Mill Road Depot – what we know

We went along to a pre-meeting with the development partnership which was interesting but they shared very little information. We hope to learn more on July 19th (3-8pm, Mill Rd Library, remember). My personal quick notes on what we seem to know so far…

  • Underground parking is apparently now considered viable after further study.
  • The plans have gone up to 230 homes from 167 in the SPD (planning outline) apparently largely due to the underground parking. (addendum: by my calculation, this raises density from 62 homes per hectare to 85 homes per hectare – which is similar to the very high density in the rest of Petersfield and not crazy for a town centre in isolation, but given the lack of green space and shortage of many types of facilities in the area, it needs watching).
  • The road access is as wanted locally – via Mill Road, because the narrow back streets can’t take any increase – but it sounds like parking and road access isn’t going to be discouraged as much as we might like to limit the use of Mill Road; they’re saying that with a good junction design (design in progress), Mill Road can take it. It’s hard to agree that Mill Road can take any increase, of course.
  • We heard nothing on community facilities, CWRC or other community provision (school, nursery, doctors, etc.) which are all under stress in the area. This is a huge red line for us – every major development in the area sends S.106 funding elsewhere in the city and we have shortages of everything. This can’t happen here.
    • Apparently the county council isn’t making any moves to increase school provision locally yet. It’s down to them.
  • The partnership have approached Hooper St garage lease holders – not clear if they’re asking to buy back leases or relocate them.
  • It’s a 50-50 partnership and appears to be closely tied to but we don’t know the terms. The website is
  • They’re aiming for a planning application in October
  • They emphasize it’s family, not student, housing.
  • The council’s 40% affordable aim is to be met but we don’t know how hard that commitment is legally (it’s routinely decreased during development on other sites, of course). From councillors, we hear the reality is intended to be more like 50% social housing. We haven’t heard more about cooperatives or other schemes (It matters to neighbours because cooperatives are the only scheme yet mentioned which can reliably limit car use). Nothing yet on other angles, like whether we can ensure more of he site goes to owner-occupiers, with the benefits to building community which would result.
  • The website shows no plans but the only sketch appears to show a reduction in “usable” green space in favour of trees (although moving some to the top, opening up the end of Ainsworth St, would be lovely).

Here’s the community facilities document we shared with the CIP:

A Community Centre for Petersfield – July2017

Norfolk St

Norfolk Street may be changing. There is a planning application to convert the Norfolk St Deli into a flat and another to change B’s Kitchen (previously our beloved Cook for You) into flats – though that one has been refused as too bad for the neighbours, for now.

Changing a shop in a “local centre” to a house requires exceptional reasons so objecting is powerful – what do you think? There are strong personal reasons for the owners, but we’re worried that this is a danger to the other shops in the area; Mill Road may be more famous locally, but Norfolk St has some great little shops and a lot of passing foot traffic at the weekend and on school runs.

The open application to convert the Norfolk St Deli is 17/1141/FUL.

The Petersfield

Just a quick update on The Petersfield.

Various neighbours of the new pub are very upset about issues with The Petersfield. We’re talking to them, to the owners/managers, to local councillors and others to try to help improve the situation as much as possible. Everyone – the City Pub Co. included – seems to want to get on, and we’re trying to our contacts to help. We’re not in a position to get legally involved, but we can advise anyone who would like to formally raise a complaint with Environmental Health etc. The licensing committee did not seem to recognise properly that the new pub has a significantly greater capacity and the use of the outside area is in much greater use. There may be a chance for a licensing review, but the best solutions might well be ones outside the scope of that process. So, we’re talking…

Fantastic news for St Matthew’s Piece

Huge thanks and congratulations to Valerie and everyone involved for a spectactularly successful defence of St Matthew’s Piece today. The planning permission for the massive, already-installed air units on top of the Howard Mallett building, and the new paths between it and York Street (on protected open space) were both REFUSED and both will need to be removed. There may well be an appeal, but the grounds look very solid. It’s a truly great victory for the residents of Petersfield. An absolutely amazing job based on solid hard work.

