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Planning Issues => Planning Applications => Topic started by: Admin on April 25, 2012, 07:59:16 AM



Title: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Admin on April 25, 2012, 07:59:16 AM
2012/0831  
The private dental practice in Ashley Road has applied to change the use of 31 High St (the former village bakery, now a refurbished shop) to office use (D1) so that it would become a dentist's clinic open on weekdays.  The application is cleverly couched in asking for this  use alongside the existing retail use and in stating that some items would be sold from the premises, and the applicants have arranged for a petition in support.  No alterations are proposed to the exterior and for this reason there are no conservation obstacles.

However the practical outcome will be the loss of a prime retail shop in the shrinking core of the High Street's remaining shopping area and this is one reason why the Residents' Association and the Conservation Advisory Committee, after a good deal of thought, have lodged objections.  The other reason is that this will be the first test case here of such an application under the new Core Strategy that governs Elmbridge's planning process.  If this one is approved it will indubitably open the way to similar applications from landlords wishing to let to offices as leases come up for renewal on the remaining retail shops.  The essential character of the High St would be damaged.

If you wish to prevent such a slide you may still email an objection to tplan@elmbridge.gov.uk or write in.  Objections from retailers concerned about the knock-on effect of losing perfectly good shop premises in a prime position would I am sure carry particular weight.

To aid reflection the Association's grounds for objection can be downloaded here (http://www3.elmbridge.gov.uk/WAM/doc/Letters%20of%20Representation%20-%20Object-1310433.pdf?extension=.pdf&id=1310433&location=Volume2&contentType=application/pdf&pageCount=3) and the CAAC's objections, which notes in addition that the glass window will be obscured , here. (http://www3.elmbridge.gov.uk/WAM/doc/Letters%20of%20Representation%20-%20Object-1310365.pdf?extension=.pdf&id=1310365&location=Volume2&contentType=application/pdf&pageCount=3)

Meanwhile the Association has no objection to the other application (2012/0936) for a dentist, in the former HSBC building at Winter's Bridge.  Change of use from  financial and professional services to D1 dental practice (Let's hope that one will take NHS patients.)




Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: craigvmax on April 25, 2012, 09:55:05 AM
I can see why you'd come to the conclusion above but looking at both sides, with so many empty shops and office in the high street and surrounding, is it not better to have a viable established business operating from the premises and increasing footfall on the high street who might use other businesses at the same time, rather than it sat unused and in a shoddy state as it has for as long as I can recall?



Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Keith on April 25, 2012, 11:02:54 AM
It hardly seems likely that a dentist will increase footfall, open only on weekdays not 'shopping Saturday'.  It's better to have a place used than empty, but in this case you have to look beyond the immediate term and this first case to what will happen if the same argument is successfully applied to other cases as leases fall due in these difficult times.  We have defended retail use and to some extent arrested the precipitous decline in shops that began in the 1970s - see TD Today Autumn 2011.  Yes, some of them are empty, but that should help to produce market pressures for better rents (from the retailers' pov).  The question is: do villagers want a High St that becomes just houses and offices, or do they want to continue helping the struggle to keep shops here?  Providing an easy route for landlords to change use will promote the former.

We would not in any case be attracting a new business to TD: the practice currently operates in Ashley Road (indeed Enzo is my dentist and very good he is too)


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Dittonian on April 25, 2012, 11:13:10 AM
That shop is a nice shop just put in order and in an attractive location.  The chances of letting it to a real shop must be higher than almost any other of the premises  likely to be available.  I agree that we should act in longer term interests. 

What happened to the plan to turn it into a proper convenience store?


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: craigvmax on April 25, 2012, 11:16:00 AM
I think it would increase footfall as rather than maybe people parking in Ashley road and walking to the dentist they would be brought directly onto the high street and would pass Paulls, the post office, the dry cleaners etc.

ref shopping saturday, I dont know what the increase is in footfall on that day, I'm always surprised how many places are closed from lunchtime on a saturday.

