A guest post from Valerie Neal, a Friend of St Matthew’s Piece
Local residents have been fighting to protect and conserve local amenity and environmental assets via Friends of St Matthew’s Piece since 30thApril 2020 – and, before that, via Petersfield Area Community Trust, since 1998). We stand on the shoulders of the giants who, 100 years earlier, in 1898 had established St Matthew’s Piece. This included planting the magnificent London Plane trees that provide all of us with such wonderful benefits today. Read more on the history of St Matthew’s Piece, on the St Matthew’s Piece Timeline 1890–2020.
Trees in Petersfield
Consider how poor is the tree cover generally in the surrounding area. Our little St Matthew’s Piece is Petersfield’s only official park (versus the 56 parks in the other 13 Cambridge wards; see the 2018 Cambridge Local Plan’s Appendix C). Petersfield is poorly provided for not only with regard to Public Open Space but also when it comes to tree canopy, number of trees, and tree coverage. All of this while Petersfield has the most densely housed population in Cambridge, living in properties that are predominantly very small houses or flats (with little or no private gardens; see p24 of the most recent Friends of St Matthew’s Piece submission to the Planning Portal).
Friends of St Matthew’s Piece are not the only ones to have noticed. A recent (late 2021) pan-European study included Cambridge in its review of 1000 cities – Green space and mortality in European cities: a health impact assessment study [The Lancet, VOLUME 5, ISSUE 10, E718-E730, OCTOBER 01, 2021]. This revealed that 68% of Cambridge residents do not have the WHO-recommended access to green space.
These 68% are, naturally, not evenly distributed across Cambridge. The Environment ‘Domain’ of the latest iteration of the Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation reveals that the area around St Matthew’s Piece falls into the 2nd most deprived of 10 decilesnationally, with regard to this parameter.
All of the splendid mature trees around the (now, tragically, privatised – in 2018) northern half of St Matthew’s Piece have continued to thrive, thanks to the twin protections of Tree Preservation Order No 4/2005 and their location within the Mill Road Conservation Area (1993). The benefits are mutual: these trees are themselves vital to the Mill Road Conservation Area. Check Tree Preservation Orders on the Cambridge City Council website here.
But that does not mean these precious trees are safe.
A New Threat
On 15th March, a scant week before the 22nd March deadline set by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning for the submission of comments, Friends of St Matthew’s Piece learned by chance of the ‘tree application’
22/0271/TTPO | T1, T2 & T3: London Plane – Reduce height by ~5m and spread by ~4m balancing crown of all three trees. Prune on a triennial cycle to maintain broadly at reduced dimensions. | St Matthews Centre And St Matthews Piece Sturton Street Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB1 2QF
This proposed a brutal cutting back of three of the original 1898 trees along Sturton Street: each by 5 m in height and 4 m in spread. Why? To address problems detected in a 25-year-old property at 193 Sturton Street – a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). The papers on the planning portal concerning 22/0271/TTPO are viewed by Friends of St Matthew’s Piece and other Objectors as scanty, flawed and contradictory, building a very weak case for any cutting back any of the trees – never mind all three trees.
The trees are still at risk. The local community responded magnificently to an appeal from Friends of St Matthew’s Piece to defend them. Within five days, no fewer than 43 local Objections to the planning application were submitted. 28 have been uploaded under the ‘Documents’ tab of the Planning Portal for 22/0271/TTPO; as well as 15 Comments (all objections) under the ‘Public Comments’ tab. The objections are thoughtful, well-informed and effective – worth reading.
If you wish to add your voice to these Public Comments, you can register and submit your views right until the application goes to a meeting of the City Council Planning Committee.
City Councillor for Petersfield Ward, Richard Robertson, has ‘called in’ the application, which means it can no longer be decided by a Planning Officer but must go before the Planning Committee to be determined. We don’t yet know when this will happen (the next meetings are 14th June and 6th July 2022).
The insurance company could spend upwards of £80,000 to underpin 193 Sturton Street, to address the subsidence they have found there since the summer of 2019. The alternative they propose instead is to severely cut back our three protected trees and spend around £8,000 to repair the cracks and redecorate. They argue that the damage to the house is due to the trees taking up too much water, and have tried to prove this by measuring the movement of the house at 8 different points over the course of 1 year, running May-to-May. Here is their graph:
But are our trees the true cause of this subsidence?