Community Centres Strategy

Please, please take part in the City Council’s community centre strategy survey and emphasize some of the ways Petersfield is in need of more community provision.

Somehow, despite local residents fighting for a community centre in Petersfield for 20 years, we’re considerd not to need one. The risk is that as we move towards trying to make a new community centre happen on the Mill Road Depot site, the council turns around and decides we’re not in enough need – and offers us just a “community room” or similar provision hopelessly irrelevant to Petersfield’s needs. Please help.

The strategy report is here:

Respond to the survey here:

The report focuses mostly on the community centre changes proposed to the north side of Cambridge – hugely contentious themselves – but there is space towards the end to mention Petersfield.

Points you could make –

  • It says Petersfield has no gap in community centre provision
    • based on unbelievably limited analysis of 15 minute walking distance (yes, some of Petersfield can walk to Ross Street in 15 minutes, never mind that it’s incredibly busy already);
    • and on saying the area of deprivation which is acknowledged around Norfolk Street is effectively too small to require a local space.
    • and that’s it – the basis for the conclusions is incredibly narrow.
  • It ignores other sources of need such as lack of local open space.
  • It ignores housing density as a creator of need for space – in fact the 15 minute walking distance criteria absurdly counts against Petersfield when exactly the opposite need is clearly arguable – density creates the need for common space.
    • (Check p.21, which mentions “densely populated areas of the city” but genuinely looks like it must have a real error in scoring Petersfield as “1”).
  • It takes no account of demand on existing community facilities
  • The evidence listed is so limited as to be useless.
    • In North Petersfield, for example, St Matthew’s Church is not even listed despite its hall being probably the most important facility in the area. St Matthew’s School is listed despite being realistically available for little other than school club use. The evidence gathering is simply not related to the actual community use of spaces.
  • It takes no account of types of use or access to different parts of the community.
  • Its 15 minute walking distance criteria ignores the very term “community” and the key need for community provision to be about enabling communities.
  • There is no mention of areas where communities clearly want facilities, such as Petersfield, or of communities which need more help to make this happen. We simply don’t have the opportunities which less dense areas have.

The whole report is a sad lost opportunity. It ends up focusing almost entirely on rearranging existing centres to the north side of Cambridge.

PACT has done more detailed analysis of community provision – particularly for the Sturton Street Methodist Chapel effort’s business plan – than this report. These conclusions are just not strong enough to base important decisions on. Please tell the council so before 5th May.

Help stop the ‘BACK STREET BISTRO’ becoming a busy High-Street Style Gastro Pub

The community near the Back Street Bistro is horrified by this huge expansion of the quiet pub & restaurant which goes to planning committee next Wednesday. Report from a resident:

The City Pub Company (East) plc, with £19 million backing, boasts a ‘growing portfolio’ of 14 pubs in ‘affluent cities and major provincial towns’, 4 of the pubs in Cambridge ( The Punt Yard beside the Cam in Quayside, The Mill overlooking Mill Pond, the Cambridge Brew House in King Street and The Old Bicycle Shop in Regent Street. These ‘distinctive high quality pubs’ – in hectic tourist hot-spots, among shops in a bustling student precinct and beside a noisy commercial thoroughfare – are about to be joined by a new ‘City Pub’ bang in the middle of our quiet, densely-built and village-like residential neighbourhood at the corner of Hooper and Sturton Streets. Documents on file with Cambridge City Council show how City Pub are redeveloping the intimate, locally owned and managed Back Street Bistro (formerly ‘The White Hart’ since the 1870s) into one of the biggest pub-restaurants in the Mill Road area.

What follows is a progress report and a call for action. Our day of reckoning is at hand, Wednesday 1 February 2017, in Guildhall Committee Room 1 and 2. Planning Committee at its monthly meeting is recommended to approve City Pub’s application for this major redevelopment, which has been going on since October without formal permission (agenda with reports pack: Over 50 neighbours have sent in objections, with none supporting (Public Access Online Register: – enter reference 16/1760/FUL, click Comments, Public Comments). We have been invited to speak for a maximum total of 3 minutes. But the case as it stands looks grim, as do its implications for Petersfield.

