Do you want this on your doorstep?



Buildings a bit like this are heading our way.  Three of them, to be precise, five-storey blocks of flats.

Hannibal Road Gardens

AccordiaCuboid House TetrisThe above buildings are described in a planning application as ‘design precedents’ for blocks of flats to be built on the site of the former Duke of York hotel (on the corner of Frimley Road and the A30) and the adjacent, currently partly-demolished, office block in the Frimley Road.

The planning application submitted earlier this year provides illustrations of what the proposed buildings will look like, this being one of them.

Duke of York elevation

Now, personally, we’re rather in favour of exciting and challenging architecture.  But there’s a place for everything, and we just don’t think the top of the Frimley Road is the right place for buildings like this.

We’ve recently learned that the developer has submitted some – apparently slight – amendments to the original application.  This doesn’t alter our concern;  the buildings would be out-of-place in that location.

(You can see the full ‘suite’ of planning application documents, including those describing the proposed amendments, here.)

If you find the proposed buildings to be inappropriate in that location, then DO SUBMIT AN OBJECTION TO THE BOROUGH COUNCIL.  This applies even if you objected to the pre-amended planning application earlier this year.  THE DEADLINE IS RIDICULOUSLY TIGHT – your response must be received by the council by 9th August.

To submit an objection, simply click here. In the body of the e-mail that appears, write that you think that the design of the proposed buildings is incompatible with the the area, and add your name and address.  Then just send the e-mail.  Urgently!!  (Don’t simply say that you don’t like the buildings;  sentiment and taste don’t carry much weight in planning decisions.  Incompatibility with ‘the street scene’ is more relevant.)

To an extent this is a numbers game.  If you object to the planning application, do encourage others to submit objections too.

(As well as proposing buildings that are incompatible with the street scene, the planning application runs counter to a number of aspects of the Local Plan.  The Camberley Eye and other local residents’ representatives will be detailing these ‘non-conformances’ in their objections too.)

Addendum.  Have a look here to see what has previously been approved for the Duke of York site.

25 thoughts on “Do you want this on your doorstep?

  1. Not sure what the problem is here. The “street scene” from The Arena right down to Blackwater on the A.30 is one of neglect and there is little if anything of architectural interest until you reach the concrete elephant. Far from impoverishing the locality, this block of flats looks as if it could be the start of a Londonn Road upgrade.

    • Well, there are two ‘problems’. One is entirely a matter of taste, so there’s not a lot to discuss. The other is that the planning application flies in the face of the Local Plan (which was produced with the democratic involvement of local residents). Unless you want development in Surrey Heath to be completely uncontrolled, that has to be grounds for rejecting the application.

  2. Having lived here on and off for 40 years and seen Camberley decline in the 80s and regenerate in the 90s and 00s I see the town’s dilemma. The image of the A30’s ribbon development of the Academy facing shops is awful and gives our wonderful town a bad reputation of decay, a reputation that is unwarranted. Camberley had a choice, urban decay of a sleepy commuter town or a modern town. It chose the latter with the atrium, the shopping centre in the 60s, the Tesco/M&S development and the office developments around the area. It could have retained the Duke of York as a historic building, also the Robins cinema etc but their utility in re-use is limited. As a historian I bemoan the loss of our heritage but the Duke has gone! Having modern flats, albeit quirky and cutting edge can only be a springboard to other reuse of derelict sites. Modernise and attract or become a derelict museum. I don’t see this as a choice at all. I’d rather have full flats than empty office space – there’s a glut of that in this area. The A30 is the shopfront to our town – brighten it up or continue to face the challenge of attracting people, who might prefer to look at and visit, other very similar but smarter towns.

    • Well, yes, but. No doubt post war planners and developers thought it wasn’t a choice when they replaced slums with tower blocks of flats. We’ve blown up a lot of the latter since. I absolutely agree, the current A30 frontage is a shambles – but that doesn’t mean that we should accept ‘anything’ as a replacement. Not least, a completely different building design has already been approved to replace the Duke of York itself, so there’s no need to assume that the current planning application is the only option, or necessarily the best one possible.

      Secondly, the borough council has already set out formally its requirements for the ‘urban area’ of the borough. These were produced after a public consultation. The current application does not comply with the requirements. If it’s approved, it pretty much makes the concept of town planning and public consultation redundant ; just leave it to the developers to decide what they want to build without any guidance from local people.