The lower curves on the insurance company’s graph, the ones showing the most movement, all echo precisely that seen – on a matching May-to-May horizontal axis – in the annual variation in soil moisture deficit (SMD). This 2nd graph is from the Environment Agency, based on more than 60 years of data. This shows a predictable and well established regional seasonal pattern in soil moisture deficit:
Parts of 193 Sturton St have therefore been recorded as moving entirely in synchrony with the:
firmly established, and
annual cycle of soil drying under the property. This occurs over the entire East Anglian region – irrespective of any effect of trees on St Matthew’s Piece. It is the view of Friends of St Matthew’s Piece that no evidence is produced in planning application 22/0271/TTPO that crown reduction and spread reduction of our three trees would have any significant or sustained protective impact at 193 Sturton Street – in the inescapablecontext of this annual hydrogeological cycle.
Furthermore: many houses are just as close to St Matthew’s Piece trees but it is only this one that has cracks – the problem seems to be with this new house, not with these old trees.
How many more Cambridge trees will face similar threats, when the fundamental problem is unlikely to be the trees themselves but over-abstraction of water associated with over-development and its impact on the local water table?
If you would like to join Friends of St Matthew’s Piece or assist in any of the issues raised in this blogpost, kindly hosted by Mill Road Bridges, please email Friends of St Matthew’s Piece.
The Oxford-Cambridge Arc (the Arc) is a globally significant area between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. It is formed of five ceremonial counties: Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.
It supports over two million jobs, adds over £110 billion to the economy every year and houses one of the fastest growing economies in England.
There is an opportunity, recognised by government and local partners, to build a better economic, social and environmental future for the area. With high-quality, well-connected and sustainable communities making the Arc an even more beautiful place to live, work and visit.
‘High-quality’, ‘well-connected’, ‘sustainable’, ‘even more beautiful’ – what’s not to like? Or is the ‘opportunity’, no more than ‘high quality’ hot air, helping ‘well-connected’, people and PLCs ‘sustain’ high earnings?
The government has been thinking of the idea of an Oxford-Cambridge arc for over six years and this is first time the public has been asked for feedback.
Lara Davenport-Ray, Huntingdonshire Green Party
We’re getting good feedback from a wide variety of people and that will provide really helpful input to the policy propositions that we will generate over the next few months into 2022
Chris Pincher, Minister for Housing
I think it’s important, if you are going to develop such a long piece of land, you don’t leave us as a housing estate for the big cities at either end.
Business owner Philippa Shoobert, of engineering and software firm Smart Control Solutions, St Neots
I’m worried the Oxford-Cambridge arc and level of development they’re proposing is going to detract from our character as a historic town, and the rural nature of surrounding towns and villages, and I don’t think building that many houses will help us achieve our zero-carbon goals.
The Times, Guardian, Financial Times and others have reported on the concerns about China’s growing involvement in Cambridge. Residents are asking, “Is Cambridge and the Ox-Cam Arc part of China’s Belt and Road initiative?”
Wendy Blythe, Chair, Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations, addressing the ‘Supersize Cambridge’ event
Ms Blythe highlighted a tweet, earlier this year, by Ant Breach, senior researcher for Centre for Cities, a think tank funded by Cambridge University Chancellor, Lord Sainsbury, in which Breach said, “I make no apologies for demanding growth and a spicy hot labour market.”
People are asking, “Who are the interests promoting this ‘spicy hot labour market?'”
Wendy Blythe [ibid]
Developers and house builders?
The beneficiaries of such development will not be local people but shareholders of global companies and the losers will be the vulnerable across a broad range of species. It was a stimulating set of talks.
Who are the Arc’s ‘movers-and-shakers’?
On 21st September 2017, the creation of a new lectureship, in Chinese urban development, funded through a gift of £1m to Cambridge University’s Department of Land Economy, was announced after a signing ceremony held in Hong Kong. The donor was Justin Chiu, a director of CK Asset Holdings, which owns Greene King, the Bury St Edmunds based brewer and pub retailer.