Background report  – Licensing Sub-Committee, 28 November

Some of us sent in detailed objections (mine here). But the Sub-Committee stuck to the narrow issues and granted City Pub’s application to vary the Back Street Bistro’s premises licence. Results for the neighbourhood are as follows.


Opening hours: 11.00 to 00.30 (to 23.00 Sunday; exception New Year’s Eve)

Background ‘mood music’ playing: 11.00 to 00.30

External doors and windows are not required to be shut;

Alcohol supplied on and off the premises: 11.00 to 00.00 (to 22.30 Sunday; exception New Year’s Eve)

Daily from 07.00 to 23.00:

  • deliveries and collections at any time, including waste-dumping for removal near neighbouring houses;
  • mechanical ventilation system through roof outlet may run continuously;
  • live music entertainment may play indoors (to 22.30 Sunday);
  • outside seating areas may be in use Friday and Saturday (to 22.30 Sunday – Thursday) by as many as 38 customers, dining, drinking and smoking adjacent to neighbours’ gardens.

Among the reasons given for granting City Pub’s request was the Sub-Committee’s acceptance from City Pub ‘that the changes of the layout of the premises do not appear to increase the number of covers substantially’. This reason was based on a material error of fact, as demonstrated with fresh evidence (here; also at Public Access Online Register: – enter reference 16/1760/FUL, click Documents, 16 Jan 2017 Third Party Comments), and thus the determination was flawed. Despite some earlier confusion about numbers, it is now clear that the premises will expand from a capacity of 60 simultaneous ‘covers’ (or place-settings) as stated publicly by Back Street Bistro, to the 114 people/covers stated in City Pub’s planning application, a 90% increase in business capacity.

Most objections raised by ourselves, including customer traffic and noise and odour nuisance, were deemed irrelevant by the Sub-Committee, which said these can only be addressed by way of an application to review the premises licence. Other matters they deemed ‘for the planning committee to determine and are outside the remit of the licensing sub-committee’.

With City Pub’s CEO in attendance on 28 November, the Company’s attitude to our neighbourhood was on display: we were told that they are favouring us with a £500,000 investment, which will keep 2 Sturton Street from falling ‘derelict’. The new premises will come to be ‘loved by locals’. Those trying to attach ‘onerous conditions’ to the licence are ungrateful: ’It’s almost like we’re being punished’, grouched City Pub’s lawyer.

Planning Committee, Wednesday 1 February

Everything objectionable about this application flows from a business decision to reconfigure the premises to maximize revenue – to turn the intimate decade-old, locally owned and managed Back Street Bistro into the biggest of the 13 restaurants/pubs in the west Mill Road area. (All were visited and managers interviewed.) The linchpin of this redevelopment is SIZE. Day in, day out, 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, City Pub will pull in as many customers as possible, up to 114 at a time, to enjoy up-market and alfresco dining and drinking on a quiet corner of a non-through street within a conservation area in the city’s smallest and most densely populated ward (evidence here; also at Public Access Online Register: – enter reference 16/1760/FUL, click Documents, 16 Jan 2017 Third Party Comments). City Pub even plays up their vaulting ambition by proposing to call the latest addition to their chain of gastro-pubs: The Petersfield.

‘Inappropriate!’ you may growl, but the Planning department think otherwise. Enquiries have been made, facts and figures supplied. It now seems likely that almost every one of our objections to this redevelopment is destined to fail (mine here; also at Public Access Online Register: – enter reference 16/1760/FUL, click Documents, 11 Nov 2016 Third Party Comments). Why? Because the crux for Planning is CHANGE OF USE, not SIZE. And according to their research, no change of use is shown in City Pub’s planning application: the new premises are to still to be regarded as an appropriate pub/restaurant like the calm little Back Street Bistro (mixed A3/A4 use), even despite a near doubling of business capacity and the probable near-doubling of negative impacts on the neighbourhood. (The Back Street Bistro was objectionable on several counts.) City Pub are therefore entitled to do as they please within the premises – move the kitchen and loos upstairs, enlarge the licensed area, even in future extend capacity beyond 114 covers. Planning permission was needed only for external changes to the premises, or as City Pub’s application says, ‘replacement of existing roof plant’.


