Dear Councillors, planners, and civil servants:
1. More and more people live in the Petersfield area. Yet this area of Cambridge has the least public green open space per person in the entire City. This is even despite the inclusion of Fenners sports ground (not open to the general public) and the Mill Road Cemetery in calculations. While we value these sites and agree that they must be protected open spaces, we do NOT feel that they should be the basis for calculating our available public green open spaces. The only real area which qualifies as public green open space locally is St. Matthew’s Piece. The lack of public green open space is acknowledged in the Local Plan.
We therefore call upon the City and County Council to use the opportunity of the Local Plan to ensure a greener future for this area of Cambridge by committing to provide us with specific sites – viz., the Howard Mallett (HMC) site – for protected public open green space.
2. The Howard Mallett (HMC) was built on land given to local residents for rest & recreation in perpetuity. Yet the Local Plan aims to replace a chunk of that land with 3-storey residential or office buildings. Moreover, p. 200 (Policy 73) of the Local Plan states that:
Loss of facilities
The loss of a facility or site that was last in use as a community, sports or leisure facility will only be permitted if it is demonstrated that:
i. the facility/site can be replaced within the new development or relocated to at least its existing scale, range, quality and accessibility for its users.
For leisure uses, it should satisfy peak period need; or j. the facility/site is no longer needed.
So we strongly request that the former Howard Mallett Centre (HMC) which was our community, sports and leisure facility for this area, on our land, be either restored to its original use OR that in view of the desperate need for green open space in this area, the site be returned to protected public green open space, and the facility REPLACED AND RELOCATED nearby to at least its existing scale, range, and quality for this area, with consideration given to the fact that the residential density is now more than 4x what it was when the HMC was first built.
We completely oppose the proposal to replace the site with residential or office buildings as part of the “Opportunity Area for Major Change.” This designation MUST be changed, and the outline development for this site MUST be removed.
3. Point 2.19 of the Local Plan quotes the NPPF’s statement that “projected need cannot be considered in isolation, and that the constraints of an area form an important part of coming to a decision on if and how to meet need. These include
•Cambridge’s outstanding historic environment, which is of international, national and local significance;
• limited supply of available land, as well as conservation constraints”.
We agree. Hence, the constraints of this area include having reached its saturation point for student accommodation. It cannot cope with any further increase of student and other transient population accommodation if it is to retain any community cohesion.
The Local Plan claims to “set out the approach to protecting and enhancing the character of Cambridge, maintaining and improving an enviable quality of life and place” and to “creating strong, sustainable, cohesive and inclusive mixed-use communities.” We agree that this is vital. This is why we feel so strongly that such a community cannot be protected and enhanced if the ratio of students to permanent residents is skewed any further in this area.
ARU came into this area knowing that it is a densely populated residential area. With the complicity of the city planners, they have been following an aggressive expansion policy at the cost of local residents. The Local Plan allows ARU to earmark a minimum of an additional 6,000 sq m of this area for additional faculty space for its East Road Campus (paragraph 5.26) – and that’s on top of the 600 student dwellings ARU intends to add here within the next 18 months (as proclaimed in their own literature, and permitted within Table 2.1 of the Local Plan (ARU “require land for student hostels”).
We believe that this is wrong: if ARU want to expand they should do so elsewhere, NOT by carving up this crowded residential area. ARU have no right to unilaterally declare that they need to expand at the expense of the local community. We have been patient with them so far. But enough is enough.
We therefore require the Local Plan to STOP ANY FURTHER STUDENT development AND ARU expansion in the Petersfield area.
Hence we also demand that paragraph 5.27, which states that
“The East Road site and area remain the most sustainable location for Anglia Ruskin University during the next plan period, and any future needs for this institution should, in the first instance, be met close to this site.”
be removed. The East Road site and area is NOT the most sustainable location and must NOT be met close to this site: this community is at breaking point already. The needs of local residents, whose interests the City Council is duty-bound to represent and defend, must now finally be put before those of developers.
Furthermore, the provision of purpose-built student accommodation negatively impacts local families who are already struggling to afford to live in this area, by depriving them of a historical income stream. We have heard from numerous residents that they were only able to pay their mortgages because they rented out one of their rooms in their family home to students. Therefore, not only would purpose-built student accommodation further weaken students’ ties to the “normal” life of the local community (widening the town/gown divide and destroying community cohesiveness), but also puts further pressure on beleaguered residents by making it impossible for them to afford to live here. We have been copied into correspondence from one of ARU’s own students which clearly shows that the concern about ARU’s unbridled expansion and negative impact on the community is shared across the board.
4. The Local Plan repeatedly refers to the need for affordable housing and community facilities – yet the City Council’s track record in enforcing this (eg in the Station Road developments) is poor. We therefore strongly request that specifics be committed to within the Local Plan – including their enforcement within current developments such as the Station Road area. We find it unacceptable that developers are being allowed to “ignore” their legal requirements for minimum open space, community facilities, and affordable housing. This problem needs to be addressed and redressed BEFORE giving a green light to further developments.