      Thirdly, as a recent Camberley Eye post points out, I actually quite like much out-of-the-ordinary architecture. But the proposed flats would be on what is a fairly key site for decades; we’ve got to be confident that they’re going to do the town credit, even if their residents hang out their washing on their balconies. It’s courageous to commit the town for decades on the basis of some conceptual drawings, so shouldn’t it be a case of “if in doubt, say ‘no’” That doesn’t rule out saying ‘yes’ if a stronger case is made later.

    • You put this much better than I, but I think we are on the same lines. It continues to bother me that human nature seems always to be to object to anything new. Take a walk down the London Road from the sports centre to…well, the Blackwater roundabout and tell us of any building with which the Duke of York plans would compare unfavourably – believe me, there are none except the elephant!

  3. Notwithstanding the planning applications apparent violation of the agreement, I took a long hard look at the A30 buildings today. Yes, I agree that the Frimley Road Junction is a key site of the A30. The Indian restaurant and the run of untidy shops up to Osnaburgh Hill (to the old Dolphin pub) are also a complete eyesore and will look even more out of place when any new building is constructed opposite them. From the junction down towards Blackwater is an almost complete run of modern office blocks.

    I look at the flats opposite the Clockhouse Roundabout in Farnborough as modern and yet stylish and a good planning decision. The monstrous yellow storage warehouse on the A30/A325 roundabout a poor one. And yes, I’d rather the “Duke” was converted into flats and preserve the integrity of the exterior. The A30 is Camberley’s shop front yet it lets us all down.

    The Council will have to ask themselves if this new proposal is in the spirit of the application. Yes the Urban plan was produced under public consultation but such planning is at strategic level whereas real planning applications are at street level. Councils rarely build or finance developments so their control over what developers want to build cannot be total – can it?Planning decisions rely upon developers providing the cash and the will to build. If you constrain them too much or are too prescriptive then they’ll look elsewhere, they are not a charity and answer to no-one except their shareholders.

    We missed an opportunity to save, convert or restore the Duke of York, a campaign to save it in a similar vein to Farnborough’s Tumbledown Dick was not mounted which is a shame but I doubt it would have been successful either. That to save the School was successful, that to save the Robins Cinema, sadly not despite it’s (to my eyes) beautiful frontage.

    I’d rather that the site be used to improve the traffic flow at this awkward and busy junction but if the site must be residential, I’d rather have progressive architecture than bland.

    As an aside, my thoughts on the A30 shops currently covered by a hoarding at the town end (Thai House to Job Centre) differ. I’d want to see the exterior of most of these preserved. Why? Because they too currently offer a poor public face to our terrific town and yet most are of historic value that at least the facades should be saved. Campaign to save things before they are demolished, once they are gone, let the developers provide something new within the spirit of the town plan or enjoy derelict lots!

    • Of course, we’re talking about personal taste – there are no wrongs or rights. Yes, a lot of the A30 frontage is poor quality. But, as it happens, I like the Big Yellow building. The immediate area consists of large quantities of tarmac and traffic; anything other than a striking building would be overwhelmed and lost.
      But what you’re missing is that the Duke of York planning application isn’t some architectural whim on the part of the developer. As I understand it, the architecture was chosen purely because it reflects an earlier APPROVED application, so the developer thought that there would be no problem in getting approval this time round. Also, as I understand it, the developer was unaware of the existence of the Western Urban Area character Supplementary Planning Document (which was finalised AFTER that earlier application) with which the current application ‘conflicts’. Hence, my guess is that if the developer was back at square one, they’d not propose what is now under consideration. So let’s not work on the basis that what’s on offer is the only commercially-viable design.
      (You may also have missed that the application DOES include modest road improvement – I think it includes widening of the ‘top end’ of Frimley Road.)
      You’ll be aware that you want your cake and eat it! You say that developers have to operate on a commercial basis, or they won’t operate at all. But you also want to preserve old buildings and frontages even though this often isn’t ‘commercial’. You’ll probably know that chunks of the façade of one of those buildings near the advertising hoarding literally collapsed onto the pavement in last winter’s frost. And I don’t see that a reactive public campaign to protect an old building (such campaigns often ignore commercial realities) should have more influence than a carefully thought-through planning document written after public consultation.
      But I’ll say again, I’m not opposed to the plans for the Duke of York et al site. What I AM saying is that anything built there will remain for decades, so if it is going to be progressive architecture we need to be sure that it’s going to be an asset not an eyesore. Until we’re confident about this, the logical response should be ‘no’.

