Victory for Friends of St Matthew’s Piece

Image of planning proposal, with word refused superimposed
Celebratory poster. Email Friends.of.st.matthews.piece@gmail.com to request a copy of the poster to print out.

On Wednesday 24 March 2021, 10.00 am, deep in cyberspace, Super Matt the super squirrel defeated The Thing From Outer Space!

More prosaically Cambridge City Council’s planning committee held a virtual meeting, in which the application to build a block of student flats on St Matthew’s Piece by developers Federated Hermes was considered.

Planning Officers recommended refusal of the application, although there were certain aspects of the local plan and of planning considerations which the development would have satisfied. You can read/download the full officer report (PDF 3.3MB) here (pp187-240).

Of course Super Matt had help from all of the community and Friends of St Matthew’s Piece had massive support for their objection to these plans.

A shoutout to Val Neal who gave a good presentation at the online meeting!

Agnès Aubert, Sleaford Street, on Nextdoor

Would you be able to display Friends of St Matthew’s Piece’s new ‘Refused’ poster in your window?

If yes, please email Email Friends.of.st.matthews.piece@gmail.com to request a copy of the poster to print out. Or just smile and celebrate every time you pass one in the area! Thank you all for your crucial efforts to protect our park.

Of course, any further attempts from these (or any other) developers may emerge. The community would then choose its response.

Everyone’s support and active contributions to preserving, celebrating and protecting St Matthew’s Piece would be very welcome!

Val Neal, North Petersfield, on Nextdoor

As others have posted out, the developers could appeal or submit a modified proposal, so local residents will have to keep being vigilant.

What happens next?

The applicant now has a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against our decision to refuse this application. The appeal must be lodged within 6 months of the date of this decision. In the event of an appeal being lodged, and if you have previously commented, we will notify you and forward any comments you may have made to the Planning Inspectorate.

The applicant also has the right to re-submit an amended scheme which may seek to overcome our reasons for refusal. We will notify you again if such an application is submitted.

Notification from Greater Cambridge Joint Planning to people who commented on the application

However, the redoubtable Roy Stamp strikes a positive note…

In Romsey Terrace, we found that fighting an appeal made residents more determined: the residents won in the end!

Roy Stamp, Romsey, on Nextdoor

It is difficult to second guess what this multi-national investment fund will do next.

It is possible that when they bought the site from Chard Robinson they were told, based on the previous scheme that was consulted on but was never actually submitted, that there was development potential.

At the planning committee their agent Bidwells claimed that pre application advice given by the planners at that time was positive, but this has little status as it is not binding on the Council. It is a very weak argument and I was surprised it was even mentioned.

The main problem, if they appeal, is the fairly new National Planning Policy Framework introduced by the LibDem Tory coalition government in 2012. This planning directive considerably weakened the power of local councils’ decision-making powers and introduced an overarching presumption in favour of development. It also gave more power to planning inspectors to award the applicants appeal costs adainst local councils.

This happened five years ago in Station Road where the City turned down plans for a massive office block. BrookGate won the appeal and the Council was forced to pay them £175,000. The reasons for refusal in this case by Cambridge City Council are, however, very robust and are taken from the approved local plan so we are in a strong position.

If Federated Hermes are realistic they will give up as, given the strength of feeling, the local Councillors will undoubtably put considerable funds into the defence of the Councils position at any appeal hearing.

Local activist and fount of knowledge on planning, Frank Gawthrop, South Petersfield, on Nextdoor

Northpole Ice Rink and Fair

Planning application for 5-year extension

Photo of entrance to the Northpole site
Entrance [Photo credit thenorthpolecambridge.co.uk]

To renew the installation of a temporary real-ice ice rink with viewing platform and back-of-house/plant area; a family entertainment area with children’s rides & food concessions; and a christmas market with stalls & concessions, to one quadrangle of Parkers Piece.

Wording of planning application

You can see see the full details here on the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning portal.

Photo Skating on the rink
Skating on the rink [Photo credit thenorthpolecambridge.co.uk]

Whilst the planning portal lists the ‘Neighbour Consultation Expiry Date’ as Wednesday 24th February 2021, the portal appears to remain open for comments at the date of posting, with the latest comments dated 15th March 2021. The Cambridge City Council Planning meeting at which this application will be considered is scheduled for Wednesday 24th March 2021 at 10.00 am.


What do Mill Road people think?

One local resident emailed us saying:

The Fair and Ice rink will run from 1st November to 31st January. That’s three months of repetitive loud Christmas music and high-pitched screams.