I do take your point that it could provoke further decline in the high street and each case must be taken on it's own merits but as I said, this is already a viable established business so should we not be encouraging them to succeed by moving to what they clearly view as a better place for them to operate from?

I'd love to see more proper shops on the high street and seriously looked into taking over one but then another similar business opened up and I didnt think it would do either of us any good to be in competition in such a small place so stepped out of the frame. 


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Keith on April 25, 2012, 11:21:09 AM
Quote from: Dittonian on April 25, 2012, 11:13:10 AM
What happened to the plan to turn it into a proper convenience store?


Not sure - I believe they were quite far advanced.  Perhaps it was just a more immediate offer that came along?

While the shop was empty for a long time, that was because of the planning enforcement standoff with the developer before local villagers got involved with the better scheme that has lately been built (in that case as so often, hanging in there eventually produced a much better result, while there were always those earlier who had said 'anything but that eyesore').  Part of the concessions involved in that planning compromise was that office space would be provided in the building at (?27 - the new building) and that retail space would be preserved.  Now of the retail units at street level, one is set to be a dance studio and one would be the dentist if this is approved.   


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Dittonian on April 25, 2012, 11:28:43 AM
Quote from: craigvmax on April 25, 2012, 11:16:00 AM
each case must be taken on it's own merits 

There would be a very bad precedent, so that's one of the demerits.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Keith on April 25, 2012, 11:32:41 AM
The thing about precedents is that they work only in one direction: it's a ratchet effect.  If this one is conceded, the next planning application starts from a new point further down the track we don't want to go down (do we?)


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Keith on April 25, 2012, 11:44:31 AM
Just to add that this is the first case in the high St under the new Core Strategy planning document.  That has swept away some of the former detailed planning guidelines that would have defended this shop as retail only.  Instead we have basically just the one objective which is that retail space should not be reduced. 'in all areas' .  The present application is clever because it seeks D1 use alongside A1 retail use.  Therefore the applicant can argue innocently "but no retail space will be lost".  But we all know that in practice it will be lost, and the D1 use will supersede it.

The more I look at that objective, the more I think it was not well thought out.  It's a small example of what happens in the drive to 'simplify' planning regs.  It reads: "No decrease in A1 retail floorspace in all areas"  The present application seeks to drive a coach and horses through that, first off.  Secondly, it seems to me that the objective by being  inflexible is a bit daft - there might well be "areas" where retail space could be sensibly decreased, and others where it could sensibly be increased; as well as areas such as our own where it is a matter of retail survival to prevent further decrease.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: craigvmax on April 25, 2012, 11:45:56 AM
fair enough, maybe I'm in the minority.

I can only speak from watching a village in a similar position which lost all it's businesses in the end and subsequently house prices suffered too.

That was a bit different to Thames Ditton to be fair but I think the principles are the same. Empy shops can breed empty shops and i'd rather see thriving businesses which bring people into the village than places sat empty. 

maybe some sort of ratio could be applied with offices and businesses like this compared with outright shops, this could maintain the balance of keeping it "villagey" but equally not leaving places sat empty?


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Keith on April 25, 2012, 11:55:52 AM
Quote from: craigvmax on April 25, 2012, 11:45:56 AM
maybe some sort of ratio could be applied with offices and businesses like this compared with outright shops, this could maintain the balance of keeping it "villagey" but equally not leaving places sat empty?

I think indeed that would be better.  There is something like this in the designated 'town centres' in Elmbridge but not for the village centres.  EBC planning staff are being encouraged (partly by us, partly by this) to look again at the ways in which sensible retail space may be properly protected.

