillors Heather Keen and Harry Scobie also supported this planning application as did the majority of planning committee members which allows the business to carry on being a great addition to the diverse range of Northdown Road shops.

“I would always recommend that any business planning on doing major work always makes sure they obtain and check they have the correct planning permission before any work begins.

“If the retrospective application had been refused by the planning committee then the present shop front would have had to be removed, incurring very large costs to the owner.”

46 Comments

  1. Well done Councillor Currie, this is a very useful shop where you can get ingredients not obtainable elsewhere and caters for a number of different communities in Thanet.

    • There are dinosaurs who refuse to recognise that there are now many cultures within Britain. This isn’t a judgement, merely a fact.Any business which seeks to serve their Community should be encouraged.

  2. Makes a mockery of the law, if this was an English owner they would have made to change and pay for the work. Just shows it’s one rule for one and another rule for everyone else.

    • Totally agree Chris it’s coming up for a general election next year that’s why this decision was made by councillors in that ward should not have anything to do with councillors in any ward including Ramsgate cow towing to these People is not English no wonder they get away with it rules are rules and should be adhered too signes of woke nothing to do providing a good service slowly dismantling our heritage of Margate and cliftonville are Margate

    • It’s a brilliant shop and it would have been such a loss had it closed down. Well done for fighting for it ! Shame about some of the ignorant small minded comments on here …

  3. A miscommunication between the agent and the owner? wood is wood and ally is ally wonder how something like that could happen?
    That now gives the green light to anyone – put a drawing of a bungalow into planning and then build 3 stories and blame the bricklayer for not stopping when told as he never understood the drawings.
    That’s OK get 1000 signatures and a few councillors on your side and all will be fine.
    Makes a total mockery out of TDC planning dept.
    Having said that it really does look nice I drove by the other day and thought wow!
    Reminds me a bit of M&S.

    • Maybe councillors voted in favour of the new shop frontage because they also thought ‘wow that looks nice’ and balanced that against forcing the shop to put back the previously messy frontages.

  4. Cliftonville West Councillors, we differ on many, but not all issues. On this, I appreciate and commend your position. My mistrust of our planning officers’ supposedly “serving” Thanet is unfortunately reinforced. They really do need to act for the community, or leave!

    • No need to mistrust the officers because of this case – they advised on the basis that this significant change was harmful to the character of the conservation area. Cllrs concluded that the harm caused was outweighed by the benefits.

      • The changes have vastly improved Northdown Road despite incompetent officers quoting a Conservation Area as grounds for refusal. Amazing how TDC officers only remember it exists to enable them to say no whilst flouting it’s objectives to build social housing flats in buildings they own.

  5. Well done Cllr Currie and Cllr Keen for supporting this super local business, I wonder if the racists posting on here have ever been in the shop?

    • I couldn’t care less what coloor people are (though little green men scare me)… but I DO care about the ruination of vintage buildings, whether it’s shop owners removing shop fronts or developers demolished pubs.

      • I respectfully suggest you visit this store, treat yourself to a coffee and a cake. It’s probably the most unique and interesting grocers in Thanet.

        • I’m sure you’re right, and I may well do that – but what has this got to with putting inappropriate frontage on the store?

          • It’ll give you an opportunity to observe the very smart new shopfront, and see that the people running the business are doing a fine job of it.

  6. There’s nothing wrong with their shop front at least it is tidy and it’s a wonderful shop. The staff are super friendly and the coffee shop and bakery is very friendly and welcoming.
    It fits in completely with the rest in fact it’s a lot better. I’d be the first one to complain if it didn’t.

  7. This has opened up for anyone to do as they like ,what’s the point of planning if no one sticks to it ,it’s a joke .

  8. Going by the picture with the windows covered its looks a bit seedy abit dodge, just looks odd. I’m sure it isnt.

    Doesnt look like it fits in with the area.

    Good job they didnt apply for planning permission and than use the colour panels.

    • Yeah proper seedy joint, I was approached by a dubious looking guy in a trench coat wanting to known if I wanted my loaf seeded or plain 😮 I can’t even write what went down at the salad bar !

  9. Goodness, does anybody actually READ the content of these articles? There were justified mitigating circumstances. The lead planning officer involved in this needs to go back to school?

    • Officers applied the guidance appropriately. The recommendation was finely balanced. Does the new frontage cause harm to the historic heritage of a conservation area? Some will say yes, some will say no. Officers will have erred on the side of caution (as I would expect them to). Cllrs have the opportunity to review the level of that caution and come to a different conclusion. Which, in this case, they did. They don’t always.

      • “Does the new frontage cause harm to the historic heritage of a conservation area?”

        Only as much as the steel roller shutters on most of the businesses on northdown rd do…

  10. I think the supplier installer should be asked about permissions . That’s a big frontage did he enquire as to the building status. As there’s a few grand been spent there . Or did he just say no worries mate well crack on .

  11. Has that photo been used to sensationalise this story or was it taken at night.
    The store looks nothing like this now and the far right is a cafe and bakery. It definitely is not grim and some of commentators need to go look instead of being keyboard warriors !

  12. I think the shop looks great and is a major improvement on previous. Can’t see what the fuss is about. It looks good and the owner put up the money. Progress

  13. For god’s sake this is a planning decision, but no, the usual dinosaurs led by Checksfield comment negatively.
    The Planning Cttee has to apply planning law,the law Checksfield, they apply the law.
    Planning law is not a simple matter applying a few rules,it allows discretion and reasonableness, something that is missing in your warped little life.
    Planning officers tend to be ‘conservative ‘ in their views. especially when it comes to the big six builders and their agents, forv fear of an appeal.With ordinary applicants they can be, shall we say more rigid in their thinking, nothing to do with ethnic origin or anything else.
    Conservation areas are a nightmare, mainly be cause the are not easy to define, and the planners apply obsolete standards, when the ship has already sailed.What is the point in apply a rigid design code, when the rest of the area is using proscribed materials or designs, as here.
    The planners did nothing when KCC plonked a lot of modern street lighting in the various regency squares in Ramsgate, which are listed and definitely conservation areas.It is a matter of interpretation.
    Look at the building, it is an example of interwar/postwar neo georgian, which often used materials that were no only timber. Is the shop front prcatical and in keeping with the building and the rest of the street.What it is made of is immaterial, unless it jars completely with the building and the built environment.From what little I can see,it is not perfect, but a long way from being ‘appalling’.It also seems that the shop is fulfilling a local need, so perhaps in its next life, and there will be another, it should get a better make over.
    Frankly planning in Thanet,has nothing to teach other parts of Britain.I won’t write an essay on the dreary standard of generic urban sprawl that successive councils have sanctioned,but this is not the worse decison TDC have made.

  14. For those who say its one law for them. It is not because that doesn’t make any difference. There are no laws to stop you running a shop either.

  15. Great shop, brilliant selection of food, a real asset to the community. The frontage looks great. Please consider opening a second shop in Ramsgate?!

  16. To be honest i can’t see what the fuss is all about as the shop front is in keeping with the rest of the shop and fits perfectly. Plus being Aluminium it will look better for longer as wood has a habit of deteriorating over time needing frequent maintenance to stop it making a place look shabby and uninviting.

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