For local residents, hotel guests and students it’s extremely annoying especially for those now working from home. It will also be bigger this time (see application plan online). The organisers also pay a fraction of the rent which Mill Road’s traders pay. They have a Christmas market and food outlets that takes business away from local shops and cafés.

It also badly damages the grass: 14 months after the last North Pole nearly a fifth of Parker’s Piece still hasn’t recovered and that’s despite the council treating the area with new soil and grass seed last summer. It would obviously be a lot worse if the event had gone ahead at Christmas 2020. The area is not fit for its intended purpose – football, social gatherings, boot camps, etc – and looks and feels like scrubland.

This historic City park deserves better care.

Elsa, local resident

Elsa illustrated her objection with photographs. There are shown in the slideshow below.

Whereas a local trader wrote to us in support:

I am always cheered when I see the funfair there in the depths of winter. Seeing and hearing young people having fun is wonderful.

No-one would be using that bit of park in the depths of winter and, in any case, there is still loads more space to use. Presumably the larger and longer the attraction, the more money that goes into the council’s coffers.

I am in favour of the winter attraction in its larger, longer state.

Eileen, local trader

Here are a flavour of the comments on the planning portal.

The North Pole is not in keeping with the area and the direction in which the area is set to develop in, nor does it truly add to any Christmas spirit. In fact it is quite an eyesore.

There are other opportunities that could generate revenue for the council in a way, that is not as damaging to the environment and disruptive to the public, and would also be adding value to the city and community and liven up the park during the festive period.

St Pauls Walk resident

The ice rink on Parker’s piece is a very good thing for all of Cambridge. Children and young people deserve to be able to have some fun. It was sadly missed 2020 so it will be great to have it back 2021/22.

Mill Road resident

I object to this proposal because it is a poor use of what is normally a lovely open space. The noise it generates is awful – endless generators, music from the rides etc etc. Now more than ever, we need a peaceful environment in which to live and work – I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must be to live closer than we do. 

It also totally destroys the grass, year after year. It never really recovers (the space where it was 2 years ago is now still mainly weeds). Local residents so value the ability to walk over the park, but it’s awful when it’s all mud, as it is for months after (& during – gets so muddy around the installation).

Nothing should be allowed to remain on the site for more than a few days (normal fairs/ concerts/ gigs are great – an excellent use of the space! ) but this lasts for months on end. It’s too long. People need to use the grass for sport and recreation and this Ice Rink prevents a good deal of that.

Please don’t allow this planning permission to be accepted.

Lyndewode Road resident

This application is for 3 months of the year. There are other various events which may amount to another couple of months making ~ 5 all told. Parker’s Piece needs be left clear and open. That was its reason for existence.

Equally, there is no doubt a reason for its creeping closure – profit. No doubt Star Radio and the Council coffers do not have to bear the consequences such as increased parking pressure in the area as people try to avoid paying car park charges, increased noise and occasionally an increase in local law-breaking. I suggest the creeping closure of Parker’s Piece be halted. Use other venues (e.g. Newmarket Road for a rink?)

Guest Road resident

It used to be relatively charming – a small ice rink where you could go with the children for a pre-Christmas skate to get into the spirit of Christmas & perhaps get a cup of coffee afterwards. However, over the past couple of years it has been allowed to expand physically, as well as in terms of time, and is now enormous and totally ruins the atmosphere of Parkers Piece for the majority of us, attracting light pollution, noise, litter and antisocial behaviour.

It is allowed to run for weeks and weeks and Parkers Piece and its residents/visitors have to bear the scars for many months afterwards. It totally ruins the enjoyment of what is supposed to be a haven in the middle of an already very busy, congested city.

Out-of-city (Withersfield) resident

To to view all comments – and add your own, for or against – visit the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning portal and enter 20/03552/FUL in the search box. (The portal’s reCAPTCHA setting prevents direct access to individual applications.)


You are welcome to leave comments at the foot of this post, but nothing published on this website will be taken into consideration at the Cambridge City Council Planning meeting at which this application will be considered, on Wednesday 24th March 2021 at 10.00 am.

Faraj’s Kitchen

Faraj’s story

Faraj Alnasser is a Syrian refugee who lives with a local family, off Cambridge’s Mill Road, who have taken care of him like a son. “Cambridge has become a home for me, because of this very kind family,” Faraj told us by email.

At just 14 years old, while Faraj’s family were refugees in Egypt, following an insurmountable family rift, Faraj left his family and made his way back to Syria, where he found his former family home bombed out. 

After spells in Iraq, in Syria (again) and Turkey (where Faraj learned Turkish) he took the bus to Sofia, Bulgaria, followed a circuitous route through Austria and Germany, finally reaching the Channel coast, where he escaped to the UK by hiding in a refrigerated lorry, in which he nearly died from hyperthermia.

