The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed the new shopfronts that have appeared along Deptford High Street.
Six shops have had their signs and shutters replaced using the tail end of the Outer London Funding bid that paid for the repaving works and other projects.
I don't believe this work was actually part of the original bid, and I'm not clear where the funding was diverted from, but it is certainly being paid for out of the money that was awarded to Deptford.
One of the regular gripes by those who care about the visual appearance and public realm quality of the high street is the damage to shop fronts caused by cheap 'improvements' which usually involve ripping out the old shop front and bunging in a roller shutter. This is often done at the lowest possible cost and by contractors whose only concern is the speed with which they can get the work done.
There's also ongoing problems with planning applications for changes that are not appropriate to a conservation zone (yes! Deptford High Street is a conservation zone!) such as internally illuminated signs and plastic-framed replacement windows. Many of these have got through in the past but happily the planners at the council are now more aware of the problem and seem to be taking greater note of new applications.
The new shop fronts are intended to showcase 'good design' for the high street and demonstrate the type of solutions the council would like to see applied whenever renovations are carried out.
In my opinion the designs have all been successful to some extent - even those which I consider too gaudy or disappointingly underwhelming have a solid and unified quality. I assume the shop owners were consulted on the designs and colour schemes, which presumably explains why they vary so much.
At the south end of the high street (above) the replacement signage and awning are a huge improvement on the awful gaudy plastic thing that used to scar this lovely building. I like the colour choice and it seems the designer of the sign made the best of a bad job, considering how many words had to be accommodated.
I admit I find the light green squiggles adorning each end a little distracting though, they do put me in mind of a diagram of the female reproductive system.
Next up is Divine - the colour choice might be more reminiscent of a high-viz cycling jacket than anything else, but at least the shop front is in muted colours and the simple design works well.
AK Continental Foods looks good when it's open but the shutter design makes it look quite fun even when it's closed. Not much thought seems to have been given to how the design would fit on the shutters - to be honest it looks a bit like one of my attempts - but it's cheerful and colourful so the end result is a positive one.
There's always one who wants to stand right out, and in this case it's Family Halal Butchers & Grocers with their gaudy yellow and red sign and even a yellow edging to the bright red awning. Considering they are sandwiched between the non-too subtle shouty awning of Housewives and their other bright yellow neighbour, it's none too surprising.
My favourite of all the shopfront redesigns is Ralph's green grocery which has a strong Farrow & Ball feel to it - not just the colours of the shop front and contrasting awning, but the lower-case shop name and understated design. I'm sure the Guardian would have a field day suggesting that it's an unmistakeable sign of gentrification although you only have to step inside to note the absence of wicker baskets or eggs displayed in beds of straw.
When the previous shopfront was removed, the original sill of the window on the first floor was revealed, leading for calls to redesign the shop sign and reinstate the window to its original level. The building (formerly Caxton House) apparently used to be a ladies school in the 1800s and is one of the more significant historic buildings on the high street, although there are probably many more than you might think.
As far as I know, extra funding is being sought to adjust the shopfront accordingly, let's wait and see.
I'm of the opinion that there are much better sandwich options available on the high street, and the only time I went into a Subway I got rather confused by the aggressive questioning about filling options. I like the old-school method where the customer tells the sandwich maker exactly what they want and the sandwich maker puts aforementioned ingredients in the bread. Mind you I seem to remember it was a branch in the US so I was confused as to why I might want cheese in a ham sandwich, particularly since I was then asked to choose between four types of cheese, none of which sounded real, and all of which had been processed to exactly the same extent except for subtle differences in colour.
I suspect the new Subway will probably impact most on Percy Ingle's and Greggs' sandwich and hot food sales. Other branches seem to open late and I hope this one will too - it would certainly be good to see more places on the high street that open into the evening.