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“Bureaucracy gone mad!” Crawley orders Metro Bank to change their look in Queens Square

The bank that opened its branch in the autumn of 2018 is situated in a key corner of Queens Square.

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It is an impressive site. The corner site leading down from County Mall and into Queens Sq was transformed last year when Metro Bank took it over.

With local politicians in attendance there was real pride from those in the council of both the arrival of the banking firm but also of how impressive a branch had been created.

But in reality it now appears tensions were brewing as Metro Bank then appeared before a planning committee with an application to change the windows from the original design. This was rejected by planning.

The problem stems with the huge floor to ceiling windows that surround the bank.

According to sources the windows were not what was originally agreed and must now be changed to smaller ones.

The planning committees decision was only won by one vote but the implications could be immense.

According to an insider at Metro Bank the cost of replacing the windows could amount to almost £300k, money which was they claimed was originally allocated for local community activities.

Councillors voted for the officer recommendation to refuse Metrobank’s application to remove the condition. The voting was as follows:

For

Councillor Jilly Hart
Councillor Shahzad Malik
Councillor Tom McAleney
Councillor Peter Smith
Councillor Geraint Thomas

Against

Councillor Tina Belben
Councillor Francis Guidera
Councillor Kim Jaggard
Councillor Jonathan Purdy

So why is this change so important?

According to planning there is a requirement for shops within the town centre to keep in line with aesthetics – or simply put, try to keep in style with each other. No bold stand out look at us stores for Crawley.

But as opponents to the committees decision have pointed out, you only have to look just metres from Metro Bank to see stores like Decathlon and DW Sports and even Shoezone are similar to what the bank already has.

Recently there was another planning case around the new museum where windows was once again an issue but on that occasion the museum was allowed to keep them.

A Metro Bank spokesperson said:

“We’re disappointed with the decision of the planning committee and are currently considering the implications and whether to launch an appeal.

We believe that our investment in Crawley has helped improve the town centre and we’re delighted with the response we have received from the local community to our new store.”

It is very likely that Metro Bank will launch an appeal particularly considering the reported costs if they are forced to change the windows.

Henry Smith MP said:

“Labour led Crawley Borough Council’s decision this week to require newly opened Metro Bank to reduce the size of the windows at its Queen’s Square outlet is petty bureaucracy gone mad.

Councillors should be welcoming business investment and customer choice to our town centre, not trying to burden such important employers.”

In response Crawley Borough Council Leader Peter Lamb said:

“Metro Bank were aware of this requirement from the start, the rules exist to avoid a situation where the town centre looks chaotic and apply to everyone. No one is above the law and Metro Bank’s unfortunate decision to consistently ignore the warnings of planners has caused the current situation.

It was unfortunate that Mr Smith chooses to now attack the council’s administration over this as he knows that the Planning Committee is non-political and acts in the same way as a court, balancing evidence to decide what is or is not in line with the rules. As Council Leader I have no more control over it than he does, but as usual he puts politics before the good of the community.”

Possibly not the best timing for the planning committee to make such a decision as councillors and town leaders led an ‘Invest Crawley’ tour of the town yesterday.

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EXCLUSIVE: Henry Smith MP thanks Crawley for his re-election

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Speaking exclusively to Crawley News 24, newly re-elected MP Henry Smith has thanked residents of the town for their votes.

Henry also took a moment to answer some questions about the next steps.

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