CK Asset Holdings, a property investment company, was founded by the Hong Kong businessman Li Ka Shing and is now chaired by his son Victor, as is its sister company, CK Hutchison Holdings. The latter is another Hong Kong based conglomerate, whose UK investments include the majority of UK Power Networks, Northumbrian Water Group, the 3 mobile phone network and Hutchison Port Holdings (a private holding company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, operators of Harwich International Port, London Thamesport and Felixstowe Port, much of the freehold of the latter being owned by Trinity College).
Writing in Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019 (p 108), Professor Colin Lizieri, then Head of the Department of Land Economy and Grosvenor Professor of Real Estate Finance, said:
We […] welcomed Dr Li Wan as the new Chinese Urban Development lecturer (the post funded by a generous donation from Dr Justin Chiu). Li’s expertise lies in spatial modelling of cities and infrastructure. After completing his PhD (in the Architecture department at Cambridge), he has been working in the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and developing models for cities in China, in Korea and in the UK. His knowledge of modelling and the use of large digital data sets will be very valuable for both our research and teaching and complements Dr Elisabete Silva’s work with the Interdisciplinary Spatial Analysis Lab (LISA) and with Dr Thies Lindenthal’s big data work as part of our growing emphasis on technological change and transformation of urban land and property markets.
The postholder, Dr Li Wan, worked on Land Use-based Integrated Sustainability Assessment (LUISA) modelling for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER). The modelling work, for which he was the lead from 2017-2019, was funded by the business group Cambridge Ahead and the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority. To download a high resolution version of the CPIER Final Report (PDF), click here.
Planning for growth – the application of a new spatial equilibrium model for Cambridge and Beijing
By Dr Li Wan, University Lecturer in Chinese Urban development, Department of Land Economy BArch, MPhil, PhD (Cantab)
This short article introduces the application of a new spatial equilibrium model (LUISA) developed by Cambridge scholars for supporting the strategic planning of two fast- growing city regions – the Greater Cambridge in the UK and the Greater Beijing in China.
Greater Cambridge is an economic hot spot where growth has outpaced the rest of the UK throughout the past decade. But the economic success comes with a price: house prices have soared – the city’s average house price is now 16 times the median salary; worsening traffic congestion and air pollution is threatening the vitality of the city; and public services are being put under strain by the growing population. …
To quantify the possible futures of the Greater Cambridge city region, the modelling research started with a ‘business as usual’ scenario, assuming that the region grows according to current trends of employment growth and local plans for housing. This scenario showed that even a modest rise in jobs would lead to considerable wage pressure in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire and an unmanageable amount of in- commuting which would choke growth. The LUISA model was then used to explore a range of alternative spatial strategies that aim to balancing (sic) the growth of employment, housing and transport infrastructure:
Densification – concentrating new employment and housing within the city boundaries: this can accommodate the largest amount of jobs and people around existing and new rail hubs, but could risk worsening congestion and air quality in spite of convenient public transport access;
Fringe growth – extending urban areas around the edges of the city: this brings the highest financial returns with more modest building construction costs, but needs to use Green Belt land and will increase car use;
Dispersal – encouraging growth to go to market towns or newly created settlements beyond the Green Belt: this could spread the growth and gain social and environmental benefits, but would rely on the willingness of companies to move away from current centres of high productivity;
Transport corridors – developing new sites for jobs and housing along existing and new fast public transit services that emanate from Cambridge: this offers space for continued growth of existing business clusters while unlocking potential of new sites that could attract growth, but this requires the highest infrastructure investment.
Click the link in the citation (above) to read/download the publication cited.
But, the Ox-Cam Arc’s stated objective is to “enhance the area’s natural environment and biodiversity.” What’s wrong with that?
With a strategic approach to planning for growth, we can enhance the area’s natural environment and biodiversity, ensure communities and businesses have access to the infrastructure they need, and ensure new development is more affordable and beautiful so that it enhances places across the Arc.
David Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Ecology at the University of Oxford, representing the Stop the Arc Group, gave a keynote speech on how increasing house building in the areas linking Oxford and Cambridge by 53% to 61%, when the average need, nationally, is assessed at a 13% increase, is unsustainable for our environment. Water shortages, pollution and loss of biodiversity will be the outcome, despite planners claiming that they are going to “double nature”. It was pointed out that politicians still follow the mantra that economic growth is the gauge of societal and electoral advantage, ignoring our environment’s fitness for human habitation.
The voices of the people need to be heard loud and clear, and the government consultation has too many “leading” questions for it to deliver accurate results. That is why the campaigning group Stop the Arc has created an alternative questionnaire to that created by the government for the stage 1 consultation. The survey is quick to complete (about 5 five minutes) so PLEASE take the time to do it, and then to pass on the link to as many people as possible.
Campaign to Protect Rural England, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough
We’re abusing rivers in this country on a scale that we have never done at any point in the past. And yet, here we are, the proud possessor of 85% of the world’s total supply of chalk streams and not one of them is in good environmental health.
ITV News Anglia reporter Hannah Pettifer caught up with Feargal Sharkey on the banks of the River Lea in Hertfordshire, on Tuesday 22nd June 2021. To read a summary and view the report on the ITV News Anglia website, click here.
Spot the ‘Undertone’ of Sharkey’s contempt for the Environment Agency…
See also, The Oxford-Cambridge Arc; An Environmental Catastrophe – with Professor David Rogers.
Anyone for Greenwashing?
As we rebuild our economic life, we should do it on green principles, averting a crisis many times greater than the coronavirus: climate breakdown and the collapse of our life-support systems.
This means no more fossil fuel-based infrastructure. Even existing infrastructure, according to climate scientists, could push us past crucial thresholds. It means an end to megaprojects whose main purpose is enriching construction companies.
Perhaps the definitive example of such projects in the UK is the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. It’s a plan to build a conurbation of 1 million homes – twice the size of Birmingham – from Oxford to Cambridge. This is far beyond the region’s housing demand. Its purpose, government agencies admit, is not to meet the need for homes, but “to maximise [the area’s] economic potential”.
But [recently], a new campaign came to the rescue. It has rebranded the project “Nature’s Arc”. Apparently, with some adjustments, this massive exercise in concrete pouring “could show how development can restore nature, rather than destroy it”. Building up to a million homes, the new PR blitz tells us, is “the perfect opportunity to invest in nature, improve people’s lives and realise the green recovery.”
Cambridge and the surrounding area has always been a great place to live. But what will it be like in 20 years? The city is facing a period of huge change. The local population is growing and getting older. There is an urgent need for more housing. Resources are under pressure. And transport networks are becoming increasingly congested.
Two of CambridgePPF’s trustees – Matthew Bullock and Peter Landshoff – are members of the Cambridge Ahead board and are helping to put together its initial projects. Matthew Bullock is a member of the project group looking to ‘Clarify The Growth Agenda’ and Peter Landshoff is involved in the body’s work to ‘Improve the Quality of Life’ in the city.
Business, enterprise and employment are flourishing in Greater Cambridge. But housing and infrastructure are struggling to match the jobs boom, and gaps in social equality keep widening.
University academics are connecting their insights, data and algorithms to find solutions to the area’s ‘growing pains’.
“Economic growth is like a bonfire,” says Matthew Bullock. “You can get a bonfire going and expand it as long as you keep feeding the centre. But you can’t pick a bonfire up and move it somewhere else.”
Bullock is talking about the economy of Greater Cambridge, where a staggering level of growth has outpaced the rest of the UK over the past decade. As one of the founders of the business and academic organisation Cambridge Ahead, Bullock has been helping to shape a vision for Cambridge and the people who live and work in the area.
“Growth here comes up through the floorboards,” says Bullock, who was one of the original financiers of the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ – the development and growth in high-tech businesses in and around the city since the late 1970s – and is now Master of St Edmund’s College.
The debate about growth around Cambridge is still far from settled.
The government wants growth because it yields more tax revenues to pay for pensions, healthcare and all the other public services without raising tax rates. Why Cambridge? Because jobs here are, roughly speaking, more profitable than elsewhere in the country. In part that is because of the concentration of talent and new ideas within the university, research and start-up ecosystem.