Thames Ditton has quite a lot of different businesses and the Association has always encouraged that - indeed promoted it: Ferry Works was preserved for businesses against a developer's plans for a tall block of riverside flats (seven storeys, I think it was, Craig....) with the Association both resisting the residential application and finding and promoting the architect with the solution that was eventually adopted. Offices in the former AC site that is now Harvest Lane.... there are several others where we resist residential to keep offices, or ensure some other component of a mixed economy..  

There is a slippery slope down which landlords frequently want to go in search of eventual capital profit:  retail-->offices-->residential.  Should we grease it, or put up safety nets?


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: craigvmax on April 25, 2012, 12:02:53 PM
Yep, fair enough. The RA do a great job, I dont question that for a second. I am merely thinking that a dentist seems to cross the line to being retail more than say, an office. Are landlords in TD extremely resistant to any sort of rent negotiation? Seems there must be scope to get more shops in rather than these places sat unused.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Keith on April 25, 2012, 12:08:11 PM
I think that's why this application (with its facial aesthetics / selling occasional items thrown in) is a difficult one and there was much gumsucking before a clear line emerged.  But it was thought through carefully, as i hope you'll agree.

I know that several of the retailers are also unhappy about the loss of a good shop premises.  They would be the ones to sound out, privately for obvious reasons, about how negotiations with landlords go but it seems to me safe to assume that if landlords haven't got an alternative other than to let a ground floor as a shop, then eventually that's what they'll do....


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: rudi on April 25, 2012, 02:14:33 PM
The argument for keeping it as a shop has its merits (which I agree in principle to) and all of which have been very succinctly and articulately put by the RA and others but in reality WHO and WHAT business is really going to take the risk and open a shop in Thames Ditton to the caliber that the RA expect/want?

With the massive financial outlay necessary in set up and running costs - let alone getting any form of lending from our currently fugal and selfish banks, I fear the shop will be empty long term. I understand the rent on this unit is also very high which makes anything other than a high profit/high margin 'service' business potentially unviable. 

I often see discussions about the type of shop the villagers would like to see - again I'm 100% with everyone in their utopian dream but we all want someone else to take the 'risk' and open up a 'nice' retail store. We all want a nice 'wine shop'/ 'a specialty food store'/ 'a proper convenience store', that actually sells things people want to buy and has stock on the shelves but in reality we'll just use it every once in a while - and that doesn't sustain a high rent/high inventory cost business.

Sadly and quite frankly in the current consumer and economic climate, I'm not certain we'll get anything else other than a dusty empty void for a very long time. 

I'd personally like to see the eyesore 'Stuart Lane' building done something with! It's utterly appalling - why isn't the RA actively trying to negate our historic building stock falling into dilapidation which in turn has a a negative effect on attracting businesses to our high street?


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Admin on April 25, 2012, 04:17:16 PM
These are forceful points and that's why we're discussing them.  On the state of the Conservation Areas, The RA has for example:
- put pressure on Caring Homes which yielded results on arresting dilapidation of the HOC (good by-product catalysed by the squat); 
- played major part in the Conservation Area appraisal and tried to stiffen that and the recent Supplementary Planning doc
- along with other RAs put pressure on the Elmbridge administration about the listing, on their watch, of Thames Ditton (and Brooklands) CA by English Heritage as 'at risk.'
- is right now even in the current budgetary climate making (we think) some progress on getting the resurfacing of roads especially the High St 
- has commissioned and received a report on Milbourne Pond as the first step to getting proper and lasting conservation of an historic pond in that CA.  If we can get approval we'll be fundraising for that.
-  put pressure on EBC and SCC over street lights in the CAs with at least partial success (thanks to sterling allies in EBC heritage dept) in getting 'heritage-quality' ones where not one was planned to be installed before.

What to do about privately-owned buildings if they are not Listed buildings or dangerous ones is not easy to see - got any constructive suggestions, Rudi?  Would you help in running with those ideas?  We are all volunteers.

(I know that in Portugal under the dictatorship everyone had to paint their house every seven years by law; but then after the revolution, that led to people displaying unkempt houses as a matter of pride!)


