Cambridge Hotel – things are looking up…

Do read ALL of this item, or you’ll miss some key information.

The skip that we photographed in front of the night club at the Cambridge Hotel the other day was removed soon afterwards.  But it was soon replaced by another.  However, when we took this photo of the second skip, we were puzzled.  Sheets of reinforcing mesh had been leant against the building as if some form of construction was intended.  Did this imply a further step in the saga of the hotel?

Anyway, the answer seems to be ‘yes’.  A planning application has now been registered for the whole hotel site.  It’s for the: “Erection of a three storey building containing 21 flats (7 studios, 7 one beds and 7 two beds), including conversion of Cambridge Hotel building with its ground floor as a flexible Class A1 (Retail), A3 (Restaurant/Cafe) or Class A4 (Public House) Use and demolition of two storey/single storey part of hotel building and attached nightclub with parking, bin and cycle storage.

Sketch of the A30 frontage of the proposed new development

We’ll have to study the application carefully.  But the conversion, rather than demolition, of the existing building seems to be very good news.  The ‘new build’ is of relatively modest proportions – not a massive tower block.  Also, the proposed provision of twenty car parking spaces for twenty one flats is slightly more ‘generous’ than proposed elsewhere in the town.  Ashwood House will have one hundred spaces for 116 flats, for example.  So, what’s not to like?

There’s an extra dimension.  The hotel was bought in 2016 by the same investment group that owns Norwich House at the top of Knoll Road – the building that’s adjacent to the hotel.  As we’ve written in an item that will be published here shortly, the investment group is considering turning Norwich House into flats too.

 

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Even more about the floor

You may remember that before Christmas we expressed concern about the new flooring in The Square.  Although we quite like the effect, we wondered whether the bold pattern might be confusing for people who suffer from dementia.

We were sufficiently concerned that we submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the owners of the mall – the borough council, of course.  Sadly, the council didn’t respond within the twenty day ‘deadline’.  Worse, when we sent a ‘chasing’ enquiry, the first answer from the council struck us as just plain ridiculous.

However, later we did receive a more appropriate response from the mall’s General Manager.  With his permission, we quote:

“.. we do understand it is really important and a great opportunity to make the centre as user-friendly as possible for everyone. That’s why we engaged with both the Alzheimer’s Society and Disability Initiative as part of the refurbishment design process.

“Hopefully you will recall we also engaged with a much wider audience, including via the public exhibition held in The Square.

“We took into account the feedback we received at the time, but the work so far is just the first stage, and we are currently evolving the plans for the next phases due to start early in 2018. Please be assured we will continue to consult and incorporate any further advice provided to us for these later phases,”

Why do we raise this matter now?  Well, as readers of the Sunday Telegraph may have noticed, there was a relevant item in last weekend’s edition.  It’s reproduced here:

‘Brightly patterned carpets’ aren’t quite the same as a strongly-patterned shopping centre floor.  But maybe the effects are similar.

Cambridge Hotel – a step towards the grave?

We’re not aware of any planning application relating to the former Cambridge Hotel.  But a large industrial skip was in front of the nightclub earlier this week.  The contents looked more like internal fittings, partitions, and so on, rather than anything of structural significance.

(Apologies, the bright sun was in just the wrong place for photography.)

 

Has the council lost touch with retail reality?

We were reading the latest – draft – Authorities Monitoring Report (AMR) the other day.  This is a document that the borough council is required to produce by central government.

Now you’ll be well aware that BHS has gone out of business.  You’ll know that the House of Fraser is in difficulties.  You’ll know about M&S’s disappointing performance.  You’ll know that the retail sector in general is struggling to compete with on-line sales.  So, what does the AMR say about shops in Camberley?  Only that the council plans to add 41 000 square metres of retail floor space in the town centre.  To put this in context, the floor area of the old Allders store is reported to be a little less than 7 500 square metres.  So the council is planning the equivalent of over five more Allders shops.

Now we know that the target of 41 000 square metres was produced several years ago.  But for the AMR to blithely repeat it without any qualifying comment is disturbing.

The ‘good news’ is that the council is already heavily committed financially to the retail sector through its investment in The Square.  There’s no way (is there?) that it would be mad enough to invest further council money in more shops.  The ‘bad news’ is that the council must be looking for a third-party to undertake the development.  From our position on the sidelines, that could mean a very long wait.

In the meantime…?

Well, in the meantime it will probably result in the London Road Block redevelopment going nowhere fast.   So we’ll have to put up with the peeling paint of the white hoarding facing the London Road for quite a while yet.  (WHY hasn’t the new mall logo been written as large as possible on the hoarding?  Is the council ashamed of it?)

And, while we’re talking about the London Road Block, maybe we should record that the council wrote in its May ‘Town Centre Update’ last year that it had appointed consultants to: “submit an outline planning application by the end of 2017”  We’re not much fussed at this stage that – just two weeks into 2018 – we haven’t yet seen the application on the council’s planning register.

For the moment, all there is to show is the paint starting to peel off the hoarding in front of the London Road Block.  So enjoy our photo!

Rotting away

This is the latest state of the windows in the Cambridge Hotel.  The broken glass in one has been covered inside with rigid plastic sheeting, but the wooden frames are in a poor condition.

The thing is, given that we still don’t know what’s going to happen to the London Road Block just the other side of the High Street, would YOU decide what to do with the old hotel if you owned it?

Propping up the High Street

A month ago, the borough council announced: “Surrey Heath Borough Council has secured funding [a £3.5 million grant] to improve the High Street and public spaces in Camberley Town Centre. SHBC will add funds of £900k, so the total budget for the project is £4.4 million.”

We don’t entirely agree with the council’s plans, but in the real world the High Street is looking scruffier and it desperately needs attention.  There are now TWO buildings with scaffolding obstructing the pavement, yet where no work seems to be underway.  We’ve commented before about the former Stacks shop which is now little more than a facade.  Nothing appears to have happened there for many months, and the rear of the premises seems to accumulate building and other waste.  The signs attached to the scaffolding are becoming ‘permanent’ – at what point will they require planning permission?

More recently scaffolding appeared at the front of the former Kitchen Kapers, but we’ve not seen it being used very much lately.

Is the High Street jinxed?

UPDATE – since writing this, we’ve seen work being carried out on the rear of the building.  But all was quiet at the front.