Impressive frontage (refused) on Bootham

Writing about Whiting’s on Bootham has reminded me that I didn’t follow-up on the ‘Impressive frontage planned on Bootham’, which is still retail premises, recently taken over by Rugs of the World. It was a Jacksons store, briefly a Sainsbury’s Local, and for a long time a bit of a dump. Here’s how it looked:

Shabby storefront

and here’s how it looks now:

Remodelled storefront with central doorway and grey paintwork

Much better, isn’t it. Those nice old doors found inside have been reinstated in the central section, where it would appear the doors were meant to go before it was horribly hacked about.

But apparently this isn’t good enough. The planning application was refused. Surprised? So was I.

Work was already almost complete when the decision was made. You may wonder why the owners didn’t wait. But it seems fairly common to carry on with planned works in the hope of a favourable decision. The same thing happened just over the road, where the old WWII hutments were already being demolished well before the planning meeting to decide it. It’s not uncommon, and maybe a lot to do with understanding how the planning system works.

Which I don’t. Well, a bit. I understand that there are rules to try to retain the character of Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings. And that this is a Listed Building in a Conservation Area.

So as it’s a special building, just making it looking much better than it did isn’t enough. Trying to make it look suitably authentic and dignified and ‘in period’ isn’t enough either.

This is one of those times when I’m glad I’m not an expert. Ignorance is bliss, clearly. Those who know their stuff in detail may be wincing at a shopfront I’m finding quite pleasant. To me it’s aesthetically far more pleasing, but others are troubled by how the work has fallen short in recreating what it once was.

It seems the doorway isn’t sufficiently recessed, and despite the effort to reinstate the doors, the owners should have tried harder to make the shop look exactly like it used to a century ago.


Isn’t that ridiculous fakery?

And in the current economic climate, isn’t it a bit too much of a burden?

I do appreciate the need to conserve. But the stuff they want reinstating had already been ripped out decades back. And I’ve heard no one mourning it. We don’t remember it. We just remember a really manky neglected shopfront. And now see one that looks handsome enough.

Perhaps the paintwork should have been stripped back completely. It looks a bit bumpy. I don’t like overpainting of things already overpainted. But having arduously returned our front door to the original wood, before repainting, I can see why it’s not that feasible to strip back paint on a shopfront like this – it would take months and they’d be lucky to be in by Christmas.

No wonder so many businesses find life easier out at those out-of-town modern retail parks.

The application has been resubmitted, and is trying to get approval for the work already done. The public can comment. See here.

I don’t know if any heritage experts read these pages. Heritage experts, can you explain, why do we expect 21st century businesses to recreate historic features in long-ago destroyed shopfronts? That is, make a modern copy of them?

Just as interested in what people who aren’t burdened by historical comparisons think. Is this not a massive improvement?

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  1. Is this an improvement? of course it is,when compared to the late Jackson/Sainsbury,’walk in walk round,walk out as quick as possible tatty shop front’ that used to pass as a mini market,of latter years.I remember a grocers shop that used to be there or thereabouts,around 1950,where looking thro’the right hand window,a bacon counter was displayed with a balding, smiley,grocer like chap ,cheerfully,going about his business turning pork into slices.The left hand window likewise displayed a serving counter,with real life people behind,similarly weighing and bagging goods,into tight wrapped blue bags, before your very eyes.Human,Friendly and Nice,but alas all gone.The shop at least has returned to its former condition,and well done the owners!

  2. YorkStories

    Hi Stephen – Sounds like a splendid shop. Sadly I only remember the tatty supermarket!

    I couldn’t find the decision notice on the planning website, but have acquired a copy. Quoting from the document – these are the reasons for refusal of the work shown above on the shopfront:

    ‘The proposed alterations, as the entrance would not have a splayed recess and due to the detailing, configuration and scale of the proposed display windows would fail to respect the scale, proportion and architectural style of the listed building. The proposals would have an adverse effect on the special historic and architectural interest of the listed building and inadequate justification has been put forward to outweigh the identified harm.
    As such the proposals are contrary to National Planning Policy Framework, in particular paragraph 9 and section 12 and Local Plan policies GP16, HE4 and HE6.’

    That phrase about ‘identified harm’ is rather odd, isn’t it.

  3. Every time I walk past this shop i feel a certain gratitude to the owners for transforming what was, lets be honest, an ‘eyesore’ into a nice, appealing shop frontage. I genuinely wish them well in these difficult economic times..