Faraj has now been living in the UK for over 5 years.

In 2016, following a spell in a refugee holding centre, Faraj was offered accommodation by a local family, has learned English at a local language school, and developed his cookery skills.


In early May 2021, ITV News Anglia’s Hannah Pettifer presented a TV report From Syrian refugee to Cambridge business owner in three years. Read the report and watch the video here.


Faraj’s kitchen
image with link to download Faraj's menu
Click the image to view/download the full menu

Faraj has been cooking at Honey and Co, after training at Ottolenghi in London. Thanks to lockdown – a very small silver lining – Faraj is now back in Cambridge and has started cooking his delicious Middle Eastern food for delivery to your house.

The menu includes some old favourites – after eating real Aleppo hummus you will never be satisfied by supermarket hummus again – and some less familiar dishes from his mother’s kitchen in Syria. All the dishes are from local ingredients and everything is vegetarian or vegan – and wonderful.

Bread – including challah and pittas – is freshly baked, and if you have never had pistachio challah, it is very highly recommended, for Shabbat or any day.

Click here to read/download Faraj’s winter menu.

We hope Mill Road’s Community of Communities will support Faraj. Email your order from Faraj’s Kitchen at cheffaraj95@gmail.com or phone 07523 832050 to order.

We welcome Faraj’s contribution to the abundance of worldwide authentic food to be found along Cambridge’s Mill Road. Why order from a mundane multiple? Mill Road can offer much better than their banal burgers and prosaic pizzas!

Winter Fair 2021…??

Announcing the 2021 Mill Road Winter Fair Annual General Meeting

This year’s Annual General Meeting will be held via Zoom on Tuesday 23 March at 7.30pm. Mill Road Winter Fair will be planning the 2021 Fair and exploring a range of exciting ideas for Mill Road Fringe events, which may take place during the summer months as the Covid restrictions lift.

This is the perfect time to join Mill Road Winter Fair’s team of volunteers and help shape the cultural life of Mill Road’s ‘Community of Communities’. Getting involved in the Fair is a great way to meet a fabulous bunch of people while also making a massive difference in our community.

Please email info@millroadwinterfair.org if you’d like to find out more and/or receive the Zoom link for the Annual General Meeting.

The 2020 Fair

In 2020, the Mill Road Winter Fair could not take place owing to Covid-19 restrictions. Instead, the first Online Fair featuring many of the local performers, artists, stalls and organisations who would have been there on the day, took place.

The Fair committee also coordinated an amazing community event to celebrate and showcase the identity and culture of Mill Road. Fun for all the family, the Mill Road Lantern Trail was funded by the charity, Love Mill Road.

Grow a Row to Support the Cambridge Emergency Food Response

A guest post, from Jasmine of Cambridge Sustainable Food

Are you a grower or Allotment Holder who could “Grow a Row” extra to help support Cambridge’s Emergency Food Response?

Cambridge Sustainable Food is looking for local growers to help support the Cambridge emergency food programme by planting extra crops and donating fruit, veg and herbs towards one of the eight community food hubs around Cambridge. 

Chesterton Allotments donations

Last summer Cambridge Sustainable Food ran a Grow a Row campaign which saw nearly two tonnes of fresh produce grown and donated by individuals, families, streets, community projects, allotments and community farms, which went towards supporting the local emergency food response.

poster - including brief wording from this post

After the success of last year, Cambridge Sustainable Food are running the Grow a Row campaign again, and are looking for people to grow and share to help support the local Cambridge community. We welcome all donations of fresh fruit, veg and herbs to help keep our services running, and support those struggling to access food. You don’t have to be an experienced grower to help out – we welcome growers old and new. So even if you want to try growing some herbs on your windowsill, please get in touch!

Adopt a herb to grow on your windowsill

If you could “Grow a Row” extra, get your street involved in growing together, or if you find you have a glut on your hands that you would like to donate, please contact info@cambridgesustainablefood.org

For more information about “Grow a Row”, and online resources for first time growers, see Cambridge Sustainable Food’s Grow a Row webpage, here.


Editor’s note:
If you’re unable to grow food but have surplus to donate…

Don’t forget about The Edge Café Community Fridge & Larder (Food Hub) Brookfields Campus 351 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 3DF T:01223 212 478

Whilst the café is currently closed, the Food Hub remains open 11-1 Monday to Saturday.