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: rudi on April 25, 2012, 10:21:56 PM
I agree with Admin - and think the RA do excellent work for the village - I don't always agree with their opinions and stances but we are a much better and richer place for their efforts than not.
I'm just concerned that there is a lack of realism regarding the economic realities of opening shops/businesses in the current climate and with the footfall that we can expect from such a location with the associated costs. To be honest it would be probably be better turned into a restaurant!


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Admin on April 25, 2012, 11:39:28 PM
Quote from: rudi on April 25, 2012, 10:21:56 PM
I don't always agree with their opinions and stances but we are a much better and richer place for their efforts than not.

"The Association" is basically anyone who wants to get involved and drive something along sensibly, so it's potentially as much 'you' as 'them'.  It provides a support framework. There are shared very broad aims, and a belief based on long collective experience that only local people, free of national party tribalisms, are best placed to represent themselves;  but there is as wide a range of opinion among active members as there is among villagers as a whole, believe me!  This forum, meetings etc help to work those differences out.
Quote:
I'm just concerned that there is a lack of realism regarding the economic realities of opening shops/businesses in the current climate and with the footfall that we can expect from such a location with the associated costs. To be honest it would be probably be better turned into a restaurant!

You may be right; and if it was likely that such a restaurant, or similar along the street,  would really be converted back into a shop if things picked up, there might be no problem and no objection.  But because of the way the planning permission ratchet operates (and I said ratchet) you tend to get irreversible changes in the direction towards residential that I described.

btw one interlocutor this week wondered whether there might be scope for a residents' co-op enterprise in the former Bakery........ lot of work (volunteers?) but interesting idea.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Sean Sullivan on April 27, 2012, 12:12:41 PM
As landlords for 31 High Street, we would like to take the opportunity to address some of the points raised on this thread. 

Firstly, there is and never has been any intent to convert the old bakery to a residential premises.  We have agreed terms on a 20 year lease and see the Nigrelli's local practice as a long term option.  The thread starts with a misleading statement namely, "...has applied to change the use of 31 High St (the former village bakery, now a refurbished shop) to office use (D1)".

In fact the application looks to extend the use to D1 but retain the A1 usage.  If for any reason the dentist should choose to terminate the lease the option to revert to retail is retained.

We have made concerted efforts to put any miss-understandings behind us and with the help of many local residents have completed what is seen by all as an attractive development in keeping with the village centre.  That it is a significant improvement is, in our view,  beyond question.  We have also contributed to other proposed developments intended to benefit and reinvigorate the village as a commercial hub - namely the encouragement of local businesses in our offices and the proposed walkway between the car park and the High Street.  Now we just want to secure a good tenant paying a fair rent to allow us to begin to recover the investment made. 

We would have been happy for a convenience store, and indeed have made every effort to conclude a deal with local independent traders and a number of national operators, but ultimately the appetite was not there (Craigvmax has made very relevant points in explaining why this has been the case). Contrary to some of the comments made the rents are not onerous, rather a fair reflection of market rates.  Of all of the prospective tenants that we have spoken to, not one has withdrawn on the basis that the rents were unreasonable. 

The idea of a bustling High Street full of locally based, independent traders is as attractive to us as it would be to any resident of the village but these are challenging economic times.   We believe that is not in the long term interests of the village to pursue an ideal that just doesn't exist any more, or at least not within the confines of current economic conditions .  Therefore a local business, one that has operated in the village for a number of years and that boasts an established local clientele, would seem to be a far more attractive option than holding out for an alternative that is just not likely to arise and will just add one more empty shop to the High Street.    We hope that the village will take our comments in the spirit that they are offered and give due consideration to our attempts to reach a reasonable economic solution and generate more energy and footfall in the High Street .


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Admin on April 27, 2012, 12:27:07 PM
Welcome to the forum, Sean, and an excellent contribution to a discussion that is providing a good deal to think about.

