The government has rejected a proposal to cut planning restrictions on shop security shutters a year after the riots.
Smashed shop fronts and ruined businesses had persuaded ministers to consider scrapping the requirement for planning permission if retailers wanted to install shutters outside shop windows.
Marketing company Ogilvy & Mather, from riot-hit Greens End in Woolwich, discovered how burdensome the requirements can be last year. Responding to The Grocer’s call for more attractive shutters, it planned to install new shutters featuring artistic images of baby faces.
At the last minute, it learned it would need to apply for planning permission, committing itself to a three to six month wait and a mountain of paperwork. In the end, it decided not to put up new shutters at all, instead painting over the existing shutters.
But despite these red tape issues, the government has scrapped the idea of removing planning requirements, concluding that it “would be a disproportionate over-reaction to the riots”.
In a letter to planning officers, Maria Stasiak, the decision officer at the Department for Communities and Local Government, said local planning authorities and other interested parties, including the police, were concerned that giving retailers a free rein to put up shutters could have a detrimental effect on town centres.
The letter said shutters could create “an unwelcoming environment, which could increase the fear of crime, attract anti-social behaviour and graffiti and reduce footfall”.
The Association of Convenience Stores had originally called on the government to scrap planning requirements. However, it accepted the government’s decision while expressing doubts that local councils would use their powers to cut red tape in areas where it was appropriate, as the government has suggested.
“This would require councils to be creative, talk to local retailers and respond to their needs. That is not something they’re renowned for,” said ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan.
Siva Kandiah, whose shop Clarence Convenience Store was wrecked by rioters in Hackney, was even more critical: “They should leave it up to us to decide what we need to keep our shops safe.”
Councils have responded differently to the issue in the wake of the riots. Manchester City Council has stuck to its guidance that shutters outside glass would not normally be permitted, while Croydon Council is considering relaxing its rules and has informally told retailers that it will consider security above aesthetics.