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Improving Shop Front Design 2002

Issues Paper
Invitation to Compete for Best Design
Shopfront Awards

Issue Paper - Shopfronts and Advertisements in Historic Towns

Hardly a day passes without someone asking what the Society is doing about the monstrous signage recently erected in High Street. We have complained of course. We raised the issue with the District Council, but were advised that they have no powers to require the shop owner to change the signage. As a private citizen, I have also written to the Deputy Prime Minister suggesting that it was about time the local government Act was updated to give local authorities powers to control signs in historic towns.

Local authorities have limited control over shopfronts and advertisements. If it is a listed building, then any alteration – including re-painting the shopfront a different colour, installing a security alarm, or installing shutters, blinds and advertisements – requires consent. If the building is not listed, but is in a conservation area, demolition or partial demolition – including removal of a shopfront or any features that give character to a building – requires consent. However, most of the changes that the Society’s members object to, do not involve listed buildings, or the kind of demolition covered by conservation area consent.

Unsympathetically designed shopfronts and advertisements deface and detract from the inherent character of an area.

There is only one glimmer of hope under existing legislation. Some historic areas are designated as Areas of Special Control for Advertisements. Within these areas, more stringent controls exist and the Society is exploring whether the centre of Stratford could be designated as an Area of Special Control.

Control nevertheless only addresses one part of the problem – new development. What about all the existing eyesores which detract from the quality of Stratford town centre? Every historic town has its own unique character which contributes to the special qualities of the place. Shopfronts and advertisements play an important part in this, since they reflect the human and pedestrian side of life and are designed to attract attention. When unsympathetically designed, they deface and detract from the inherent character of an area.

The English Historic Towns Forum (EHTF), recognising the importance of shopfronts and advertisements, has published several booklets on good and bad practice and has also published a design guide. They are well illustrated and provide numerous examples of “bad” design, “good” design, eye-opening examples of “before and after” and examples of special features like hanging signs. The before and after pictures of Canterbury, Hereford and Halifax show how, with a little imagination, the quality of the town centre can be spectacularly improved. And the leaders in all of this include the major branded shops like Boots, W.H. Smith, the Halifax Building Society and McDonalds. The McDonalds restaurant in Chichester is so well done that it probably qualifies as an example of “best” practice.

The EHTF booklets also show how to deal with new buildings in historic towns and illustrate this with an impressive picture of Blackwell’s Art and Poster shop in Oxford. It also showcases an example of successful enforcement action in neighbouring Leamington Spa. The encouraging thing is that numerous towns are cited in the booklet as examples of good practice. The sad part is that none of these examples are in Stratford.

So, what can the Society do about this sad state of affairs, apart from pressing for the town centre to be designated as an Area of Special Control? I suggest two possibilities. First, the Society could try to persuade the District Council, which is a member of the EHTF, to give copies of the EHTF good practice guidelines to all new prospective tenants in the town centre. Alternatively, they could prepare good practice guidelines of their own and distribute these to all prospective new tenants. Second, based on the assumption that the main problems that arise are caused by lack of knowledge rather than wilful malice, the Society could host a half day workshop for town centre businesses to showcase good practice from towns like Canterbury, Chichester and Chester. If we can show how unsympathetic shopfronts damage the character of historic town centres and are able to show better ways of designing these shopfronts, we stand some chance of influencing the current tenants and persuading them to try and do a better job.

Comments and suggestions to i.heggie@bham.ac.uk.

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Invitation to Compete for the Best Design

Every historic town has its own unique character which contributes to the special qualities of the place. Shopfronts and advertisements play an important part in this, since they reflect the human and pedestrian side of life and are designed to attract attention. Unsympathetically designed shopfronts deface and detract from the inherent character of an area.

The English Historic Towns Forum (EHTF), recognising the importance of shopfronts and advertisements, has published several booklets on good and bad practice and has also published a design guide. They are well illustrated and provide numerous examples of “bad” design, “good” design, eye-opening examples of “before and after” and examples of special features like hanging signs. The before and after pictures of Canterbury, Hereford and Halifax show how, with a little imagination, the quality of the town centre can be spectacularly improved. And the leaders in all of this include the major branded shops like Boots, W.H. Smith, the Halifax Building Society and McDonalds. The McDonalds restaurant in Chichester is so well done that it probably qualifies as an example of “best” practice.

The EHTF booklets also show how to deal with new buildings in historic towns and illustrates this with an impressive picture of Blackwell’s Art and Poster shop in Oxford. The encouraging thing is that numerous towns are cited in the booklet as examples of good practice. The sad part is that none of these examples are in Stratford.

The Stratford Society was founded in 1966 by local people concerned with preserving and enhancing the quality and amenities of the town. To support these aims, the Society from time to time recognises initiatives that improve the character of the town. This year, the Society has decided to recognise good shopfront design (see note on back page). It is hoped that this will not only identify those proprietors and managers who have added to the quality of the town through sensitive design of their shopfronts, but will also help to set a standard for others to follow.

It is expected that some 50 or so establishments will participate in the scheme and that the Society’s Photographic Group will take photographs of each shopfront to be considered. A small panel, comprising the Photographic Group and a well known local architect, will undertake an initial assessment of the shopfronts. Two assessors – one from the District Council and another from the Town Centre Management Partnership -- will then join the panel for the final evaluation.

There is no intention to select a single winner, but rather to identify half a dozen shopfronts which might be recognised as examples of “good” practice to guide others. The certificates of recognition will be presented by the Chairman of the Society at a breakfast meeting of the Town Centre Management Partnership on 29 th October.

To participate fully in the scheme – and to make your contribution to enhancing the town centre – please complete the attached questionnaire. A member of the Society will call in a week’s time to collect the completed insert form.

