We’re pretty sure that we recently came across an advertisement for the sale of the fifteen-year lease on the shop occupied by Memco at the top of Park Street. This is the shop that’s never really opened its doors to the public.
Above – before. Below – after.
Well, passing by it the other day, we noticed that the shop has been emptied. Presumably that’s the end of the story for a while as far as passers-by are concerned.
Two new frontages have appeared in the town in recent days. Here they are:
A week ago the borough council announced its “vision for redevelopment of London Road site, Camberley”. The Eye didn’t mention it at the time because most of what the press release (we think it was a press release) contained was, we thought, a re-statement of what had been said before, or was merely fairly obvious comments. We also thought that the illustration accompanying the press release was ridiculous – strolling across a quiet A30 with trees in the middle of it – is surely sheer fantasy. (And the apparent relocation of the RMA entrance implies a serious lack of knowledge about the road.)
But the local newspaper this week has highlighted the story. Using a front page heading “Massive Plan”, it points out that regenerating the London Road Block has been an aim of the council for more than a decade.
The paper goes on to suggest that recent information given by the council Chief Executive was “a vague description of what the development might be.” This is disappointing. We pointed out years ago that a Plan B for the site was needed, so a well-defined Plan A ought to exist by now.
Disturbingly, one retailer was quoted as saying ‘We haven’t got a clue what on earth is going on… it’s been a blight on the business since 2006… we can’t sell it… the council never comes near us…” Some businesses in that stretch of road apparently are aware that there will be changes, but one was said to have claimed that they hadn’t received or heard anything. The last of these businesses did observe that a facelift was desirable and that “it could do with a chippy”.
The good news – or perhaps it isn’t good – for the retailers is that even an outline planning application is likely to be a year or more away (council forecasts for the registration of an application have varied between around the end of last year and early in 2019, so they’re not much guidance). In reality, it will probably be years before any bulldozers move in.
When a couple of letters disappeared from the name ‘House of Fraser’ in Princess Way during the snow, we assumed that the cold weather was responsible somehow. But now further letters have gone. (See our two photos). So we suspect that a more human agent caused the damage. We remember that, some years ago, a letter was deliberately removed from the name MacDonalds over the corner gift shop opposite the HoF. Maybe the same thing is happening again even though the House of Fraser lettering isn’t so easy to reach.
When not much seems to be happening around the town, we’re reduced to photographing door handles. We published an item recently showing that the handles on the doors to/from the mall had been removed. But now they’re reappearing, freshly polished.
Which having been said, we’re not sure whether the handles we’re showing today have been removed and replaced, or whether they’ve not been touched. But it’s puzzling to see that a lower ‘half’ is missing from one of them. What’s more, our sad interest has revealed that the right-hand upper-half is rotten at the bottom, so it probably won’t last much longer. And, the left-hand upper-half appears to have been attacked by a blunt pen-knife! What happened to it, we wonder.
Eleven years ago the council paid – with our money – consultants to advise on strengthening the town’s ‘retail offer’.
One of the consultants’ recommendations referred to the High Street and said: “…its attractiveness to national multiple retailers will be limited if traffic continues to use the street. In our view, pedestrianisation would enhance the amenity of High Street and hold the promise of strengthening it as a retail destination.”
That seems clear enough. But did the council follow the advice? We all know the answer to that! Can residents have their money back, please, SHBC?
(It would be interesting to find out whether the study achieved ANYTHING. We suspect that it didn’t.)
If you walk along Upper Gordon Road, you’ll pass Bentley Court. On a pillar by the entrance is a notice asking residents to park facing the building. Why not back in?
You’ll probably remember the council’s on-line Facebook ‘panel session’ at the end of January. The public submitted more questions than could be answered in the allotted hour, so the council promised to put responses to the unanswered questions on its website. It has now done this; you’ll find the result HERE.
Well, yes and no. One of the ten questions that we asked was “Scaffolding outside the former Stacks shop in the High Street has been blocking the pavement for many months. Work on the building appears to have ground to a halt – what options does the council have for remedying the situation.” To which we still don’t have an answer.
We’re not trying to make life difficult for the owners of the building concerned. But the scaffolding has been obstructing the pavement for so long without any work being carried out that something has to be done about it. We haven’t asked specifically what steps the council is taking – this, we imagine, would be confidential information. But we have asked what, in principle, the council could do. Sadly, we remain in the dark.
We’ve already mentioned the proposed new retirement apartments in Park Street. However, since then we’ve visited an exhibition in the theatre of the planned development. We learned some further details. In brief, the proposal is to build sixty one one/two bedroom sheltered apartments for older people. There will be sixty one parking spaces behind the building (the adequacy of parking spaces in new developments is always contentious!). The building will be five/six storeys high. The existing vehicle accesses from Park Street will be eliminated, with access to the site being via Southwell Park Road only. Landscaping will be carried out along Park Street (this is promising – the current frontages are mixed and have little appeal.
The buildings that will be demolished are shown by the red outline in this photograph:
The site plan is shown below:
A black and white handout at the exhibition showed the proposed Park Street frontage of the building. We’re not convinced by what it shows – the building (which, of course, would be considerably taller than the ones which it replaced, being comparable with the new buildings in Park Lane nearly opposite the site) looks somewhat flat and featureless. But we recall having doubts about the new Pembroke Broadway care home frontage as shown in early drawings; we quite like the actual building now. So we’ll wait for better illustrations.
‘Renaissance Retirement’ – the developers – is inviting feedback. You’ll find the developers’ website at https://www.renaissancegroup.co.uk/camberley-surrey though it contains little information about Camberley at the moment. Feedback should be sent to email@example.com We can’t find any deadline for feedback, but the review of feedback will be in “March – April”, so if you want to respond, don’t wait too long. No doubt the fact that there’s been an opportunity to comment will be highlighted in the planning application itself.
At the meeting of the council’s Executive Committee earlier this week, the draft text of the Annual Plan 2018-2019 was presented for approval. This is an important document, setting out what the council will do over the next year. Discussion lasted all of eleven minutes – including pauses because of noise from outside the council chamber.
Only one serious comment was made – by a non-Executive Committee councillor. This comment echoed criticisms that the Eye has made for a number of years about council objectives – name that they are often written so vaguely that it’s impossible to judge later whether or not they have been achieved. It was said that this applied to about a third of the objectives in the draft text. One example cited was: “Maximise every opportunity to better use our land and buildings”. The intent was generally laudable – the vagueness was not.
But why feel insulted? Well, the (brief) discussion was about the content of the document. No problem. But it was said that the final version would be accompanied by a “fluffy bit so the public can understand it a bit better”. Do you, dear reader, need a ‘fluffy bit’ in order to understand simple text?? No, we thought not. (The text is at the bottom of the meeting’s agenda paper, which you’ll find HERE – are the words too difficult for you?)
In reality, we don’t feel too insulted. But maybe it’s time for the council to think critically about what it’s doing. How many members of the public actually read the Annual Plan? Not many, we suggest. And we suggest that those few who do read it would prefer that costs should be kept to a minimum by NOT adding any superfluous ‘fluffy bits’. The Eye is certainly amongst their number. Put the effort into improving the quality instead.