Local residents are growing understandably impatient that premises intended to be used for shops at 407 King Street are still boarded up.
The Council’s planning policies fail to account for the housing shortage – that inflexibility has caused the derelict Ravenscourt Hospital site to remain an eyesore for ten years when allowing change of use for housing would make more sense.
There also needs to be an acceptance that with more of our purchases being done online fewer shops are needed. With many existing shops struggling the viability of insisting on yet more shops being included in new developments is rather doubtful. Of course each case will have particular issues to consider but overall we already have more shops than we need.
The Council’s planning department tells me:
“Generally, we would not be in favour of residential development at ground floor level on a busy road, as the quality of the accommodation would not be great.”
I understand that point. Also I appreciate the symmetry of having a row of shops along a high street. But then the boarded up shops aren’t great either. Wouldn’t it at least make sense to allow flats on the corner?
Anyway the Council’s planning enforcement officer tells me:
“The planning enforcement team have recently written to the developers advising them that they are required to remove the hoardings and install the glazed shopfronts in accordance with their planning permission. If they fail to do so they will be liable to enforcement action.”
So I suppose that would be better than nothing.
These units could easily provide good quality residential accommodation. The pavements are very wide and the is little sense of oppressive proximity to the road.
Too many bad urban planning decisions in the UK are driven by this dogmatic insistence that the street level needs to be ‘active’. I.e. there must be a continuous ribbon of retail, leisure or commercial space at ground level that somehow makes the area lively and interesting. Often exactly the reverse is true.
Go to any European city – I was in Stockholm recently – there are residential blocks from top to bottom in all areas of the city, and no boarded up and unlet shops resulting from a massive surfeit of supply. Streets are calmer, more balanced and more successful as a result.