What is happening to bus services around Cambridge?
Stagecoach East is far from unique in having staffing problems – and they’re not the only operator to have been cancelling services recently as a consequence. In order to (try to) provide a little more stability for passengers, they will be implementing a number of changes to Cambridge-area services from Sunday 24th October.
With passenger numbers below pre-Covid levels, some operators are reducing journeys on higher frequency routes in order to minimise the number of drivers required. This runs counter to the ethos of the Bus Recovery Grant and to the needs of passengers. In marginal and rural areas where services were already basic, the impact is particularly severe with people now struggling to access work, education, apprenticeships and healthcare.
“We need to give people better transport choices.And fast.”
‘Slow travel’ is all the rage in the Sunday colour supplements, but has less of a pull when balancing up how to get from Cambridge to Huntingdon on an overcast Wednesday morning in October. We know there’s an urgent need to reduce the number of journeys made by private car, which means making the change a realistic option for more people. So it seemed like a good idea to remind myself what the bus journey was like.
Unsurprisingly, the trip showed how much more investment and imagination is needed in public transport.
Recent statements by the Government and Tory think tanks seek to justify their repeated attacks on the planning system as a contribution to the Levelling Up agenda of the Johnson government. [However] planning reforms will do nothing to level up or reduce glaring geographical inequalities in our country: in fact, they will make these disparities even worse.
In 2021 we are facing the challenge of possible new planning ‘reforms’ based upon […] the idea that planning is the reason for falling housing affordability so relaxations of planning will provide the solution.
[M]ore planning permissions will lead developers and land owners to develop more and bring prices down. It has yet to be explained why developers should continue to build when selling prices are falling, indeed they seem to be adept at avoiding ever doing that by trickling-out their completions slowly enough to maintain high selling prices.
But what planning reforms would support long term locality improvement for the worst hit areas? We can state six broad criteria to start with:
Reforms must give localities public steering strength, by withdrawing the recent rash of permitted development rights (which strip places and communities of power) and ensuring local plans can take back control of how space is used.
Within localities, reforms must strengthen the roles played by citizens and communities, without whose active creativity and support neither Levelling Up nor adequate response to the climate emergency will be possible.
Reforms must enable decisions at the right level, by creating strong strategic plans for economic development and housing with long term funding attached.
Planning must make public health a key objective of decisions about new development.
Reforms must make zero-carbon a core requirement of every Plan and every substantialplanning application decision.
Social housing & special needs housing should be prioritised to help reverse themechanism which makes housing worsen inequality.
The Ox-Cam Arc and the growth of Cambridge are issues which affect us all – those living in and around Mill Road, in Cambridge, all of the surrounding villages and our nearby market towns. The post is open for contributions. You are welcome to continue the debate.
We can now report that the application has been withdrawn. See the text of the letter (below) from Luke Waddington, Planning Officer, Greater Cambridge Shared Planning.
Cambridge City Council Application for Planning Permission
Why you have received this letter
Proposal: Demolition of existing HMO and construction of 7 no. replacement 1 bedroom apartments and 1 no. restaurant
Site address: 60 Mill Road Cambridge CB1 2AS
Further to previous correspondence relating to the above matter, I write to inform you that the applicant has asked for the application to be withdrawn. Accordingly, we have stopped all work on processing the application and no decision will be made. There is no right of appeal against such a decision.
What happens next?
The applicant may choose to re-submit this or an amended application to us at a future date. We will notify you again if such an application is submitted.
Tracking future applications
Through our web site you can save searches on specific criteria such as a property address or mapped area, you can then choose to receive updates by email when new applications are submitted meeting your criteria.
Plans have been submitted to the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning service for the complete demolition of the Bibimbap House Korean Restaurant building and the residential accommodation above and behind it. If approved, the existing three-story building would be replaced by a five-storey building, with an additional basement.
This post is open for comments, but please remember that nothing published on our website can be considered by the City Council’s planning committee. You are, however, welcome to use this space to encourage others to submit their own comments on the planning portal.
