Many people would agree that shops are the life-blood of urban and rural communities. They can provide goods and services essential for daily life and are without doubt a barometer for the relative economic health of an area.

Colchester Shop Fronts & Signs

Shop Fronts

Vibrant shops are often a consequence of a vibrant, sustainable community.  Nevertheless, without design guidance, and its vigilant application, town centres can easily slip into aesthetic decline.  A preponderance of ill-advised design decisions can have a cumulative, harmful effect and it is often the shop that is the first indication that things are going wrong.

A well designed shopfront will enhance the quality of the street whilst a poor shopfront has the opposite effect and if a street contains more poor examples than good ones the impact can be pernicious.  Thus, shopfronts tend to display a “collective character” that has a compelling effect upon the perception of a town.

The Colchester & North East Essex Building Preservation Trust have produced, in association with Colchester Borough Council (CBC), a new planning document – The Colchester Shopfront Design Guide.  The guide sets out principles for the successful design of shopfronts and signs within the borough of Colchester with the aim of maintaining, and indeed raising the design quality of these features within our townscape.

The proposal has been adopted by CBC as a Supplementary Planning Document, and is used by them in assessing planning applications.  The Council and the Trust will promote its use by shop owners, designers and planning agents.

The design guide can be viewed on CBC’s web site or downloaded from this link.

Guidance Summary

The guide sets out 14 primary and supplementary design notes

Shop fronts – primary considerations

  1.   Shopfronts of historic interest should be retained
  2.   In most cases, each shopfront should look unique – purpose designed for each building
  3.   Establish the architectural rhythm of the street and describe and illustrate this within your Design and Access Statement
  4.   Shop fronts and signs should not extend across the fronts of different, adjacent buildings
  5.   Shop fronts and signs should be in scale with the host building – neither over nor under-scaled
  6.   The symmetry of a strong building ought to be repeated in the design of its shopfront but otherwise, care and confidence is needed in bringing a façade down to ground level
  7.   Entrances to the upper floors of buildings within a façade should always be retained
  8.   Ensure the base of the building is visually connected to the upper floors
  9.   Think in 3 dimensions!


Shop fronts – supplementary considerations

  1. The use of toughened or laminated glass is the preferred, supplemental method of securing shop premises.
  2. Metal, external shutters will no longer be permitted. For further advice we have a guidance document on shopfront security available on our web site.
  3. Fixed canopies will be discouraged within the Borough.
  4. Signs should be designed with the same care and attention to detail as the shopfront.
  5. Internally illuminated box signs will no longer be permitted on any shop.

If you are planning a shopfront project you should:

  • download and digest the new guidance
  • appoint an Architect who understands the requirements of the guidance
  • produce a draft, Design & Access Statement for the project and then,
  • submit a preliminary inquiry to Colchester Borough Council who will be able to advise on the suitability of your proposal.