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 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.


Sue said...

Many thanks for the link, Dame.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update Dame. Variety and vitality?! Dear God.

keith said...

thanks for doing this Dame; the planning inspector will certainly receive my comments and they wont be pretty (but then neither is that green!). The move away from aluminium is certainly a step in the right direction though; if for the High St this IS just a phase its going through, then when these predators move on, we wont be left without the opportunity to reinstate! The Planning Authority really ought to adjust its reproduced images - very misleading!

Anonymous said...

Done. Thanks for making it easy to do this. What is wrong with the council - why on earth would ANOTHER betting shop be welcome on the high street? I can't think of a single positive benefit.

keith said...

I just thought I would post the content of my objection to the deptford arms appeal here. DD if its too long or uninteresting, just chuck it off!

Whilst I have personal misgivings about the desire and need for a seventh betting shop on the high street, I understand that these appeal proceedings relate only to the physical changes proposed by the appellant which in my opinion were rightly refused by Lewisham's Planning Department and I will restrict my comments to the subject of the appeal.

We are assured by the planners that after years and years of neglect, Deptford high street is about to undergo significant changes in an effort to regenerate and re-establish the quality of the built environment; we have been waiting for this for decades and there is great promise in the plans for the new station, tidemill school and Deptford lounge and the resurfacing and re-equipping of the high street market area and the green spaces around. All of these involving projects have involved significant public funding and are being successful in obtaining community support. We hope that the high street will benefit from a kind of renaissance which will be unique to Deptford and respectful of its history as a working cosmopolitan town.

The character of the conservation area has been damaged in recent years; shop-fronts original to the buildings (many of them Georgian) have been torn out, plastic and aluminium framed glazing have taken their place. Not only are such materials incompatible with Georgian buildings but their installation is unauthorised and conflict with current guidelines. They also have a habit of outstaying their welcome once the tenant has moved on leaving in the case of the Deptford Arms what would be a rather insensitive and unchangeable lurid green; aluminium cant be over-painted, it has to be replaced.

Satellite dishes and air conditioning units, also proposed to be fixed to the building, do exist on the high street but through encouragement and sometimes enforcement's, the planners are persuading building owners to remove them or to house them more sensitively. To allow them to be fixed to the Deptford Arms sends out a kind of viral message; 'if they can do it so can I ' ; clearly to the detriment of the Conservation Area as they neither seek to preserve or enhance the character of the High Street.

To allow the use of such unsuitable materials on the facade of the prominent Deptford arms sends out all the wrong messages; it would legitimise all previous and all future transgressions of the guidelines and would totally make folly the meaning of the Conservation Area and undermine those who are concerned for its future including those Council Officers who see merit in its preservation. It would also adversely effect current publicly funded enforcement orders which exist on the high street which in these days of austerity could be seriously challenged.

This is the wrong proposal made at the most sensitive of times for the high street; it seeks to undermine everyone's efforts and the ongoing revitalisation of this sensitive area and it should be refused.

Thank you for your consideration.

Anonymous said...

I worked in the Deptford Arms a few years ago when Kate Wolfenden and Tristan Scutt were managing it. They made some amazing changes to the place and for a short while it shone bright with its gallery, gigs and spoken word events. Unfortunately the potential they brought to the 'Darms' was scuppered my the 'make a quick buck' attitude of the owners who would frequently help themselves to money in the till and the safe. It seems that the potential of the Deptford Arms has now been truly buried by that attitude with what i understand to be a sizeable weekly cheque from Paddy Power. It's a shame. It could have been a great pub with a unique presence and now it's just another shitty betting shop for the drunks to congregate outside.

Jayden said...

This is a good plan. Using internal roller shutters is a good step, you seem to have double doors for added security. roller shutters perth

Daisy Dee said...

Your place looks great. Investing in a spot in the corner for a store is a brilliant idea. It is very important that your customers can easily see you. Conveyancer Pennant Hills

Melissa said...

I wonder if this was successfully executed their plans. I hope they were able to. Security in the area is very much needed. I suggest that they install roller doors perth for more security for the stores.