The design of shopfronts is an important issue, as over time many abuses of design have taken place which have incremented to create an incongruous and cluttered high street. There are some exceptional examples, such as Store Street and Woburn Walk, or Sicilian Avenue, where much care has been taken to ensure that businesses do not alter their shopfront inappropriately. In the vast majority of areas though, it is difficult even to perceive what the original type of shopfront is. It is a task for us to try and ensure that new shopfronts enhance the special character of the local area, by trying to make shop-owners restore shopfronts to their original splendour.
Although it is often seen as a hindrance for businesses to need to conform to the historic shopfront designs, it is actually in the wider interest of the local economy for a high street to have a well defined historic character. Areas which have been ‘restored’ or well preserved over time attract significantly more footfall, in general. Areas which have been left to accumulate clutter and shopfront abuses suffer from a lack of footfall. Compare, for example, the difference between Seven Dials and Gray’s Inn Road. An area which has a well preserved historic character is greater appreciated by locals and tourists alike. After all, tourists come to visit London and any area which properly shows the special historic character of London is attractive. An area which simply shows a cluttered abundance of multinational logos does not represent any of London‘s special interest, and may as well be from anywhere in the world.
It is thus an easy way for the local economy of an area to be improved by ensuring that its shopfronts conform to a unified historic character. It is just up to us and Camden to try and make sure that new shopfronts conform to an historic standard.
In our conservation areas, the only type of permitted illumination is by lamps which face onto the board/sign which is intended to be illuminated. Backlit boards are not permitted and are generally rejected at application. If any such boards are seen it is usually because they were installed illegally. Illumination should also be as weak as possible, so as not to contribute to light pollution and also to save on energy. Any excessive illumination could face enforcement from either the planning department or environmental health.
Advertisements should generally not be displayed except for on the main board advertising the company name, or on an A-board which should be placed on a private forecourt, and be made in an historic style. Excessive advertisement is detrimental to the appearance and character of an area and can result in enforcement.
Exterior roller shutters are to be discouraged as they have a negative effect on the appearance of an area, often dominating the façade and attracting vandalism. Roller shutters are generally not a necessary safety feature in our conservation areas.
Air-conditioning units are generally unnecessary and are very environmentally unfriendly. Any air-conditioning units should be placed out of public sight.