  4. I get the impression that Camberley planning seem to just do what they want. As mentioned above in a reply, the Duke of York could have been saved (although what would it have been used for?). The Robins family cinema was a nice building but was allowed to fall into disrepair eventually being torched (conveniently making it easy to be demolished and replaced by, guess what? )It is interesting to note that some European towns which were devastated during the war have managed to rebuild ‘old’ buildings. Camberley planners don’t seem to feel the same way. The end result is we live in a nondescript town which could be anywhere in SE England.

    The A30 does need a facelift as it is a combination of old shops and empty office blocks. Despite what I said about the lack of ‘old’ buildings, I like some of the proposed designs (except the last one). What ever improvements you make to the town it will still be let down by the ‘DIY’ structure called Camberley Station. Sorry I have rambled a bit.

    • Oh, gosh, not an easy message to answer. But the last bit first.

      Five or six years ago I met a chap – can’t remember whom – who said he was responsible for the design/construction of the station. He openly admitted that it should be replaced!

      I’m generally critical of the borough council. But they don’t have a free hand in planning matters. They don’t have the finances (or, I’m pretty sure, the skills) to undertake major developments themselves. So they’re reliant on developers. And when a developer submits a planning application, ultimately it’s the elected councillors, rather than the planners, who decide its fate – as we’ve seen recently in the case of the proposed Tesco near the ‘tip’. (Or, to be strictly accurate, if a developer appeals against a decision, the ultimate power lies with the Planning Inspectorate, and not locally.)

      Of course, the post war reconstruction of continental towns was carried out in a totally different regime; Short-term ‘profit’ wasn’t the motive.

      Whilst developer’s profit is all-important (is this a down-side of living in a capitalist society?) projects like restoring Robins Cinema or the Duke of York aren’t going to happen unless someone spots a way of making them financially viable. The same thing can be said about the facelift of the A30, albeit there might be a better prospect of a financially viable scheme emerging. (‘Better’, but I’m not sure it’s ‘good’.)

      I’m always naive, but I’m not sure you’re implications about the Robins Cinema are justified. Realistically, there’s been no alternative uses for it since it fell into disuse, and no significant local pressure to restore it, so its replacement by flats has been inevitable for years. And the local council is under ‘official’ pressure to enable more homes to be built.

      As far as the Duke of York is concerned, the current proposal is so contrary to the council’s relatively new planning document setting out how the ‘Western Urban Area’ should be developed, that, if it is approved, the whole planning process might as well give up and go home. At least that would save the tax payers a little.

      But, to restore the balance. For a decade or more the borough council’s planners have promised to improve Camberley’s High Street. With the decline in retail in general, this is increasingly important. However, can you name a single significant improvement? Or is the promise so much hot air?? We ain’t impressed!

      • I take your point about the Robins Family Cinema. There would have been nothing you could have done with that other than what Aldershot did with their cinemas decades back. Even if Robins had been restored back to a functioning cinema it does not fit with the current multiplex expectation of today. The Atrium is a good example of what can be done (even perhaps to the detriment of the people who live across the road). I think it has made a significant improvement to Camberley. A decent cinema, bowling complex and some good places to eat. It is a good alternative to the High St and has a pedestrian area (something else which is commonplace in Europe).

        Ending again on the station; I am not criticising the guy who designed it. I am sure it was right for the time and was a quick fix but it’s replacement is long overdue and not a good advert for Camberley when you arrive by train.

      • Likewise. The station was a child of its time; I’d have enjoyed it when it was new, but we’ve moved on and it hasn’t. Of course, I’m tempted to point out that our rail service is so poor that not many people use the station… And the outlook isn’t much better.

  5. Why not some houses with gardens for families and children, rather than more flats. does Camberley need more flats?

    • Heaven only knows whether we need more FLATS. But the council has targets for ‘dwellings’, and it requires less land to achieve these by building flats. And a developer would build houses rather than flats if they thought that this would be more profitable. But you’ve put your finger on one thing; the council doesn’t have any requirement for new flats to have a stated minimum of external ‘play space’/somewhere for a washing line… It should have.

  6. What’s missing are plants. If these structures especially the flat roofs we’re planted it would make massive difference. They look very industrial, I am certain they could be more pleasing with different coloured bricks and some more ‘sculptured’ areas; look to Singapore and Milan. Build for the environment first humans second and you will create a place people want to live in not have to live in.

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