Tuesday 5 October 2010

Leicester’s Hidden Historical Stories – #1 in an occasional series

If you were to take a tour around the sights of Leicester, it is unlikely that the Plaza Fish Bar, on London Road, would be high on any urban explorers list. Occasional passers-by might note the charming bright green tiles amid the pungent aroma of breaded chicken and chips, but probably not give it a second thought as they amble into the more familiar city-centre. But this greasy takeaway, late-night favourite of students, was recently the site of an epic struggle between David and Goliath - when history met politics, capitalism ignored regulation, and fish and chips took on the might of Leicester City Council. Only this time, David didn’t win.

Taken by author
Back in 2003, the purveyors of fine fried food unceremoniously ripped off the Edwardian Art Nouveau frontage and replaced it with ‘a bright red aluminium shop front’. Little did they know, or perhaps care, that they were unfortunately situated in South Highfields Conservation Area, and that if ‘work is done without planning permission that harms the character of the area, it is highly likely that the City Council will take action requiring the work to be removed and replaced with a more appropriate alternative.’ When the owners failed to comply with the swift enforcement notice, they were marched to court.
With a slap on the wrist and the possibility of redemption with the help of the Council, locally made glazed blocks were sourced, and the shop front was restored to its former glory. It may not have been Gordon Brown versus the banks, but events like this are still important, and all around us. It is not just the grand reminders of different ages and ideas that are protected by law, but the everyday street-features that give a less obvious glimpse into the local past. Leicester City Council planning enforcement officer, Geoffrey Sayce, celebrated in the triumph, and warned other usurpers of the historical fabric:
"We would encourage anybody considering making property alterations to first consult with the City Council… the reinstatement reminds us architecturally of a bygone era, a piece of old Leicester and our heritage, which should not be forgotten and should not end up in a skip."

When asked on one late post-pub Friday night, the staff declined to tell me how much such heritage cost. But the sheepish look on their faces told a telling story – it’s not always that easy to mess with history and still get away with a full pocket of cash.

Source: http://news.leicester.gov.uk/newsArchiveDetail.aspx?Id=89 and http://www.leicester.gov.uk/EasySiteWeb/getresource.axd?AssetID=13306&type=full&servicetype=Attachment