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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.

Coronavirus

BREAKING NEWS: Coronavirus cases jump 200% in one week across Crawley

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On Monday 14th Sept the new “rule of six” comes into force across England with news breaking today that children under 12 will not be exempt from it.

The new rules mean people are limited to meeting in groups no larger than six people both indoors and outdoors.

The rule ‘could’ potentially be coming slightly too late as new figures for Crawley reveal a 200% jump in recorded cases in just one week.

People need to realise the harm it can do you without putting you directly in hospital

Data from the UK public health bodies shows that in last week (2nd – 8th Sept) there were 15 NEW cases reported in Crawley. This number does not seem a lot but when compared to the week(s) before it shows a dramatic jump.

In only the previous week there were only 5 new cases reported, with 4 separate days reporting no cases at all.

But in the past week this figure jumped with 8 reported in one day alone.

So far the worst single day for reported cases in Crawley was back on the 28th April when 19 cases were reported in a day.

To date, since recording began there have been 502 cases, with 77 of these resulting in death.

As more parts of the UK are also having to deal with stricter lock down restrictions Crawley remains below the national average of cases per 100,000 at 13. The national average is currently 18.

The towns neighbour, Horsham, saw an even greater rise of 360% with 23 cases reported between 2-8 Sept.

Across the UK an additional 3.497 cases were reported in the past 24 hours, an increase of 36% on the same day a week ago, taking the total to 365,174.

A local doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, said her and her colleagues were very worried about how too many people were downplaying the risk of infection.

“I hear every day some people talking about how the number of people in hospital through Covid are so low so we shouldn’t worry about the number of cases increasing – but we should. People need to realise the harm it can do you without putting you directly in hospital.”

But questions on how the new rules will be enforced are still not clear with new statements released from the Police that talk about ‘engaging, encouraging and explaining’ before even considering taking any action.

A source close to Sussex Police has told Crawley News 24 that there is both confusion and dismay within the ranks about who and how officers are going to contend with issues of larger groups than allowed meeting up, while juggling the increase of daily issues that are returning since the full lockdown.

Another source said they were awaiting a full outline of what powers the police really will have on Monday (14th Sept) before officers would be given full guidance on what they should do.

Sussex Police told Crawley News 24:

“As we start to see a rise in infections it is vitally important that we all follow the regulations and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

Everyone has a role to play limiting the outbreak by following the regulations, including those about gatherings which will be limited to six people both indoors and outside when the new legislation comes into force on Monday 14 September.

People need to take personal responsibility for their actions, in particular during this heath emergency, and this includes adhering to the latest government guidance.

Sussex Police will continue its approach of engaging, encouraging and explaining the current regulations and only taking enforcement action when necessary. “

Only 1 week after schools reopen, a couple of weeks after a house party alarmed residents in the town, (and Crawley Council confirming they were investigating the event), and new rules coming into force, all eyes will now be set to see just how well the town responds to the new measures and whether the rise is just a ‘blip’ or if it is a sign of a returning rise.

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