A SKY blue shop front does not spoil Henley’s historic ambience, according to a Standard survey.
Just 12 per cent of respondents to our online poll criticised Paperchase, the new Bell Street stationery store whose colour scheme has sparked calls for a planning crackdown.
By contrast, 82 per cent said the nearby branches of Carphone Warehouse and Boots were out of keeping with the area while 73 per cent criticised M & Co and 69 per cent disliked Sainbury’s Local.
Town councillors want to stop traders in the town centre conservation area from having inappropriate modern shop fronts, saying they put off shoppers.
It comes after Paperchase unveiled its new frontage at the former Clinton Cards store in December. The council has no power to ban the colour of a shop front.
Councillor Dieter Hinke, who chairs the council’s planning committee, wants an Article 4 direction for the town centre which would give the council power to ban shop alterations deemed to affect the area’s character.
But according to our survey, Paperchase ranks among the least offensive shops in Bell Street.
This week, the shop was running joint 10th out of 13 with independently owned Bagatelle Toys, also in Bell Street. Eight per cent of people disliked Chilton Watson in Bell Street and two per cent complained about Joules, on the corner of Hart Street and Market Place.
Cllr Hinke said the results had not persuaded him to change his mind.
He said: “What’s interesting is that many people seem to recognise how many shops look out of place.
“They aren’t saying there isn’t a problem — they’re seeing shops that should have had greater restrictions imposed instead of it being a free-for-all.
“In many ways, you could say it is an argument in favour of restrictions on the town centre, even if people don’t mind Paperchase.”
Survey respondent Julie Taylor agreed, saying: “An ugly town with unattractive, unappealing shop fronts does not encourage people to visit.
“Marlow has a lot of shops but isn’t as ugly as the Henley shopping area.”
A Mrs Hackett from Wargrave said: “Henley is a historical town known globally. It should remain that way and should not change to become more modern.”
However, two-thirds of respondents opposed tighter controls.
An anonymous commenter said: “Henley is a historic town but it is not the only one, so why are people so precious about it? We are very lucky that businesses still want to come here and open shops. The worst look is for a shop to be empty.
“What is needed is better incentives for people to open shops in Henley. Local businesses cannot survive because of high rent and rates.
“Let’s stop being snobby and stuck in the past and thinking Henley is too good for the dirty world of
Jon, from Sonning Common, said: “I think it’s important to have a set of standards. However, the town council has shown that it can’t be trusted to make those sensible decisions.
“The Paperchase shop front is attractive and adds a nice dash of colour to the street. Sainsbury’s and M&Co are far worse offenders.”
Julia Bain, from Marlow, said: “Each shop has its own brand and identity — let them keep these and be instantly identifiable to everyone. Shop frontages are more likely to attract customers than detract from the ambience of Henley.”
Our survey, which is still available, asks people to identify which shops they feel are out of keeping. All have previously been named, either by shoppers or in council reports, as detracting from the town’s image.
Also listed are Bell Street traders Henley Pharmacy, which
62 per cent disliked,
W H Smith (45 per cent), Robert Dyas (35 per cent) and Clarks (22 per cent).
Respondents said tattoo parlour No Limits and jeweller Sparkes, both in Station Road, were further examples of ugly shops.
They also disapproved of the post office in Reading Road, Cargo and Blockbuster in Market Place, Jaeger in Thames Side, Ladbrokes in Duke Street and Starbucks on the corner of Market Place and Bell Street.
Just under half said they supported the town council’s plans to introduce a shopfront improvement scheme.
This initiative, announced by town centre manager Peter McConnell, would see businesses given grants of up to £2,000 to improve their
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We always look to work with local authorities to ensure that our shop fronts and signage are appropriate for the local area.”
Carphone Warehouse, Boots and M & Co did not respond to requests for comment.
To take part in the survey, visit www.henleystandard.co.uk/survey