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‘Common sense prevails’ as Metro Bank wins appeal over Crawley Queens Sq windows

After months of speculation an appeal by Metro Bank around their branch windows in Queens Square has been successful.

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The bank had become embroiled in problems around the windows since they completed their new site back in 2019.

The problem stemmed from the fact that they had not stuck to the plans they had originally submitted and it was argued that the look they had finished with, floor to ceiling windows, did not fit in with the rest of the square – despite being located just metres away from another store with floor to ceiling windows.

In a vote back in June 2019 councillors on the planning committee voted against Metro Bank being able to keep the windows they installed despite a difference in public opinion saying:

“The design detailing and proportions of the shopfront glazing, framing detail and fenestration pattern as currently installed fails to respect the character and appearance of the original New Town shopping area and is visually incompatible and incongruous with its surroundings causing harm to the street scene in The Martlets and Queen Square.”

In appeal Metro Bank pointed out that in their highly competative market place where they have less than a 1% market share, brand identity was critical in order to reinforce customer’s famailiarity with their offer. They also added that they needed to create an attractive and modern shopfront consistent to other high street retailers and pointed out numerous other outlets within walking distance that also had the floor to ceiling windows for their shopfronts.

Metro Bank also pointed out that they had taken a dated building which they said promoted little in the way of visual interest and turned it into a prominent and contemporary designed building.

In their appeal they also successfully argued that the shopfront design they installed was not in conflict with policy and that it was not only a significant improvement to the previous facade but also in-fact fully supported in policy.

Within their appeal Metro Bank paid a reference to the recent retrospective planning changes that had been approved by the council around the windows at Crawley Museum which with committee report stated had “resulted in a development of significantly lower quality than was originally permitted”.

In responding to and approving the appeal it was concluded that the current windows did not cause harm to the character nor the appearance of the square and also added that the windows added some diversity and ‘an acceotable effect on the character and apeparance of their surrounding context’.

One customer of the bank who asked to remain anonymous said:

“Finally common sense prevails. The town has needed some modernising and when I heard they may have to change things it just seemed like nonsense.”

In a response to the news Councillor Guidera said:

“This bad decision was taken at the first planning meeting after the election in May 2019 and I warned everyone at that meeting that the committee’s decision could be appealed and leave Crawley tax payers on the hook for the huge cost of losing an appeal.

I even called for a recorded vote so the public could see for themselves which way each councillor voted (so you’d know who to blame because I could see what was coming…). Regrettably, my warning was ignored by all of the Labour councillors, most notably the brand new Councillor for Ifield Cllr Jilly Hart (at her first ever meeting) and Ifield Cllr Peter Smith, our supposed town centre economic development cheerleader! For the record, all of the Conservative Members voted to let Metro bank keep its windows as they are because they look fantastic.

Immediately after this meeting I resigned from the committee, deeply unhappy with how I felt the committee had behaved that evening.

It’s no surprise to me that Metro Bank have now won their appeal, 8 months later, and what remains to be known is how much money this terrible committee decision has cost our town in legal fees and council staff time.

It’s an absolute disgrace and once again, Cllr Peter Smith, the man who wanted to charge Ifield school children 30% of their charity money for their sponsored walk in Tilgate Park days before that meeting, has his fingerprints on it. Ifield residents surely must now take a good, hard look at their represention and look forward to changing it at the next election in May?

In reponse Cllr Peter Smith who is Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development said:

“Crawley’s planning policies are designed to protect the interests of all residents and businesses in the best way that we can.

The current Local Plan 2035 is under consultation and residents and businesses are encouraged to comment on it. The planning inspectors decision closes this case.”

Lifestyle

Safety warning calls after two washing fires including one in Southgate, Crawley

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Firefighters are reminding householders of some simple safety steps when using electrical appliances such as tumble dryers and washing machines.

It follows two incidents in two days.

In the first incident firefighters were called after a pile of folded washing caught fire after being tumble-dried over the weekend.

A crew from Bognor Regis Fire Station was mobilised at 01.56am on Saturday to reports of a fire in a home on Lion Road in Pagham.

Upon arrival, firefighters found the property was heavily smoked logged, but thanks to a working smoke alarm, the three occupants had been alerted and had been able to escape from the property.

The fire started after the home owner had washed and tumble-dried some towels earlier on in the evening. These were then stacked and put in a hessian type bag in the hallway. But in the early hours of the morning, the towels, which had self-heated, began to smoke and caught fire. Fortunately, the homeowner had a working smoke alarm.

Crews removed the towels to fresh air and extinguished them.

In the second incident  at 4.10pm on Sunday, firefighters were called to a washing machine fire in a first floor flat in Imperial Mews. Two appliances from Crawley and a Surrey Fire & Rescue Service crew from Salfords were mobilised. On arrival, firefighters wearing two sets of breathing apparatus extinguished the fire using a hose reel and a CO2 extinguisher.

The fire damaged washing machine was removed from the property. Nobody was injured during the incident, but the property sustained smoke damage which meant the resident needed alternative accommodation for the night.

Simon Foster, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s Performance Risk and Improvement Team Group Manager said:

“At this time of year, people are using their tumble dryers far more than at other times of the year.

“When taking clothes out of the tumble dryer, make sure you wait for laundry to cool down before putting it away. Oil residue and oxygenating chemicals from stain removing detergents can create a chemical reaction causing items like tea towels to self-heat, smoulder and could catch fire.

“Once clothes have cooled down, make sure you store them in a well-ventilated area.”  

The fire service is reminding people of the following safety tips when using electrical appliances:

•Look out for product recall notices.

•Register your appliance – appliances up to 12 years old can be registered on the Register My Appliance website.

•Don’t run appliances such as tumble dryers, washing machines or dishwashers overnight or when you are out.

•Always read the manufacturer’s instructions.

•Have your appliance serviced by a qualified engineer.

•Do not put rags or materials into a tumble dryer if they have been used to soak up flammable liquids. You can find out more about home fire safety by visiting the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service website here: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire-emergencies-and-crime/west-sussex-fire-and-rescue-service/home-fire-safety/electrical-and-heating-appliance-safety-advice/

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