One of the most desirable areas of Croydon is about to lose the convenience of its village green Post Office – all because of a garden shed.
The Lord Roberts was re-opened last year on the picturesque Webb Estate in Purley by TV presenter Laura Hamilton and her Old Whitgiftian husband, Alex Goward.
The Upper Woodcote Village convenience store and post office had closed in August 2016 when the owners of 19 years sold up and moved away. Hamilton, who presents Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun, and her husband Goward live nearby, and they bought the property and gave it a television-style makeover to turn it into a posh coffee shop and deli (two slices of toast: three quid, thank you very much; jam on that? 30p extra), with a village post office attached.
“One of our main aims is to reinstate the post office,” Hamilton had said when acquiring the building, which had first opened more than 100 years earlier as an alcohol-free “temperance inn” and convenience store, having been built as part of the prestigious Purley development by developer William Webb.
“Just as before, we intend on selling newspapers and want the shop to be a friendly meeting place for families, with courses and little events put on too,” Hamilton said. “We are also working on lovely plans for the garden.”
Hamilton has also appeared on Dancing On Ice, but here she found herself on thin ice, as it appears that she and her husband never bothered sharing with the local authority that their plans included installing a shed in the garden. In a sensitive conservation area with their business located adjacent to the war memorial, there was a complaint.
The Gowards had not originally sought planning permission for the demolition of the existing garage, and after the council was notified the couple was obliged to submit a retrospective application. That went in at the start of January, and yesterday they were advised of the planning department’s decision.
The Gowards announced to those on their business’s mailing list that they have been ordered to remove the shed – what they call “a cabin”, but what one neighbour described as a “pop-up shop” – and as a consequence they will no longer continue to run the post office.
In their newsletter, they said, “As many of you are aware, we have a lovely looking cabin in our shop garden that had been erected to replace an old derelict garage.
“We had originally been told this was acceptable…”, they fail to mention by whom, “… but after a local resident decided to complain to the council, we were given no alternative than to apply for retrospective planning permission.
“The cabin in the garden offered us useful extra storage space for the Post Office and was being used to host Santa’s Grotto where money was being donated back to the community.”
Of 26 comments received by the council on the planning application, an overwhelming majority – 18 – were in favour of the shed/cabin/pop-up shop.
The Gowards’ continued: “Based on the decision made by the council today and the response they had from our neighbours, it is with great sadness we are now going to have no other alternative than to start taking the necessary steps to close down our Post Office.” There was no further explanation for this drastic response to the requirement to remove the shed/cabin/pop-up shop.
“We are sorry this is not better news given how much time and effort we have put in to what we felt was such a community asset.
“The coffee shop will continue as normal.”
So it looks like the well-heeled neighbours of the Webb Estate will in future, when looking to buy a 1st class stamp, will have to get in their Chelsea tractors to drive down the valley into Coulsdon for their nearest post office.
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