Pavement Survey – Update

In December Living Streets Cambridge piloted a survey on the state of the pavements using nextdoor.co.uk for the Petersfield ward. This was also posted, here, on this website. In January 2021 the group has produced a pilot stage report (PDF), a brief snapshot of responses taken from 98 returns.

A second report exploring the findings from Phase 1 and 2 dated 11/03/2021 has now been released. It can be read/downloaded here.

The most striking finding is that only a very tiny minority of respondents responded positively to the question: Are you generally happy with your experience as a pedestrian in Cambridge?

Are you generally happy with your experience as a pedestrian in Cambridge?
Overall YES n= 14 (5.78%)
Overall NO n=153 (63.22%)
It depends n=76 (31.40%)

This clearly highlights pedestrians’ experience that many pavements are in a bad state of repair and frequently blocked for one reason or another.

Mill Road was reported for its narrow sections of pavement which made wheelchair and pushchair access dangerous and for the numbers of parked vehicles obstructing the pavement.

The survey is still open, until the end of March 2021. If you haven’t already taken part, you can do so through this link.

With the current focus on active travel, this state of neglect has come into sharper focus and suggests that continued targeting of limited funds on improving the city centre may not be the best way to address the needs of many of Cambridge’s residents.  This point has been made to the planners in respect of Making Spaces for People which, whilst it has an admirable focus on reducing pollution, concentrates almost entirely on the city centre. Living Streets Cambridge will continue to seek to represent pedestrians on other City and County Council fora relevant to their needs.

The intention, now, is to extend the survey to wider areas of the city and if anyone can help with doing that, through residents associations, social media or posting on notice boards like nextdoor.co.uk for other wards, Living Streets Cambridge would be very grateful for the help. For the present this is limited to City Council wards ( and County divisions within the city boundaries) as far as possible, though at a later stage it might be extended to surrounding areas.

Please email the Living Streets Cambridge group by clicking this link if you feel able to assist in any way.

It’s early days for the revived Living Streets Cambridge group and help of all kinds is needed. I hope this small start enables us to gain some momentum and work to stimulate improvement.

David Stoughton,
For Living Streets Cambridge


In many residential areas of the city the environment for pedestrians remains challenging due to a combination of high traffic levels, narrow pavements and poor maintenance.

As investment in road maintenance has fallen away, footways have become increasingly dilapidated and dangerous.  It will take a significant, concerted effort to get this put right. 

The Living Streets Cambridge group is determined to provide a voice and a campaigning platform for pedestrians in the city, an imperative that has increased in importance since the pandemic struck and ‘active travel’ has become a greater focus of policy.

Living Streets Cambridge

You can email the Living Streets Cambridge group by clicking this link, and/or sign up for local group news, here.


Living Streets is a UK Charity – Registered Charity Nº 1108448 (England & Wales) SC039808 (Scotland) – “for everyday walking”.

Sonic Boom

(A Telling Blast)

I hadn’t seen my neighbours for a while
They come and go when I am resting
But today we met quickly with a smile
Even with ‘lockdown’ pressing!

“Hello, are you alright?
I thought you’d fallen
And tumbled downstairs, or
Perhaps a cupboard had toppled
And pinned you down tight!”.

“The whole house moved,
My ears are ringing,
I hope the structure’s still safe,
Are we all in the same place?!”.

“Ah I see a vapour trail,
So it was a plane
Breaking the ‘sound barrier’,
Showing complete disdain!”.

Scrambled to intercept
A plane with no I.D.,
Fast enough to frighten
Both you and me.

But it’s reassuring to know
The UK is safe,
No enemy allowed
Into our space.

If only we could rid
Ourselves of ‘Covid’,
With such vigour and speed
We would be truly freed.

Ed Lloyd Jenkins
January 2021


For details of the reason for the sonic boom, heard shortly after 1pm on Tuesday 12th January 2021, see Huge sonic boom heard over Cambridge – Cambridge Independent.

For a lesson on what causes a sonic boom, see this link provided by the RAF.

Kerb it

By Charlotte de Blois

As we negotiate recent changes to Mill Road it has become apparent that drivers subconsciously behave differently along different stretches of the road. Picture one shows how three car drivers chose to pavement-park opposite a build out.

While further down the road on a narrower stretch of the road, Picture Two, shows how a driver uses the build-out as protection for his parked car and helpfully stays on the road.

This allows pedestrians to use the narrow pavement unimpeded.  Thank you grey car driver.

Pavement Survey – Living Streets

Mill Road and its surrounding streets – like much of Cambridge – suffer from pavements which offer a poor environment for pedestrians, particularly parents with toddlers, and people with disabilities.

