Another long-established small business in Croydon is being forced to close, after its landlord decided the retail property was more valuable to them if converted to flats.
Dobson’s Upholstery is a family firm based in South Norwood since it was founded by Bob Dobson in 1965; it is now run by Bob’s son, Robert, from quaint, if a tad small, premises on the High Street, opposite the Sensible Garden.
As well as supplying many well-known interior designers, businesses and private clients, Dobson’s Upholstery’s work has been featured in glossy interior design magazines, on a TV lifestyle makeover programme (Peter Andre’s 60-Minute Makeover, no less) and a national television advertisement for a leading new-build housing company.
But the owner of their rented premises first slapped a rent increase of £3,600 a year on the business, and then submitted a planning application to convert the shop into a one-bedroom home.
Despite 77 formal objections and two petitions with a tally of 1,186 signatures, Croydon’s planning committee has granted approval.
Typical of the reactions from residents when they were told of the news was this: “So sad to hear this. I am very fond of your shop. It is like a little Oasis on a dodgy corner and adds so much character to the area.”
Another said, “Another local business, run by locals, shafted by the councillors. Shame on you.”
Paula Dobson, part of the family firm, said after the planning committee decision, “We’re happy in South Norwood, we’ve been here for years and don’t want to leave.
“The business is not in the ‘district centre’ apparently, and therefore cannot be protected. The shop is tiny, but meets Government guidelines for one person accommodation.”
The council planning committee is chaired by Paul Scott, a councillor for nearby Woodside ward.
Scott is also a leading figure in a community organisation called People for Portland Road, and a body calling itself WeLoveSE25, which between them have been running a campaign with the aim of… ahem… reviving the business fortunes of the high street.
Meanwhile, the Dobsons’ business is actively seeking new premises, but the cost of moving, and possible increases in rents and other charges, could all work against this small business staying in the area.
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