Former Bharat Bhavan Temple carvings in old Mill Road Library “to be taken down and skipped”
Piero, Mill Road Traders Association Ambassador, writes…
I am launching an appeal to save this beautiful carved stone being skipped.
These pictures are from the former Bharat Bhavan Temple located in the Old Library on Mill Road.
Since the County Council got it back in its possession, there has been work set in progress to restore the fabric of the building, unfortunately all this carved stone is destined to be taken down to be skipped. I feel that this a completely sacrilegious act to destroy such beautiful work.
I believe it is worth at least £80,000 as it took thousands of hours of work from many sculptors from India and was shipped all the way to Cambridge.
I am appealing to Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to use those carved stones in a memorial, I already have in mind three locations in Mill Road where it could be placed as a memorial.
We must protect diversity and cultural identities in Mill Road. We haven’t got much time as work begins on Monday 29th March.
The cost for it to be taken down professionally and stored is only £3,000. Mill Road Traders Association can contribute part of the cost but we’d like the community to encourage the authorities to support this project. Mill Road Traders’ Association have also set up a crowdfunding page Save Bharat Bhavan carvings on Mill Road on GoFundMe with a target of £3,250.
UPDATE 1 (Sunday 4th April 2021) We have reached the target – thank you! Every additional £ we receive now will go towards the important task of re-homing this piece of Cambridge heritage and not just safely dismantling and storing them.
UPDATE 2 (Saturday 10th April) We have had so many emails and phone calls from people who want to help and we are very thankful to you all!
The funding goal has been raised to £6000 to reflect the installation costs of the carvings, which may also include a heritage plaque telling their story, as well as lighting which changes colour for specific events such as Diwali or the Mill Road Winter Fair. You have all made this happen, with people in Mill Road, Cambridgeshire, and across the country pitching in to help – but please keep passing on our message as every £ helps!
(It is possible that this number may rise again, but every £ donated helps us do more to save, preserve, and respect this piece of Cambridge heritage.)
Note: as of Friday 23rd April 2021 at 17:30 the money raised stood at £5,260
Cambridge Independent, Friday 23rd April 2021, by Alex Spencer
Beautiful carvings from a former temple that were sold to a Cambridge hairdresser by the county council for £1 could be worth as much as £500,000. Read the full article, here.
Our Web Editor adds… For those wishing to learn more about the background to the library, the temple and its repossession by Cambridgeshire County Council please read on and explore the links below.
The library was built by Cambridge City Council, but passed to the ‘new’ Cambridgeshire County Council under the two-tier reorganisation brought in by The Local Government Act 1972 on April Fool’s Day 1974.
For a brief history of Mill Road Library, click the image above.
For how the reasons behind the County Council’s repossession and the current work, see Debbie Luxon’s report and Frank Gawthrop’s comments.
The Indian community organisation that took over the library were granted a 25 year full repairing lease on a peppercorn rent in exchange for maintaining the building fabric. This building which is grade 2, listed was considered a financial liability to the County so this was seen as a zero cost way of maintaining the structure.
Unfortunately the lessees did not spend any money on external maintenance in 10 years allowing water to enter the building and cause extensive damage. The City Council which is responsible in law to ensure listed buildings do not fall into disrepair served notice on the County Council about the deteriorating state and the County sent in surveyors who have estimated the repairs to be in the region of £300,000.
The community association having had free rent declined to pay so the County obtained a court order to regain possession. They may have spent a lot of money on carved statues but they have left local council tax payers with a huge bill.
The lease was held by a company limited by guarantee. This is a fairly usual way that community groups take on financial obligations as it protects the members from any personal claims.
Having cost local tax payers in the region of £300,000 I, for one, think enough public money has been spent already on this failed project. If private individuals want to contribute that is fine and appropriate. If these carvings are valuable they are the property of the company limited by guarantee which leased the building. What are the directors doing about this?
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.
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.email@example.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
While many of us hit the shops for last-minute lockdown supplies this week, volunteers on St Matthew’s Piece were stocking the larder for insects.
Bees and other pollinating insects are essential to the life cycle of plants. But their numbers are plunging as the amount of open land dwindles and their sources of food disappear.
