High Wycombe’s “ugly” shops have been slammed for not respecting the historic significance of the buildings they are in - amid a fresh bid to regenerate the town centre.

A new “recovery and regeneration” action group has been set up to stop High Wycombe looking like a “tatty town” – and some of the shops in the town centre are in the firing line.

As well as trying to tackle anti-social behaviour in the area, a big part of overhauling the town is improving how it looks.

At the last meeting of the High Wycombe community board, Chris Woodman, who is from the High Wycombe Society but was not speaking on behalf of them, called out some of the worst examples of shops that did not respect the town’s history.

He said: “High Wycombe is often said to be a tatty town and we need to ask ourselves why. I think there are several reasons – one is its visual appearance. There are other towns that seem to have a much better street scene than us.

“The buildings in our town centre have a lot going for them. We have a Georgian high street, we have a 700-year-old Gothic church, we have medieval ruins in Easton Street, and of course we have a working mill and a unique open space in The Rye, which we all love.

“In the town centre, we’re let down by the street scene, which is really all down to shop fronts. Without any official planning policy on that – there’s nothing in the Local Plan – planning officers’ powers to actually improve the situation are rather weak.”

These are some of the shops he criticised for being “ugly”:

Paddy Power – White Hart Street

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Mr Woodman said White Hart Street is where “an awful lot of the bad examples occur”, adding: “The Vanilla Pod is another nice example, in White Hart Street, which is where an awful lot of the bad examples occur. That building is locally-listed, it looks neat and tidy and is nice and discreet. But right next to it is Paddy Power – brash, very ugly.

“That building, like the other one, is locally-listed but you wouldn’t guess from the way it is flagged up now.”

Computer Gallery – White Hart Street

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Mr Woodman said: “It used to be a well-known butcher’s, you can still see the pigs on the top right. It now has a ghastly green security screen on the front and it looks awful, not to mention the graffiti of course. It’s another example of how buildings are not being respected.

“White Hart Street as a whole is mainly very bad news, unlike the high street which is generally not bad. It gets worse when you walk out on Bull Lane and there are these big horrible rubbish bins, another issue that needs sorting. It is bad practice.”

Anatolia Food Centre – Frogmoor

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Mr Woodman said the food shop’s frontage was “appalling”. He said: “Frogmoor itself definitely looks a lot better than it did – it still has no working fountain – but it has some nice green maturing trees and places to sit.

“But Anatolia Food Centre is appalling, filled with large plastic pictures of what they would like people to buy, you cant actually see what’s inside.

“Does that amount to a poster in a Conservation Area? Should that have had consent? It’s terrible and we need to get rid of it.”

Royal Casino Slots – High Street

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Plans for a casino in what was described as the High Street’s “grandest building” at number 39 were branded “sacrilege” as councillors reluctantly approved them back in February last year.

The three-storey Old Bank House at 39 High Street is Grade II* listed and used to be a building society but had been empty since 2012.

Mr Woodman said: “It did get planning permission, but subject to strict conditions on posters on the front and people not being able to see inside. Most often the front door is open.

“One of the conditions is you shouldn’t be able to see what is going on inside and there shouldn’t be any notices or posters outside. Those conditions are being flagrantly breached. One of our members got onto somebody and it’s not as bad as it originally was, but enforcement action may still be needed.”

Bucks Free Press: The bins in Bull Lane The bins in Bull Lane

It wasn’t all bad news for the town though, with Mr Woodman also praising a number of shops that “respect the outline of the building” they are in.

He said: “It’s not all one-sided, [The Works] is an example of one that works quite well. It is quite pleasant, it is on a historic building where the Royal Military Academy was formed.

Bucks Free Press: The Works and Vitulli were good examplesThe Works and Vitulli were good examples

“Vitulli, just to the right, respects the outline of the building better and is even less prominent, so it makes it commercially less obvious. I think that encapsulates the issue here, whether you give priority to commercial visibility or respecting the town and its fabric.

“Another good example is the Red Lion pub. We have our planning officers from some years ago to thank, because the lettering which says Iceland and B&M is remarkably restrained and small.

Bucks Free Press: Iceland was also praisedIceland was also praised

“It wasn’t going to be, it was going to be large, but our planning officers put their foot down and said no, this is a historic building, you will respect it please and have small lettering. That has worked very well.”

Mr Woodman said the recovery and regeneration action group has a “clear objective” – to encourage the council to create a supplementary planning document specifically for shopfronts.

He said: “It will set down basic rules which will enable planning officers to take action to improve High Wycombe’s street scene.”