Design for Joules in King Street looks good but do we need a Ludlow town centre design guide?

We have known for a while that the upmarket clothing chain is planning to move into the former Shoe Zone premises on King Street opposite the Bull Ring Tavern. Now, the company has published plans for a new shopfront.

Shoe Zone has long been a blight on our historic streetscape. It was popular for the cut price shoes it sold and we need cheaper clothing retailers in town. But its facia was the ugliest by many a mile.

The design being put forward by Joules is a splendid improvement (16/03568/FUL). But, given the decision to approve an overly dark scheme for Crew Clothing, I think it could be time the town to developer a design guide for shop frontages and street furniture.

Joules_visualisation

Joules_proposed_frontageClick for larger image

This is a timber shopfront. It doesn’t shout at you but advertises the retailer well. I would have preferred a colour for the woodwork that was more subdued but the ochre is certainly acceptable. The current blue facia screams its ugliness at passers-by and the proposal from Joules is a great improvement.

Shoe Zone

Crew Clothing

I wish that we had achieved such a good design for Crew Clothing. Shropshire Council has approved the scheme (16/02226/LBC).

I respect the work that our conservation officers do. However, on this occasion I have to disagree their decision to recommend the scheme for approval. The proposed dark blue and yellow décor was opposed by the town council, conservation committee and myself. But the team concluded: “It is not considered that the proposed redecorated shopfront would cause any undue harm to the character and appearance of the listed building or the wider character and setting of the conservation area.”

I particularly disagree that the Crew Clothing shop in Shrewsbury, decorated in the proposed style, forms a precedent for the Ludlow scheme. The Shrewsbury premises is located on High Street, a wider and better lit street than Ludlow. Benefiting from stronger light, it is possible to use darker colours on the mouldings at the Shrewsbury location compared to Ludlow.

However, the decision has been made and it is at least a change that can be reversed.

A Design Guide for Ludlow?

We often spend a lot of time working on what seem like small details in our town centre streetscape. This is essential if we are to retain the historic character of the town. So many other town centres have been ruined by careless colour schemes and ghastly facias.

I think we are getting to the point where it would be useful to set out just what designs for shopfronts, street furniture and signage are acceptable. A design manual will help retailers through making it clear what is acceptable. This will reduce the length of time needed for planning permission and listed building consent.

Such a project is best led by conservationists in partnership with the town council and Shropshire Council. I suggest this because the town council is thoroughly stretched with service changes and independent leadership would ensure that there is no interruption by the May 2017 elections. The design guide could eventually form part of a longer term management plan for the historic environment of the town, including the town walls.

I’ll discuss these thoughts with the conservation community and town council and see what their views are. Let me know what you think.

12 thoughts on “Design for Joules in King Street looks good but do we need a Ludlow town centre design guide?

  1. Ludlow Town Council are consulted on planning for SC, with the assistance of the Conservation Area Advisory Committee. They are the groups with the local knowledge..
    Unfortunately SC appears to ignore their advice. Any design guide would be useless unless SC changed their attitude towards planning.

    1. I think a design guide would strengthen LTC’s voice. The position at the moment is that the council, and us councillors, can’t point to any guidance that says what the town should look like. That means that officers always fall back on general principles and in this case saying “what works for Shrewsbury should work for Ludlow.”

      1. My point is that that guidance is already there, from those groups. SC choose to disregard that local knowledge, for whatever reason – most likely staffing, financial, and time constraints. Those constraints won’t change… All that can change is the ethos of SC, and it’s general attitude towards our town. Sadly, recent evidence shows that that is increasingly unlikely.

        1. If we don’t have a design policy, we will always be weak in making planning arguments. The opinion of a committee on the day, based on who turns up and their thoughts and wisdom is one thing. It is so much more powerful if the committee says: “This proposal conflicts a policy that has been consulted upon an agreed.”

          Ludlow could produce a supplementary planning document on design. That would have statutory force but would take more commitment from councillors. If the town council can’t go that far, a non-statutory design guide would still count for a lot.

    2. more and more we realise that SC does not have the interests of Ludlow at heart. If there was a function which should be devolved from SC to Ludlow Town Council it should be planning particularly in relation to the fascia boards in the town.

  2. I fear that a design guide could result in a ghastly Poundbury-type result. Ludlow is a living town not a concept! I can see that it would be sensible to reduce the number of bright plastic shop fronts favoured by betting shops but I think getting knickers into a twist about whether the paint on shop fronts is blue or black is a waste of energy.

  3. I absolutely agree with Joyce.

    Piecemeal comments about what we do or don’t like when we are shown it are much less effective than a (general) list of what we do like to see here. Perhaps any such design guide could include a set of photographs of, say, a dozen established shops that are part of traditional Ludlow, along with brief comments on what the features are that make those establishments harmonious with each other. This at once makes it easier to be succinct about such things as scale, colour, materials, shape, display area, doors and much more.

  4. With all due respect rather than tinkering with aesthetic and taste criteria, which may only put off potential businesses, moving into town, shouldn’t you be on Barclays case!? Their shop, next to the bank is the worst possible ‘image problem’, especially with the lackadaisical work on The Church.
    Why are they allowed to keep a key property empty for so long?

    1. As far as I am aware, councils have no powers to force owners of businesses to make use of any building. Short of compulsory purchase, that is. I can’t see that CPO applies in this case.

      But you are right. It is a disgrace that a shop remains empty for so long.

  5. I’m not sure this is a good idea. At what point in time do you freeze acceptable design of facias and colours etc. Ludlow is not and never has been a museum, it changes and evolves whilst protecting it’s oldest historic buildings.
    Each application should be determined on its own merits not by preconceived ideas and regulations at one moment in history.

  6. Wow , most of your comments I find very disturbing. Yes Ludlow is a evolving town, but I agree with Andy and given that it is also a town with an amazing heritage we should be concerned with how it looks.
    Granted most people do not seem to mind the American model of “throw anything in regardless of how garish it is” I am not.
    I firmly believe in putting buildings into a town which has been here for 1,000 years which fit and add to the general look and feel of a town which both thrives on its look and also needs to maintain its character.
    Shrewsbury is not the ideal to make decisions for a very different town and likewise it needs to take into account local feelings on the issue.

    Personally these bright coloured frontages I find awful, it makes one feel like it is “just another town” rather than the “historic Ludlow” which I feel we need to project to visitors after all who bring a whole heap of business to out town and without which we would not have a town centre in existence.

    Thank you for your work Andy

  7. The planning advice is there, the consultation opportunities are there. LTC, as does the LCAAC, takes its responsibilities seriously. Shropshire Council increasingly choose to disregard them, or are reluctant to enforce planning regulations where necessary.
    No progress can be made until SC gets its house in order.
    This would include SC appreciating Ludlow – perhaps a forlorn hope.

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