Information from your Lib Dem City Councillors – July 2020
We hope you are all well and safe. Given the Covid-19 restrictions, we have not been able to speak to you or update you as much as we would have liked over the last few months, so please forgive the density of this update!
You may have seen from the recent article in the Cambridge Independent that Marchingdale Developments were granted permission to build 149 flats in the NIAB building on Huntingdon Road. The process they used to obtain this planning permission used government legislation known as “prior approval” which is granted to developments converting office space into residential. This means the plans were not subject to the city’s usual planning procedures.
This development causes us great concerns, as the legislation used means the City Council is not able to enforce its usual living space standards of 37 square metres. Some of the flats are proposed to be just 17 square metres, with an average of 22.5 square metres. We do not believe this is suitable living space, and are appalled that this proposal has been made. The Council has sought legal advice on challenging this, but unfortunately due to the government legislation involved the development can go ahead.
Cllr Greg Chadwick asked at full Council in May if the Executive Councillor for Planning Policy would be willing to work with us to use all and any means possible to challenge this development, and we are very pleased that cross-party consensus was established on this. We are also working with the Planning department to see if it is possible to use an ‘article 4’ declaration to bring this development under planning scrutiny, to ensure future attempts at a similar development must go through the planning process. While this may not be able to stop this development going ahead, it could ensure other developments like this cannot be pushed through in the future.
NEW TRAFFIC CONTROLS – Storey’s Way
The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) and County Council have announced plans for experimental traffic controls across the city, including a plan to close Storey’s Way to through traffic by placing a bollard at the existing pinchpoint. Alongside many other cities, these measures are being introduced to make walking and cycling easier and allow social distancing. As local councillors we had no prior notice of these plans, so are rushing to try and understand them and keep you informed as best we can.
The schemes will be introduced on experimental traffic regulation orders for up to 18 months from mid-July. There is no formal role for local councillors in this process, but we have been given the opportunity to discuss the Storey’s Way scheme with officers to represent the views of residents. This has included insisting on improved signage for the closure along Huntingdon and Madingley Road.
Public consultation will run throughout the experimental period, and we will make sure you receive information on how to respond. At the end of the experiment, the measures will either be removed or made permanent, with decisions taken by councillors on the Highways committee.
We know there will be concerns about some of the planned changes, and we would always prefer to see public consultation in advance and decision-making by an accountable committee of councillors. The pandemic is, however, forcing unexpected changes and we believe there’s value in using that opportunity to try to improve how Cambridge deals with traffic. The schemes may make the conditions for cycling and walking better, whilst reducing carbon emissions and pollution – or they may not, and that’s what the experiments will reveal. Although our role in this process is limited, we will work to ensure the scheme takes residents’ interests into consideration and make sure you are supported in making your views known during the experimental period.
EXTENSION TO CONSTRUCTION HOURS AT DARWIN GREEN
Another dramatic change resulting from the coronavirus pandemic is that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced in a ministerial statement on 13th May that in order to restart the construction industry, councils should not seek to enforce construction hours, and should give planning permission to developers applying to extend their hours beyond the usual 8am-6pm. This is to make social distancing on construction sites possible without slowing down the building work.
Cllr Cheney Payne brought a motion to the full Council in May to ask that when such requests from developers come to the city council, they consult with ward councillors before giving permission, and ask developers to do all they can to be sensitive to residents. This gained cross-party agreement.
Subsequently, Darwin Green have applied for permission to extend their construction hours to between 7am and 8pm on some occasions. There will be no construction on Sundays or Bank Holidays, and they are hoping not to need to use this extension regularly. We have requested that they aim to keep the noisier aspects of construction to within the previously agreed hours of 8am to 6pm (8am-1pm on Saturdays) and to keep the need for this extension under review. These comments have been passed to the developers.
If you have a concern about ongoing noise before 8am or after 6pm, please do report them to the City Council’s Environmental Health team, who are aware of this extension and helping us to monitor it.
The details of how Castle Mound and its surrounding green space will be developed and used and how public access will be ensured are still unclear. On June 10th Suffolk’s Development and Regulation Committee looked at granting a right of way to the top of the mound (an application submitted by Cambridge Ramblers’), they had several concerns and chose to defer the decision until more evidence can be presented of the Mound being used as a right of way. Whilst the county council will continue to own the mound and must grant access to it as a scheduled monument, a clear right of way would help stop any concerns about how a developer may alter or otherwise prevent this access.
Last year at Castle Hill open day Cllr Greg Chadwick briefly spoke to agents of Brookgate, who will be redeveloping the Shire Hall site Castle Mound is part of. Their initial plans included open access green space which would provide similar access as is currently available. However since these initial plans were exhibited no more information on how the plans are progressing has been made available.