St Albans – Cafe Society or Charity Shop Society?

More we dont like your coffee nonsense, this time in St Alban’s,  On the Nero research though there is a dependent independent variable issue – like upmarket pizza chains coffee chains will be spatially autocorrelated with locations where there is strong ABC1 footfall. They don’t necessarily cause that footfall, they reflect it.

Herts Ad

Campaigners are hoping councillors will wake up and smell the coffee when they decide whether or not to give Caffe Nero planning permission for a city centre outlet tonight (Tuesday).

 Planning officers are recommending that permission should be granted for the coffee chain to change the use of the former Monsoon clothing store, a Grade II listed building in Market Place, St Albans.

But Marion Hammant, who has led the campaign to persuade the council that there are already too many coffee chains in the city, is hopeful that councillors on the planning committee central will take the opposing view at tonight’s meeting.

Marion, who is backed by St Albans Civic Society, believes that St Albans is saturated with coffee chains which damage local independent cafés and retailers.

She has received plenty of support for her campaign against the Caffe Nero application which has attracted nearly 200 objections to the council.

They cite a number of reasons why the Caffe Nero bid should be refused including over-saturation of coffee shops, loss of character in the city centre, the impact on local coffee shops and the homogenisation of the city centre which could affect visitor numbers.

But planning officers maintain that the proposal is an appropriate use for the building and would contribute to the vitality and viability of the city centre.

They see it as preferable to the building standing empty and refer to research put forward by the applicants, Nero Holdings Ltd, that coffee shops improve the local economy of High Streets by three to five per cent.

Marion, who will be given three minutes at the planning committee to put forward her objections to the scheme, said it would help if the council had a retail policy in place limiting the number of coffee chains that could open in the district: “This is about what we want the town centre and St Albans to be. Is it going to be just charity, coffee and discount shops or have a degree of distinctiveness?”

Marion said there was ‘a degree of passion’ about the issue and said the leaflet she and others had put out around the town bore the words ‘Oh no, not another one’ as its top line.

And she called on councillors voting on the issue to have the ‘courage to say we don’t want this’.

Labour in Hammersmith and Fulham will Scrap Some Planned Developments


The Labour victory in Hammersmith and Fulham has raised questions over the future of Terry Farrell’s £8billion masterplan for Earls Court

 Speaking to the BBC after the local elections, Labour Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Stephen Cowan, said that some planned developments in the area would now be scrapped – although he wouldn’t reveal which ones.

The first phase of the Earls Court scheme designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), Terry Farrell Architects and Pilbrow & Partners, had been given planning permission back in April 2014 and includes the demolition of two estates and the Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

Prior to the election Labour councillors had been in discussion with local residents against the demolition of the surrounding estates and had issued a manifesto pledging to take immediate measures to protect homes.

People’s Estates campaigner Jonathan Rosenberg told AJ sister-title Construction News that residents’ objectives ‘could not have been further apart’ from the Tory-led council  and he believed the new Labour council was the ‘best possible thing for its no to demolition, yes to community control campaign.’

Farrell’s wider masterplan includes 7,500 new homes, of which 1,500 will be affordable, and a £452million package of benefits for the local community including £44million earmarked for local transport infrastructure and £36million for local school, health, community and cultural space provision.

A spokesperson for the developer CapCo commented: ‘We look forward to working with the new administration in the period ahead.

‘The Earls Court scheme will create 7,500 homes and 10,000 jobs and brings £450 million in community benefits and improvements to the local area, including new roads, schools, health centres and transport improvements. The scheme received planning consent in November 2013 and we look forward to working with the new administration in the period ahead.’

Detailed design proposals for further phases of the Earls Court Masterplan will be presented for consultation in late 2014.

But they wont have a choice will they as the extra homes in the masterplan are now in the London Plan, and because of changes in the last budget H&F will e forced to intensify existing estates if they want to build new affordable housing.  I will bet that after a year or two hiatus the plans will be back.

I used to do a lot of big sites work in H&F.  It was clear in the labour days that the priority was not to maximise affordable housing but top maximise the % of affordable to manipulate voting roles, and when the conservatives took over they had learned a good lesson as their priority was exactly the opposite.

The Earls court scheme is controversial, but if London is to meet anything like its housing needs it needs 20 or 30 similar schemes, from Bermondsey to Lambeth, from Finsbury Park to the Lea Valley.  If Labour try and block it it will give Boris just the ammo he needs to declare a mayoral development corporation/housebuilding zone and shut the locals out.  Earls Court could be London’s Hammarby Sjostad, and just like that area was opposed by exactly the same kind of misconceived campaigners. The same kind of people that show groups of visiting urbanists around such areas claiming it was their idea all along.