On the point about the start of this thread, the second line of that reads: "The application is cleverly couched in asking for this  use alongside the existing retail use and in stating that some items would be sold from the premises" so I think that it amply covers the matter of D1 being in addition to the existing A1.

On several occasions I and several others  have welcomed the constructive development at 29/31 and I reiterate that here.  It was not without a good deal of thought and worry that the objections were filed, and as I have noted, there is concern that under the new Core Strategy this case could set an uncomfortable precedent.  As leases lapse on other shops that are currently used for retail, what would there be to inhibit landlords from making similar requests for D1 alongside A1, then letting to offices?  Your views on that would be very welcome.

One thing is becoming clearer: with the new planning guidelines about to get implemented, the new Core Strategy for the borough, the likelihood of continuing recession,  and the pressures on retailers not least from changing shopping habits, we need a rethink with the participation of all who have, or take, an interest in the High St.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: craigvmax on April 27, 2012, 01:06:43 PM
informative and interesting point Sean. Welcome  btw.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Deborah on April 28, 2012, 12:13:21 AM
It's a dump and has been for the past 5 years. We should be grateful that a young couple wish to invest in the long term in our village. I personally would much rather see the building be put to good use rather than be something which blights the village.

As far as the retail use is concerned the High Street is littered with businesses that are services rather than retail - the hairdressers, the undertakers, the estate agents but to name a few.

I personally wil be giving my support to this one.



Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Sean Sullivan on April 29, 2012, 05:05:27 PM
Thanks for your welcome and response.

What would there be to inhibit landlords from making similar requests for D1 alongside A1, then letting to offices?  Demand, I guess. 

Thames Ditton High Street should be an attractive proposition for retailers:  An attractive, affluent town with a large car park backed by  long-established RA committed to supporting small independent businesses.  That said there are a number of empty shops many of which have been available for some time.  It seems that the demand is not there.

This is a reflection on societal changes rather than issues local to Thames Ditton.  While many of us like the idea of local shops the reality is that we still end up in the supermarkets or shopping online.  With this in mind the trend towards service based businesses is inevitable.  

It takes a bold soul to embrace the "Build it and they will come" principle and even more so when there are so many empty shops in the High Street.  That the Nigrelli's are prepared to make a long term investment in the village is something to be thankful for.  I fully understand the concern at losing retail space but feel that one more successful business (and one less empty shop) along with the footfall it would attract would make the idea of taking on one of the empty units in the High Street a less daunting prospect. 


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Highways Contact on May 02, 2012, 11:45:21 PM
Permission refused, based on the loss of a key retail site.  The proof will be in the pudding if it goes to a viable retailer in the next 6-10 months. Fingers crossed.  The old HSBC building was granted permission for change of use which seems sensible. 


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Admin on May 03, 2012, 01:20:06 PM
Thanks for spotting that. The arguments given by the Elmbridge Planning officer for refusal were: "it is not considered that sufficient detail has been provided with respect to the viability of the existing A1 unit.  On this basis, the proposed change of use would not accord with the provisions of Policy CS18 of the Core Strategy.
....
The proposed change of use would result in the loss of an existing retail unit within the Local Centre for which no justification has been provided.  "


Meanwhile, shopkeepers in the village have told me that in fact several retailers were interested in the premises but the rent asked was too high. I am not able to comment on the detail but I hope that this matter, which is of obvious commercial sensitivity, is not lost entirely to the argument.  Sean will presumably know how many enquired about the premises for retail.  Perhaps they did not take the matter further in view of the rent level?


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Sean Sullivan on May 10, 2012, 06:07:41 PM
Surprised to hear that several village retailers were interested as they kept their interest to themselves; we only ever spoke to one.  

Our discussions with this party took place over a number of months and included visits from shopfitters and other parties working on their behalf.  