    I’m genuinely confused as to why this would be refused planning permission

  4. I can only give my opinion but I have a feeling there is a problem with the doors and their central location and consequently a problem with how much of the frontage is given over to glazing.

    It would be natural to think that the doors have been restored to “where they were” originally. But is that really the case? It would seem that Jacksons, later Sainsburys, were more in keeping with having the position of the doors to the left with a smaller central window and a larger window to the right. (I am not saying that Jacksons/Sainsburys facades were attractive, merely that they were preserving how the doors and windows were positioned originally.) When the store was refurbished to a Sainsburys Local, they made a small improvement by including a recessed doorway. The new shop has brought the doors very near the front again.

    I have a gut feeling that the grocers shop that Stephen refers did not have central doors with windows either side. Instead, as with Jacksons/Sainsburys, the doors would have been to the left and possibly in a deeper recess so that the current facade is quite far removed this previous form. And therein lies the problem.

    It is perfectly understandable that people see the new shop front as more attractive than the functional facades of Jacksons/Sainsburys. But looking at it more objectively, in the context of how much the shop frontage has changed, I think it is also understandable why the planners have rejected it.

  5. i think you are right with regards to the layout of the original frontage:

    this photo suggests that their was a significant recess to the shop on the left, which probably had the entrance to the shop itself.

    i think i can see the planners point of view now, hopefully they will be able to find a compromise that all parties can accept

  6. actually, I posted in haste…

    looking at that photo carefully, i think the door was in the centre, with an allyway [?] to the left of it. What has happened is the shop has been extended into the alleyway at some point.

    So now we are left with the recess on the door, which is much less than originally [i think…]. I can now see the ‘planners’ point of view on that..

  7. YorkStories

    Thanks for your comments David and Mallory.

    I was also looking at that photo – – on – and also couldn’t work out from it where the entrance was. It’s of interest anyway in its own right, as it dates from the Second World War, and so it’s probably the shop Stephen remembers? I fear this link won’t work, but here’s the accompanying description:

    The recessed doorway was there when Jackson’s occupied it – I remember the narrow recessed entrance being cramped and irritating, and the recess often further cluttered by a bin. I’ve found photographic evidence on a directory site which hasn’t updated its listing:

    There’s a lot of information in the documents on the planning site, including discussion of where the ‘original’ entrance was, but having read it all I’m none the wiser.

    These documents (PDFs) from the planning pages may be of interest:–1306399.pdf

    It would seem that the remodelling has already taken into account the need for some recess on the doorway, even though this wasn’t on the original plan as submitted. It isn’t as deep as it was in the pre-war shop though by the looks of things.

    The question I was wanting to raise – as well as seeing what people thought of its appearance now – was a more general one about what is ‘authentic’ and ‘original’ and how much we can expect shop owners to ‘put back’?

    This building was a house, built in the 1760s, so the shop front wasn’t part of the original building, and to add to the confusion, the available records suggest the house was extended. Maybe the doorway(s) have moved around several times.

  8. It is quite a confusing building.

    You should begin by thinking of it in the original state as a large house (Clifton House) with five windows on each of the upper floors and a central front door at ground level with two windows either side of it.

    That central door is still there – it is now the door to the flats that occupy the upper levels but many people will remember it as the door to The Roxy nightclub.

    Clifton House was extended to the left with two additional windows on each level. So the door that was central now has four windows to the left of it and two windows to the right.

    Then came the change of use to shops on the ground floor with new cast iron fascias and glazing. A larger shop to the left (taking up four bays) and a smaller shop to the right (taking up bays six and seven) with the original door still there in the centre (bay 5) to provide access to the upper floors.

    In the Imagine York picture the four bays to the left are occupied by Cross’s Grocers, the central door is the doorway to the upper levels (then Plume’s Hotel) and the two bays to the right are Hilda Pearson’s shop.

    Crucially the doors to the grocers are on the left hand side i.e. they are NOT central as they are with the new Rugs of The World shop. Even more significant there is a deep recess (although the roller shutters blank out how deep this recess is).

    Jacksons had a recessed entrance (certainly enough room for their bin) and I seem to recall Grandways was the same. I also remember that with the Sainsbury’s refurbishment a third recessed door was added to the right of their double doors in the entrance. In all cases the entrance was much more recessed than with Rugs of The World as their doors are almost at street level with only a narrow recess.