Ian G. Heggie

Chairman, Stratford Society

Please tick appropriate spaces

I do wish to participate in the scheme to recognise good shopfront design?

YES ………. NO ………

I would like to receive a free copy of the English Historic Towns Forum (EHTF) publication “Shopfronts and Advertisements in Historic Towns”

YES ………. NO ……….

My organisation is a member of the Town Centre Management partnership

YES ………. NO …………

If my organisation receives a Certificate of Recognition for shopfront design from the Stratford Society, I will attend the business breakfast on 29 October as a guest of the Stratford Society

YES ……….. NO …………..

Please send me information on how to join the Stratford Society

Annual membership fees: Family, £10.00, Individual, £7.50, Corporate, £15.00 for 2002

YES…………. NO……………

Name: ……………………………… Manager/Proprietor

Address ……………………………..

………………………………

…………………………… Telephone …………………..

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Shopfront Awards - Stratford Society Attempts to Improve Shopfront Design, 2002

As part of its effort to improve the quality of Shopfronts in the town centre, the Stratford-upon-Society invited 240 shops and restaurants to participate in an initiative to recognise good shopfront design. Leaflets promoting the initiative were delivered to all qualifying premises and were then collected personally by a team of thirteen members. Roughly 50 percent of the target group responded to the invitation and nearly 75 agreed to participate in the initiative. About 90 respondents also asked to receive copies of the English Historic Towns Forum (EHTF) publication on “Shopfronts and Advertisements in Historic Towns.” These had been offered free to all shops and restaurants interested in the program.

The initial list of 75 were first assessed by the Society’s Photographic and Awards Group. They reduced the 75 contenders to 32 “hopefuls” who were then reviewed by a panel of two judges and two assessors. The judges included the Society’s Chairman and the head of the Photographic and Awards Group, while the assessors consisted of one person representing the Town Centre Management Partnership and another representing the District Council. After weighty deliberations, the panel selected one outright winner and six commendations (see below for the detailed Citations).

The outright winner was George Pragnell, a local jewellery shop. It was judged to be, “An outstanding example…..The shopfront enhances the appearance of the building which, in turn, enhances the streetscape”. The commendations included A. Lacey & Son, Robert Vaughan Antiquarian Booksellers, Fred Winter, Kaliko, Laura Ashley and, for the consistency with which a group of shops had been dealt with, Hammond Phillips, which is the company which manages Bard’s Walk.

The judges commented on what they considered made these shopfronts stand out as examples of emerging good practice, “They used a simple design in keeping with the rest of the building, the lettering was restrained and in scale with the overall shopfront design, the window display was simple and uncluttered and did not include any garish posters, and signboards, where present, were well designed and tucked away inside the door opening. In addition, they generally followed the principles set out in Appendix B of the District Council Design Guide on "Shopfronts and Signage” dated April 2001.”

The Special Award, Certificates of Commendations and Group Commendation were presented by the Society’s Chairman at a Town Centre Management Partnership business breakfast which took place at the Falcon Hotel, Stratford, on 29 October 2002.

DETAILED CITATIONS

General Principles

The shopfronts which received the award/commendations generally exhibited the following characteristics:

  • They followed the principles set out in Appendix B, "Shopfronts and Signage" of the District Council Design Guide (April 2001).
  • They used a simple design in keeping with the rest of the building.
  • The lettering was restrained and in scale with the overall shopfront design.
  • The window display was simple and uncluttered and did not include any garish posters.
  • Signboards, where present, were well designed and tucked away inside the door opening (i.e., they were not obtrusive A-boards presenting an obstruction on the pavement).

Comments on Individual Shopfronts

George Pragnell: An outstanding example – well designed, using high quality materials. The simple wooden frame, with black facia over, is combined with an elegant and uncluttered window display. Lettering is simple and to an appropriate scale. The window boxes and clock above turn the whole façade into a pleasing whole. The simple, contrasting colour scheme works well for the whole shop frontage. The shopfront enhances the appearance of the building which, in turn, enhances the streetscape.

Robert Vaughan Antiquarian Booksellers: A simple, elegant shopfront which fits in well with the character of the old building above and behind. A simple pattern in black and white with restrained lettering in scale with the rest of the building. Sash window openings have been carefully retained. The shopfront enhances the character of the building and the adjoining streetscape.

Laura Ashley: The shopfront forms part of an integrated building façade. The paint colour is well chosen and the façade uses a simple, painted window frame, with plain lettering to an appropriate scale. The window display is well designed and uncluttered. An artist’s easel is used to convey added messages (not an A-board) and this is carefully tucked away inside the door opening to avoid obstructing the pavement. Well-placed flower baskets add to the overall effect.

Kaliko: The shopfront uses a simple, modern natural wood frame. Lettering is straight forward and in scale with the rest of the shopfront. Added window lettering is of a suitable scale and hence unobtrusive. The window display is simple and uncluttered.

Fred Winter: An elegant, unpretentious shopfront. The simple window frame is of natural wood with a painted facia over. The lettering is restrained and to an appropriate scale. The window display is attractive and uncluttered. There are two boards outside which advertise the restaurant. These are small and are carefully tucked inside the door opening to avoid any obstruction of the pavement.

Laceys: A fine example of a traditional shopfront. The design and colouring match well with the rest of the building façade. Some of the lettering is a trifle large and the window display is interesting, though it has the typical clutter of a hardware shop which adds colour to the streetscape.

Bard’s Walk (collective commendation): The shopfronts, in natural wood, are simple and consistent throughout. The lettering varies and, although some is a trifle large, the overall effect is pleasing. The window displays are generally well done, although some appear unduly cluttered. The wrought iron railings over the shopfronts provide a unifying theme. This group of shopfronts generally works extremely well.

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