Rent did not appear to be an issue as this was agreed at the very outset and reflected a fair market rate, one that was substantially lower than suggested by two commercial surveyors and was, in fact, lower per square foot than rates agreed for two local premises within the last three months:  As fair a representation of market rates as you could imagine!



Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: rudi on May 11, 2012, 10:49:11 PM
Missed opportunity! And as I've said before it will probably remain an empty shell for a very long time..... but again the protagonists seem to want to hold on for something that probably will never happen - because no one has either the finance to set up a shop or the potential revenue stream to sustain it. 


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: craigvmax on May 21, 2012, 01:05:19 PM
it really looks horrendous all boarded up like that. I'm tempted to do a banksy


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Admin on May 21, 2012, 01:31:10 PM
A standard developers' tactic is to emphasise the 'eyesore' matter, and some people fall for that.

I was talking to Tricia on Saturday about getting the schoolchildren to do a nice mural on the boarding.  We'll talk to PVK about it.

Meanwhile Karen Randolph is checking what powers the council has in the Conservation Area to address the unsightly boarding.  A bit pathetic if it's been put up out  of sheer spite.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Sean Sullivan on May 21, 2012, 04:04:31 PM
As the owners of 31 High Street, we would like to take this opportunity to put our position on the record.

We have been told by Insurers that we are board up the windows of the commercial units in order to minimise the chances of vandalism or squatters, if we wish insurance cover to remain in place.  There is a large amount of glass and Insurers have a very real concern about the risks they are insuring against and require we do everything possible to mitigate their risk.  They have been pressing for this to happen for some time, pressure we resisted for as long as possible while the consultation process was taking its course.

Whilst appreciating this does have a negative impact on the street scene it does also make the units more difficult to let.

Several have commented on this forum that local retailers felt the rent asked for the 2 commercial units at number 31 are too high and were therefore put off from leasing the unit(s).

This is simply not the case.

The asking rent is 25.1% lower than that achieved very recently in comparative premises in the village. 

Much mention has been made of interest from unnamed third parties.  Commercial sensitivities notwithstanding and in the spirit of open and constructive debate, would it be useful for those who claim to have enquired about the premises but were put off (for whatever reason) say so here and provide a brief summary of their experiences?

For ease of reference, my contact details are as follows and I would be delighted to talk with any party/ies interested in letting either or both of the units:

Sean Sullivan
E: sean@nextiaproperties.com
M: 07973 509498



Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: craigvmax on May 21, 2012, 05:02:35 PM
emails bouncing back Sean


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Sean Sullivan on May 21, 2012, 05:47:14 PM
Apologies, Craig - can you try again, please: sean@nextiaproperties.com


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Admin on May 21, 2012, 08:55:14 PM
We'll see if we can get you a retail customer.  What is the asking rent?

I too would be grateful if those who have told us that there was interest but the rents were too high would come forward.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Highways Contact on May 22, 2012, 12:46:06 PM
Sean's assertion that insurers will increase premiums on vacant property without hoardings is correct. A typical multiple is 2 x the normal premium. Some insurers are more flexible than others and it is worth ringing around. My broker suggested that an insurer will often waive this policy if you employ a credible property management company who makes daily inspections. Alternatively some insurers will be happy if you have a credible person living in close proximity who checks the property on a daily a basis.  Is PVK and option?  This would keep premiums down, make it easier to let and improve the street scene.  You could also point your broker to Crime Stats in TD which are very low.  PM me if you would like to try my broker.


Title: Re: 31 High St: dentist
Post by: Sean Sullivan on May 22, 2012, 03:28:15 PM
Thank you HC.  That would be really useful.  I'd be grateful if you could pass the contact details on.  My email is sean@nextiaproperties.com. 

More than open to the suggestion that local children brighten up the frontage with a mural, perhaps something to celebrate our (reasonably local) new European Champions ;-) 

As to publishing the rent required I would prefer to speak to interested parties directly and am open to meet whenever is convenient. 


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