Planning Committee will not address or place ‘conditions’ with regard to these concerns:

  • near-doubling of seating capacity, including alfresco ground-floor terrace/covered area accommodating 38 covers and sharing walls with adjacent gardens;
  • only a single 1200mm staircase for all traffic to and from first-floor kitchen and lavatories, with no alternative first-floor escape route;
  • nature of staircase attachment to party wall with 4 Sturton Street;
  • first-floor kitchen and lavatory windows directly overlooking bedrooms and sitting rooms 10m across Hooper and Sturton streets;
  • noise and/or odour and/or light nuisance from first-floor kitchen and lavatory windows, which may be left open;
  • extra incoming vehicular traffic with consequent parking and cycle storage problems (100m from the Chisholm Trail ‘cycling superhighway’);
  • no required closure of external windows and doors on ground and first floors.

We understand that Planning are likely to regard all or most of these concerns as matters for other departments, such as Building Control, or Health and Safety, or Public Highways or even Licensing. Why? Because Planning cannot ‘condition’ anything that is not ‘reasonable’, ‘justified’ and ‘necessary’ according to its own protocols, however unreasonable, unjustified or unnecessary some things may appear to us. We are told that the tighter conditions put forward by the Environmental Health Officer (Public Access Online Register: 03 January 2017, Consultee Comments, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH) do not supersede those set by Licensing. Nor can conditions be laid down to anticipate problems that might arise only after the premises opens, such as street congestion and noise. The neighbourhood amenity is left to City Pub’s discretion.

What’s to be done?

If this information is correct, our best, most reasonable hope now seems to lie in the Planning Committee itself, which consists of ward councillors (our Kevin Blencowe is vice-chair). It is within their remit to interpret and apply planning protocols as circumstances may require (always mindful that City Pub may sue to reverse their decisions). So we can appeal to the Committee’s better natures. These councillors have neighbourhoods of their own; they will appreciate how ours is set to be transformed, its character and amenity jeopardized by a juggernaut parked on a corner of our back streets.

MASS PRESENCE IS PERSUASIVE. Please come early and be counted next Wednesday. The agenda (with reports pack: shows that our case, ‘2 Sturton Street’, will be the first of the ‘minor/other planning applications’ for consideration starting at 12.30 or after a thirty-minute lunch break. Venue: Guildhall Committee Room 1 and 2. The meeting is open to the public Deliberations might last an hour – then we shall know our fate.

But we fear not just the fate of  old ‘Sturton Town’. Why does this concern the rest of Petersfield? Because City Pub (East), plc is expanding, buying up property and developing it, adding links to their gastro-pub chain. A local proprietor has mooted in my presence that another corner site in Petersfield is being snapped up. It is not currently occupied by a public house, but neighbours of Live and Let Live and The Six Bells ought to be on guard. What happens in Sturton Street doesn’t stay in Sturton Street. It touches everyone in our city’s smallest and most densely populated ward.

James Moore, 6 Sturton Street


Christmas Event!

We had a great Christmas Event at Cherry Trees last Sunday. We apologise that a couple of things went wrong so it got a bit more crowded and noisy than intended, but it seems like everyone had a lot of fun!

Our thanks first to Cambridge City Council for their grant support, without which this would not be possible. There are a lot of hidden costs in running these events.

Also on prizes, I didn’t win anything. Sadly the winners were:

Many thanks to the organizations providing our prizes!

Do you have a use for large, high quality dance/performance space?

Do you have a use for large, high quality dance/performance space? The community access agreement for the Howard Mallett (CityLife) building is being negotiated and you could help improve it – do get in touch if this sounds at all interesting, and we’ll let you know all that we know!

Update: here’s the latest update from the developer, as posted on the city council planning website (application 15/2372). You can comment on this here, searching for 15/2372.Get in touch with us too, though.


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