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.
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.
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.