We’re having a planning gathering on Wednesday 8th March, at 7:30pm at the Six Bells (on Covent Garden, just off Mill Road). Do join us! We need to discuss how we make sure we watch new applications and keep organized as well as current open issues.
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 (http://citypubcompanyeast.com/): 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: http://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=181&MId=2990&Ver=4). Over 50 neighbours have sent in objections, with none supporting (Public Access Online Register: https://idox.cambridge.gov.uk/online-applications// – 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.
365 DAYS A YEAR WE CAN EXPECT:
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: https://idox.cambridge.gov.uk/online-applications// – 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: https://idox.cambridge.gov.uk/online-applications// – 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: https://idox.cambridge.gov.uk/online-applications// – 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’.
SO WHAT CAN EXPECT?
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: http://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=181&MId=2990&Ver=4) 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
- Hooper-Sturton neighbourhood density map
- new evidence for Planning Committee
- objections to Licensing Sub-Committee
- objections to Planning Committee
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,