    The change of doorway location from left to central and the lack of a deep recess has created a much more upfront facade with the glazing more dominant. I am sure it is these areas which have alarmed the planners.

  9. Lisa raises a very valid point about what is authentic and original and at the risk of starting another debate I am thinking back to the Guy Fawkes Inn decision of a few years ago.

    Briefly, Guy Fawkes Inn thought they were being terribly original by trying to replicate how it might have looked at the time of Guy Fawkes birth. So they installed Ye Olde Worlde signage and gas powered lanterns. (All this right next to the Minster.)

    The planners thought it looked absolutely awful, more akin to a theme park, and quickly chucked it out provoking fury from the then proprieter who was forced to remove the lot.

    The owner thought he was being authentic but the planners thought it was toy-town. An interesting case to refer to.

  10. YorkStories

    You’ve reminded me of something else, with mention of the Guy Fawkes Inn. Perhaps we need a new page to continue that debate! I will work on that as soon as possible!

    In the meantime, thanks for explaining the layout. I was trying to indicate the alterations and features you mention on another photo I have which has a slightly wider view of the frontage, but abandoned it as it was taking too long. It’s maybe worth adding though that the extension you mention is visible in the brickwork, on the photos above. The line of it (slightly different shades of brick) runs up from the centre of the newly-created doorway?

    I’m one of those who remembers the original doorway to the house as the entrance to The Roxy, and can remember bounding up the stairs eagerly on my way to the dancefloor. As previously discussed – with some architectural notes on the interior –

    David – Grandways was it seems the name of the supermarket in the pre-Jacksons days? Would that still be the case in the 1980s? Am struggling to remember – but also recall an off-license to the right I think, where the tattoo studio is now?

  11. It must have been Grandways for quite a number of years – it had a very distinct red and yellow striped sign and I think they even had a blind in these colours which they could roll out over the shop. (Just to confuse matters, I think Grandways was actually owned by Jacksons who must have offloaded the larger stores and rebranded the smaller ones back to Jacksons during one of their rejigs.)

    I remember the door to the Roxy nightclub but cannot recall any of the proprietors of the smaller shop to the the right so you are doing much better than me in remembering that off licence!

  12. YorkStories

    Re Grandways – just found this:
    – immediately recognised that carrier bag!

  13. The latest picture in ‘’25 Bootham Again’’ of the 2′d July,shows the shop pretty well how I remember it in the early 1950 period when I visited it for personal reasons.It was called either Walter Wilsons,or Cross grocers,and the windows and interior were very similar to the frontage in the photo.This place has had an interesting commercial history.

  14. YorkStories

    Thanks Stephen. The photo is on this link:

    Nice photo in the local press archive showing this area of Bootham in the 1950s –
    – the shop isn’t clear, but it does have a long-forgotten garage where the new Sainsbury’s now stands.

  15. That latest picture must be the one the applicants included in their proposal. I haven’t managed to visit the new frontage and so can’t really work out what the planners do not like about it. It cannot be the doors being in the central position, given that the council wanted Sainsburys to place them there when the supermarket actually wanted to move the entrance to the right. So I can only guess that the planners think that the entrance recess is not deep enough, although there is indeed some recess there. The other objection might be that they feel there is too much window space; I suppose they can measure that from the square footage of clear glazing post refit. Of course when it was a tea merchant/grocers they favoured huge glass frontages to display their latest wares. When it became a supermarket, the internal layout became more functional rather than decorative with the window space dedicated to advertising instead of product. I didn’t know that it was once a Walter Wilsons but that chain had indeed spread to York as there was one in Heworth.

    I suppose there is no point trying to second guess what the planners don’t like about the new frontage. This is, after all, a council that thinks it is more important to lavish funds on York 800 festivities – celebrating the creative accounting of 800 years ago – rather than do mundane tasks like providing and emptying litter bins.

  16. YorkStories

    I think you’re right David that it’s the recess and also the glazing bars on the windows that are/were an issue. But maybe it will be passed as okay now. It seems a waste of materials to have to rip it out and redo it.

    Your closing paragraph provoked wry laughter … I also feel we should perhaps be paying more attention to those ‘mundane’ but necessary facilities needed in a city encouraging millions of visitors a year.

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