The Living Streets Cambridge group was set up to tackle Cambridge’s poorly-maintained pavements – pavements which are cracked and rutted, causing trip hazards and puddles to form, with poorly-sited street furniture adding to the pedestrian obstacle-course…

Rainwater conduit with eroded screed covering, uneven, subsided brick and flag paving, highway signage obstructions, 91 Mill Road CB1 2AW

Overgrown hedges create further obstacles as do wheelie-bins left permanently on the pavement. Living Streets Cambridge believe that these obstacles should be tackled, too.

Black, green and blue wheelie-bins and ‘side waste’ block a narrow pavement, off Mill Road. Photo taken two days before blue bin collection, nine days ahead of black bin collection and 15 days before green bin collection.

Too little action has been taken to address these issues, in part because no register exists to identify all of the problems and bring them to the attention of the highway authority (Cambridgeshire County Council) and City Council (responsible for refuse and recycling collections).

Unregulated pavement parking adds to the problem, blocking pavements and contributing to further cracking, rutting and subsidence, despite Cambridgeshire County Council being granted powers to tackle this nearly a decade ago. Read more about those powers here.

Little room for pedestrians, when this delivery-driver prioritises vehicular traffic. Note, too, the damage to the kerbs and paving-stones.

As a first step towards tackling these issues, Living Streets are conducting a short survey to identify where problems exist and catalogue them by type. The survey can be found here.

Readers can help Living Streets Cambridge by taking the time to complete the survey, giving as much detail about problems and locations as possible.

And please let friends, neighbours, and others who may be interested, know about the survey, by forwarding the link to the survey, or this blogpost to them.


Living Streets is a UK Charity – Registered Charity Nº 1108448 (England & Wales) SC039808 (Scotland) – “for everyday walking”.

We want a nation where walking is the natural choice for everyday local journeys.

Our mission is to achieve a better walking environment and inspire people to walk more.

Progress starts here: one street, one school, one step at a time. Read our three year strategy to find out more about our vision, mission and values.

Living Streets > About Us > Our organisation

Living Streets Cambridge add…

In many residential areas of the city the environment for pedestrians remains challenging due to a combination of high traffic levels, narrow pavements and poor maintenance.

As investment in road maintenance has fallen away, footways have become increasingly dilapidated and dangerous.  It will take a significant, concerted effort to get this put right. 

The Living Streets Cambridge group is determined to provide a voice and a campaigning platform for pedestrians in the city, an imperative that has increased in importance since the pandemic struck and ‘active travel’ has become a greater focus of policy.

Living Streets Cambridge

You can email the Living Streets Cambridge group by clicking this link, and/or sign up for local group news, here.

Mill Road Bridge Restrictions

What are the next steps? When will the scheme be reviewed?

Consultation

We invite comments on the closure of Mill Road Bridge to all vehicles except buses, cycles and pedestrians. Please send your comments by email to [redacted as the consultation is now closed – Web Editor]

The first six months of the Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) are the consultation stage during which we record all feedback.

A survey runs between 12 noon on Monday 9 November until 23:59 on 24 December 2020 to offer an additional opportunity for people to have their say on the changes and their impact on Mill Road.

We will collate all feedback, whether from emails, letters or the survey and present it to the Highways and Transport Committee when they make their decision on whether to continue the trial, make the changes permanent or to re-open the bridge to motorists.

Mill Road Bridge trial road closure, Cambridgeshire County Council website

Note the closure date of the consultation; Christmas Eve. As Monday 28th is a public holiday; the earliest that all of the comments could begin to be considered and collated would be on Tuesday 29th December 2020.

Readers who have completed the survey themselves will note that there were quite a few sections with space for ‘free expression’ of ideas. These will take some time to assess and aggregate.

The Highways and Transport Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday 19th January 2021 at 10:00. Click here for meeting details. There is no further information at the time of writing but, if readers keep returning to it, they will, eventually, find a full agenda pack for the meeting published in PDF format to read/download. In amongst that will be a summary of all of the feedback on the Mill Road scheme.

The full calendar of County Council meetings can be viewed here.

It will be quite a tight timescale for Cambridgeshire County Council’s officers to compile a report for the Highways and Transport Committee.

The full membership of the Highways and Transport Committee, including substitutes for those unable to attend, is here.

As for members of the public ‘attending’ (virtually)…

To help people follow the debates at Cambridgeshire County Council we are live web streaming on YouTube our Council meetings. You can also follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #CCCmtgs.

Council meetings Live Web Stream, Cambridgeshire County Council website

We hope this information is of help, to all of our readers and subscribers, whether for or against the scheme, or (like most people) wanting some limitations but not these exact ones.


This blogpost is open for (polite) comments.