Wanstead High Street was designated a conservation area in 1970.
The phrase 'gone downhill' is frequently used to describe the high street by residents who have lived here during that time. So how is it then, that since 1970, we've seen so many shop fronts ripped out and big gaudy signage appear?
Successive councils have failed to serve the conservation area. Appearances – in terms of shop signage, lighting and glazing have been allowed to fall below the standards of a well looked after conservation area high street.
At a recent planning committee meeting to decide on the application for Tesco's signage, existing poor design in the High Street was quoted as reason to allow consent. Also, the council gave Tesco the go-ahead to remove of one of our last original shop fronts (features of this post-war shop included recessed doors and modernist windows with thin glazing bars).
Tesco are capable of adapting their design to suit conservation areas, as you can see from these pictures. Could not our council have asked Tesco to do something similar in Wanstead? This was a golden opportunity to demand higher design standards which would in turn set an example to other businesses.
Above: Examples of how Tesco have adapted to fit in with conservation areas. Below: The standard Tesco Express storefront – Wanstead will have something similar to this.
It would be disappointing to feel that our councillors and planning
officials find themselves unable to protect and promote the appearance
of the High Street; obliged instead to say "yes" for fear of court
It will be down to the initiative of local business owners themselves
to make a sea change. The best advertising for Wanstead will be its
uniqueness and design qualities. This is the only way our high street
will thrive and prosper into the future.
The Wanstead Society is starting a 'Smarter High Street Campaign'. We
aim to promote the Conservation Area guidelines and show how our High
Street could improve with simple modifications. We'll also be
announcing an award scheme – so watch this space for more news.