Friday, 21 May 2010
Deptford Arms planning applications
The demise of the Deptford Arms and its imminent resurrection as a Paddy Power betting shop has been discussed widely on this blog, and Deptford blogosphere neighbours Crosswhatfields and Transpontine. As a pub it did not do much to cater for my custom, with its uncomfortable furniture and lack of ale (both could have easily been rectified by a landlord with some vision), but as a music and arts venue it was a valuable part of Deptford's cultural life and has been for many years. Despite this, the owner clearly preferred to lease the building to Paddy Power bookmakers rather than putting in any effort to improve the pub to attract more regular business throughout the week.
Unfortunately as they stand at the moment, licensing laws permit change of use from pubs to bookmakers without leaving any powers for local authorities to prevent clustering of such businesses in target areas. Local authorities which reject licence applications from bookmakers are then likely to have to defend themselves against legal action from the applicant. With budgets at risk this is understandably not a position councils want to put themselves in.
Paddy Power's first planning application (reference DC/10/73357/X) for amendments to the building was sensibly rejected by Lewisham's planners. Although it is not a listed building, it is in the Deptford High Street conservation area. "The proposed alterations would adversely affect the appearance and character of this prominent building and would be detrimental to the character and appearance of this part of the Deptford High Street Conservation Area, contrary to Policies URB 8 Shopfronts and URB 16 New Development, Changes of Use and Alterations to Buildings in Conservation Areas in the adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004)," the planners said.
Here's a couple of clips from the original drawings, showing the proposed elevation on Reginald Road and the proposed illuminated sign (all of these can be viewed in full on the planning department's website, see details below).
The main point to note is that the application proposes replacement of the existing timber windows with aluminimium-framed windows (in lurid, Paddy-Power-corporate-green). The extent and colouring of the proposed signage is also unnecessarily overbearing in my opinion, and will have a very negative visual impact on the building and its surrounds.
Not surprisingly, Paddy Power appealed against the decision, but the grounds given for the appeal were rather lame to say the least. Such grounds include the suggestion that the internally illuminated signs it proposes are 'characteristic of the Conservation Area in its wider sense'. Whatever that means.
Anyone can comment on the appeal, you can do so online at this link, by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page (to documents) and then clicking through from the new page to 'comment on this case' but you must do so by 8 June 2010.
In the meantime, however, it seems that Paddy Power is not entirely confident of winning its appeal, and after a site visit with the planning officers, earlier this month submitted new planning applications for the changes to the building and the signage (references DC/10/74269/FT and DC/10/74268/X). This time they also included a 'planning, design & access statement' to support the application, which makes for interesting reading.
The changes to the shopfront proposals are subtle but show some progress. Instead of replacing the window frames, they will retain and make good the existing frames. The signage will be lit by external lights rather than internally-illuminated. The proposed external roller shutter on Reginald Road has been changed to an internal roller shutter, and the gaudy yellow sign is now hanging from a 'shepherd's hook' fitting. Cute touch but in my opinion still totally overshadowed by the gaudiness of the yellow and green of the whole signage system. (don't be fooled by the duller-looking shades of colour on these pictures, by the way, the colour reference numbers are still exactly the same as on the previous pictures. I suspect the colour balance in the file was adjusted somehow).
The accompanying design statement defends this signage, claiming 'the signage..is wholly appropriate given the previous signage on the public house premises'. Is it? I can't say that I agree at all.
'This corporate approach has been accepted by local councils across the country,' the statement goes on, 'including in Conservation Areas.' Which some might translate as 'we've got plenty of stuff to throw at you in court if you refuse' although of course I couldn't possibly comment.
The main defence of the designs is that it's better to have a betting shop here than vacant premises. The fact that the premises were not empty when the statement was submitted seems to have been overlooked.
Somewhat laughably the statement also defends the proposed development with the following comment: 'a bookmaker's use is a complimentary use to the retail function and adds VARIETY and vitality to the shopping area'.
How the applicant can include this statement with any serious intent, given that the new betting shop will be the seventh on the high street, is beyond me.
All the documents relating to these applications are available on Lewisham's planning portal, just by searching here using the application number.
Although it is too late to save the pub, protecting the look and quality of buildings within the high street conservation area is a central part of maintaining what makes Deptford unique and attractive to so many. The high street already has too many regrettable redevelopments that make me shake my head and think 'who let that through?'. If you care about retaining what's there, please take a minute to click through to these links and consider commenting on the proposals.