5. The Mill Road Depot (MRD) site (site R.10 in the Local Plan): politicians promised it would include public green open space AND community facilities… yet the Local Plan still labels this site as suitable for 167 new dwellings: a density of 62 dwellings per hectare (dph). This is vastly higher density than other developments (eg Travis Perkins at 35 dph) and is out of keeping both with local densities (eg Sturton St 40dph) AND with government-recommended densities of 30dph for sustainable developments. Both historical precedent and the recent legislation prove that any numbers in the Local Plan become the minimum built. So 62dph would become the minimum in this site! Therefore the proposed density for the MRD site must be at least HALVED. Kindly do not fob us off with promises that density can be debated and resolved at a later date: this is simply untrue.
We also heard recently that open space and community facilities are not guaranteed in the site – despite the LEGAL obligation for their provision.
We find this wholly unacceptable.
Appendix I.11 of the Local Plan proposal itself states that standards for FULL provision of open space – including outdoor sports facilities, provision for children and teenagers, informal open space, and indoor sports facilities – are compulsory and “applicable to all new residential units created as a result of development, regardless of whether they result from new-build or conversions.” Clearly therefore, such provision must not be sidelined as merely optional. It is only the maintenance of open spaces which may be in part funded by S106 monies (Appendix I.14). NOT the provision of open spaces itself. Therefore provision cannot be made optional and conditional upon S106 contributions. The catchment areas for this provision is set (in your own Local Plan draft) as ranging between every 60 metres for Local Play Areas (LAP) to 600 metres for Youth Space and Neighbourhood Equipped Landscaped Areas for Play (NEAPs) – all of which are therefore clearly essential for a site as large as the Mill Road Depot. This is supported by paragraph I.17 of your appendix, which states that
“Sites that generate demand for children’s playspaces in areas of identified need should maximise on-site provision. Similarly, development sites inwards with above average ward population densities should maximise on-site provision.”
a. Access should ONLY be via Mill Road, not Hooper Street.
b. A specific and stated proportion should be dedicated to green open space in this development rather than the current vague promise of including “some.” We have ample evidence that such vagueness is open to avoidance by developers, and the provision of the promised facilities never ever enforced.
c. Community facilities must be similarly specified and guaranteed.
We also believe that the MRD site should be developed by residents for residents, NOT by developers for maximum profit and density. It could be made a flagship car-free development, with monies from the developers subsidising local bus tickets to ensure that residents are encouraged to use public transport. We believe that there may also be a conflict of interest for the Council as being both the owners and developers.
d. The trees and space next to Mill Road bridge should be retained along with the library.
e. The garages to the south of Hooper Street should be retained: this area is already too short of parking spaces.
f. the provision of a cycle route from Hooper Street to Mill Road must be specifically incorporated and included in any MRD site proposal
7. Similar concerns apply to the proposals for the Ridgeons site: inappropriate density, no provision for the elderly, insufficient provision of affordable or family housing, lack of proper green public open space, and inadequate access.
8. Hotels. No further hotel developments should be permitted in this area – those on the corner of Coldham’s Lane/Newmarket Road are unattractive and have grossly insufficient car parking. This is already overwhelming local streets and residents’ car parking. Any further hotels should be sited in industrial areas eg., close to the airport.
9. We are concerned by the wording in Policy 22 that “The character of the area will be enhanced by creating a block structure and developing building forms which moderate the scale and massing of new development in a manner that is responsive to their context and reflecting the finer urban grain of the area.” What exactly does this mean? We require clarification – and power of veto. By residents, not only by developers. The fact that the recent Travelodge by the Leisure Park is hailed by your planning department and the professionals whom you have consulted as “the most beautiful building in Cambridge” gives us deep concern about the carbuncles hidden within Policy 22.
10. We are pleased that the Chisholm Trail has been incorporated into the Local Plan. However, we feel that the wording and the guarantees need to be tightened, including specific guarantees that a cycle route between Hooper St and Mill Road will be provided as a fundamental component of any MRD development. We also request that specifics – eg egress from the various side streets such as Ainsworth Street, and measures to counterbalance increased pressure on residential parking (eg where parking spaces are removed to permit bicycle traffic flow) – be clarified and incorporated.
11. With all the development schemes squeezed into the Local Plan, we are concerned by the lack of provision of everything that would need to accompany such influx: eg medical and educational services, vehicular impact, road usage. Cambridge is already struggling to cope in all these realms. Public transport is becoming too expensive for many people, and evermore erratic both in frequency and punctuality, while bus stops are increasingly being removed, stranding those with mobility challenges. Schools and medical centres lack resources… yet far from addressing these issues, the Local Plan merely intends to exacerbate them.
The Local Plan has the rare opportunity to map out great good and inspirational vision for the future. But as it currently stands, the draft of the Local Plan appears to us to be an ill-conceived plunge into irreparable catastrophe and destruction of much that makes Cambridge great and attractive to residents. It appears to be a blueprint for developers’ ambitions, with insufficient accountability or responsibility for the city which it is supposed to serve. We feel that drastic changes need to be made to it before it is fit to be published as the blueprint for the next 18 years.
A public consultation requires that residents’ views are given as much, or more, weight than those of developers. Otherwise, far from being a democratic mandate, it becomes a mere mockery of the views of those it claims to serve.
We therefore very much hope that this consultation IS deserving of the name. Thank you for your attention.
For and on behalf of Petersfield Area Community Trust,