Sadly, Next and Costa are receding into history as far as Park Street is concerned. Posters are covering the windows and ‘The Atrium’ is now the only identifier at the top of the shop front.
More than sixteen years and nothing to show
We’ve been distressed by another fairly recent item on the council’s website:
Why our distress? Simply, it’s because the council has been faffing about buying property in the London Road for well over sixteen years. Yes, it’s more than sixteen years since the council voted in favour of using compulsory purchase to speed the redevelopment along. Ye gods, what does it take to achieve real action?
The Eye rarely venture forth into the murky realm of politics. We leave that to others. But today is an exception, as suggested by the title of this item. Vote Stroppy!
We’re not going to dig over the pros and cons of purchase of the Mall. That’s all history. Instead, we’re focusing on voting in the forthcoming local elections.
We know that not every councillor was in favour of buying The Mall. But we bet that none of them asked about the results of any structural survey, and whether any costs of remediation had been built into the estimate of what The Mall was worth. Which is unfortunate, as the following extract from the council website suggests:
Unless we’re much mistaken, the council is accepting that it will have to spend even more, to bring the property up to scratch.
Of course, lessons won’t really be learned. So what matters is that our elected representatives challenge what the council officers tell them. And they challenge what the elected council leader tells them (many believe that the close relationship between the previous chief executive and the previous leader suppressed much of the essential challenge that should have taken place).
So in May vote for stroppy councillors, not for ‘yes men’, or ‘yes women’. Rather, vote for people who WILL challenge – constructively of course – every council matter. Forget party politics – VOTE STROPPY!
A couple of weeks ago, a planning application appeared for “Prior Approval…under the General Permitted Development Order 2015 .. for a change of use from
commercial, business and service to two flats. The premises concerned are the former Bluebird Care office on the ground floor of the St George’s Court building.
In February we posted these photos, which were taken at the beginning of the month. We were a bit puzzled because we never saw any signs of ‘renovations’ in the kitchen.
However, a big piece of the jig-saw seems to have fallen into place. We’ve just become aware of this item from SurreyLive:
We suspect that all is still not well with the business. Perhaps we just pass by at the wrong times, but, though the ‘opening hours’ are clearly stated on the door, the restaurant is often closed when they say that it’ll be open.
The recent budget – decidely thought-provoking
We missed an item in the recent budget, but it was subsequently reported on local.gov.uk. We quote:
Budget 2023: LEPs to be scrapped
“Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are to be effectively abolished within a year, chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the Budget.
“As part of measures designed to encourage an ‘enterprise economy,’ Mr Hunt said in his speech he would transfer the responsibilities of LEPs to local authorities by April 2024.
“All support from the Government will end within a year, with LEP functions to be ‘delivered by local government in the future,’ according to Government documents published today.
“The documents added: ‘The Government is committed to empowering democratically-elected local leaders at every opportunity.
‘”Empowered, accountable local leaders are best placed to take the decisions needed to foster local wealth creation and civic entrepreneurialism.’
“The move is subject to the outcome of a joint consultation by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Department for Business and Trade.
This article was originally published by The MJ “
The subject seems a bit arcane. But Surrey Heath lies within the Enterprise M3 – a LEP – area. And Enterprise M3′ is:
“a business led partnership, bringing together private, public and not-for-profit sector organisations to determine local economic priorities and undertake activities which drive economic growth and productivity through innovation, job creation, improved infrastructure and increased workforce skills within our area.
“It invests in transport, innovation, skills and enterprise, and our Strategic Economic Plan and emerging Local Industrial Strategy set out our vision for the future economy and plans to boost the productivity, prosperity and quality of life for the people and businesses who live and work in our region.”
So these activities, and an annual budget of around £200million, will become the responsibility of local authorities. Do they have the skills??
Jobs for the scaffolders
Two relatively new/newly upgraded buildings are acquiring some serious-looking scaffolding. Presumably it’s just for maintenance – though it’s a bit surprising that it’s needed so soon.
All is well with the world!
Yes, we’re returning to our favourite subject. Bollards…
The rising bollard at the entrance to Park Street, intended to stop unauthorised vehicles from driving through the ‘pedestrianised’ street has scarcely risen for months. We presume that it’s died.
When the bollard was first installed a decade or so ago, it remained coyly out of site for ages. We gathered that then that it was controlled by The Mall’s security office, but that the cabling to operate it was provided by BT – and it had a fault. Is the same thing true now?
(We’re rather reminded of traffic lights elsewhere around Camberley which rely on BT for their timing and synchronisation. And, apparently, the arrangement doesn’t always work there either….)
Changing the bedding
When the Premier Inn changes the bedding, it doesn’t just mean the sheets!
House of Fraser to close
The local social media are buzzing with the fact that notices have just appeared in the House of Fraser, saying that it’s going to close. The closure is attributed to several causes – not least, ‘the wicked landlord’ (the council, of course).
But regular visitors to the town won’t really be surprised. The shop ceased to be a department store years ago. And its offerings – at least, according to the Eye – were pretty modest. We imagine that its turnover was also modest.
Like everyone else (apart from those councillors who have announced the news) we’re free to speculate. So, here goes. Owners of shopping centres in general are keen to attract and retain ‘big name’ stores. It adds to the overall appeal and credibility of the centre, and, hence it adds to the value of the other shops within it. Our guess is that the council has bent over backwards for years to keep the House of Fraser open. We doubt that the store has contributed significantly to the council coffers during that time; quite possibly it has been subsidised by them. So, the last thing the council wants is to see the store closed. We guess that, basically, the Fraser Group has lost interest in its Camberley store.
We imagine that the council has seen this coming for ages. Indeed, the much-delayed draft Local Plan proposes 120 ‘dwellings’ for the HoF site. The problem is the timing. There is still the London Road Block awaiting a development proposal. And a number of Atrium shops in Park Street are closed. A few empty properties in a town is healthy; too many shut at one time is decline.
Should we criticise the council? Probably not, as far as the HoF closure or the empty shops in Park Street are concerned. But, in failing to sort out the London Road Block a decade ago, the council has certainly contributed to the town’s decline.
Of course, our sympathies are with the staff. Including those in Caffe Nero within the store, as it will be closing too (we’ve checked). Let’s hope they find alternative employment soon.