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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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Crawley College to reopen following incident

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Crawley College will be beginning a phased reopening to students from tomorrow, Thursday 29 April.

The phased reopening will take place between tomorrow and Tuesday 4 May with full details by courses provided on the college website www.crawley.ac.uk . Students should check details before returning to campus.

The campus has remained closed for the past two days following police investigations into the incident that took place at the college on Monday (26 April).

Vicki Illingworth, Principal of Crawley College, said:

“We are looking forward to welcoming our students and staff back to the college.

“We’d like to reassure everyone, the college is safe and they will be well supported in their return to the campus.

“Sussex Police have confirmed that this is being treated as an isolated incident which is not terror related and nobody else is being sought in connection with the incident.  The individual concerned is in police custody and has been charged.”

“We are now focussed on ensuring we can bring students and staff safely back on site. We’re proud of the service we provide to our students to give them opportunities in education and training.

“I can reassure everyone that this was a one-off incident and we have strategies in place to keep everyone as safe as possible, as well as giving the students the support they need to come back and join us to complete their studies successfully.”

Vicki also echoed her earlier comments, paying tribute to the staff who supported students who were on site during the events of Monday afternoon.

She added:

“I continue to remain full of admiration of our team. They pulled together on Monday and implemented all of the protocols we have in place to keep students safe.

“They’ve continued to work together to support each other and their students over the past couple of days – and they will continue to do so when students return to campus.

“We are also particularly proud of the two members of staff who acted so bravely and swiftly to apprehend the individual before the police arrived. They acted selflessly to protect their students and the college community. They have asked for privacy during this time.

“It was a very intense time for everyone involved.

“The students who were kept inside the college and who were part of the emergency evacuation were supported throughout by our staff and counselling services have been available to them this week. These services will continue to be in place for them to access.

“We’ve continued to be in touch with our students through our support services to check that they are ok and we will resume face-to-face counselling as soon as we can.”

Work is taking place at the college campus to repair some damage which was sustained during the evacuation and subsequent investigations, with teams working hard to ensure the campus is ready for reopening.

The college would like to thank students, staff, the Police and Emergency Services and the wider community for their ongoing support and understanding.

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