Volunteers from On the Verge Cambridge and Friends of St Matthew’s Piece came together on a sunny November morning to plant the Piece with hundreds of wildflower bulbs. On the Verge Cambridge works with schools and community groups to plant wildflowers in suitable spots, so insects don’t have to fly long distances in search of food.
The group planted anemones, bluebells, winter aconite, wild garlic, crocuses and snakeshead fritillaries, each in a different part of the park. When the flowers bloom, they will provide a rich supply of nectar.
St Matthews’ Piece is currently threatened by developers who wish to build a large block of flats on its northern edge.
“It’s such a beautiful place, with all its stately trees – but developers want to cut some of them down,” said Janet Wright, of Friends of St Matthew’s Piece.
“So many people come here with their children or just to take a walk. From next year on, they’ll be spotting flashes of colour as various flowers start coming up. I just hope they won’t have a block of flats looming over them.”
“Quite a few people walking through the Piece were pleased that we were planting flowers and hoped the planned development wouldn’t be allowed.”
Developers who want to build a large block of student flats on the edge of this small but well-used Petersfield park slipped a consultation document out in April, while most people were preoccupied with lockdown.
“As a former local resident, now 95, I totally reject the proposed centre,” Dorothy wrote to developers Federated Hermes, along with more than 100 local residents who also sent in their objections. Though confined to her present home in Gloucester by the pandemic, she sent her support to Friends of St Matthew’s Piece.
After her wartime service in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, Dorothy became a pacifist, trained as a social worker and is still active in numerous community groups. In recent years she has advised the government, NHS and national charities on issues around inclusion and ageism. Due to represent the navy at the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Dorothy was instead phoned by the Princess Royal when all events were cancelled.
A founder-member of Petersfield Area Community Trust, she has studied the results of increasing inequality, 20 years after a survey found that 10% of the Petersfield population lived below the poverty line.
“The statement ‘We’re in it together’ has to be challenged,” Dorothy told Friends of St Matthew’s Piece. “The private business world is achieving what it wants. This area has a long history of continuous development, and of losing community assets.”
Petersfield, though densely populated, has less public open space than any other ward in Cambridge.
“There are lots of people in Petersfield without gardens, some occupying one room in a house,” says Dorothy. “If people haven’t got gardens and haven’t got much money, they need free access to some open space. That’s being deliberately taken away from Petersfield.”
The proposed student flats would be built above the former Howard Mallett youth centre – Dorothy notes that rates of youth offending increased after the centre was closed. Developers would also fell at least two of the mighty plane trees that are a feature of St Matthew’s Piece.
“Trees are extremely important,” says Dorothy. All the evidence shows there’s something important about the function of trees. Loss of trees is a health problem. Losing the big trees that are protecting our environment is extremely risky.”
Friends of St Matthew’s Piece say, “The building is completely out of scale with its surroundings and shows no respects for the local community”
A proposed building that would tower over a Cambridge park is far more intrusive than developers’ illustrations show, say campaigners.
It would dominate the entire area around St Matthew’s Piece and throw neighbouring houses into deep shadow, new 3D images demonstrate.
“These images are like a nightmare,” says Janet Wright, a supporter of Friends of St Matthew’s Piece. “You can see this monstrosity crouching on top of the existing building, overshadowing ordinary little houses and filling the view from the Piece.”
Architectural projections skilfully woven into a newly released video [above] reveal the proposed student housing block, more than 19 metres tall, looming over St Matthew’s Piece. Local campaigners have likened the building, intended to house more than 100 students, to a ‘spaceship’ or ‘monster’.
“The building is completely out of scale with its surroundings and shows no respects for the local community,” says a local resident who has contributed key architectural skills to the production of this dramatic video.
The video was made for Friends of St Matthew’s Piece by Mill Road TV. It marks the 122nd anniversary of the day the park was given to local residents “for ever”. Friends of St Matthew’s Piece celebrated the anniversary (23 June) with a socially distanced gathering, while calling on other local residents to join them in protecting the Piece.
Developers Federated Hermes have not yet put in a formal planning application, but have circulated their proposals to hundreds of local residents.
Press release from Friends of St Matthew’s Piece dated 6th July 2020