During Cambridge City Council’s planning committee on the 19th of August 2009 councillors approved plans for an ice-rink, market, and fair-ground ride to be placed on Parker’s Piece for ten weeks between the 13th of November 2009 and 31 January 2010. A number of people had technically “objected” to the proposals, but all made clear they supported the ice-rink but just wanted to improve the details of how it is operated; to make the site safer.
The case officer began her report by saying that Cllr Howell’s submission had been omitted in error from the committee’s paperwork, she asked members if they wanted to see it and received a chorus of “yes”. Cllr Hipkin asked if he could be given time to read it; the chair, Cllr Baker agreed to suspend the meeting for as long as it took Cllr Baker to read the representation. This was a very brief interlude as Cllr Baker read the document in about ten seconds.
Cllr Howell’s representation referred to unsafe modifications to the main cycle routes across Parkers’ Piece which had occurred in previous years and commented on the poor quality of cycle racks used in previous years. He said he was generally supportive, but urged councillors to add conditions to the planning application to address his concerns.
Three people addressed the committee in person. Martin Lucas-Smith, on behalf of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, Kevin White the owner and director of the group responsible for the ice rink, and local ward councillor Tim Bick.
Cambridge Cycling Campaign
Martin Lucas-Smith made clear he was not objecting to the principle of the ice rink, saying he and many of the campaign’s members had enjoyed it and were happy to see its return. What he was seeking though was the addition of some “simple and reasonable” conditions:
- Cycle parking – frames must be lockable to the rack. It was noted that the council’s cycle parking standards were not enforced last year, and suggested that while council officers ought ensure the council’s standards are followed in any case, a specific condition was needed to ensure action.
- Laying cable over the paths – a condition was suggested that the paths be kept level.
- The location of the market stalls in previous years had resulted in the paths being blocked; the suggested condition to deal with this was that the paths must be kept open at all times.
Mr Lucas-Smith requested that “cyclists-dismount” signs not be used, and pointed out that all he had raised had been mentioned in the report, but that officers had not ensured the points were dealt with by conditions, he urged the committee to add conditions.
The Ice Rink’s Director
Kevin White addressed the committee saying that 90,000 skaters and 200,000 people had visited the attraction in 2008. He also said the enterprise had received a million hits on its website. He pointed to the fact the council benefited from significant ground rent and claimed revenues at the Queen Ann Car Park were up by 29% due to his company’s activities. He was almost out of time before he actually moved on to addressing the concerns objectors had raised. He said that his company had “looked at” repositioning items away from the paths, and reported that the company had “engaged with” the city council’s cycling and walking officer and had agreed to use 32 of their racks, and some of their own. With respect to humps, he said these will no longer be an issue coming across the path, but that there was still no permanent supply of water or electricity to the site. He said this would require significant investment that his company was prepared to “take part in”.
Cllr Bick said he was speaking on similar grounds to others, and made clear he welcomed the fact the ice-rink wants to come back. He said he hoped it would be able to come back after the conclusion of the morning’s discussions. He said his concerns were:
- Impact on public rights of way
- Parking of vehicles
He welcomed the fact the market had been repositioned, and was now not going to be across two sides of a path. (If they don’t have a hard path in the middle, I hope they have some walkway to prevent it getting very muddy and destroying the grass).
Cllr Bick suggested a 2m buffer zone around the paths, he also suggested a condition to limit the number of vehicles in total allowed on the green space; noting the extended period of time the permission was for and saying: “the more vehicles allowed the greater the tendency for them to go on and back – and the green is not equipped for that to happen a lot.”
Cllr Dixon said that he had doubts about the proposal two years ago, and noted that last year the grass took a couple of months to recover. Cllr Dixon suggested that the council’s own staff could make a tunnel under the path in the next couple of months. Cllr Dixon also drew attention to the fact a condition had been mis-drafted referred to multiple rides rather than just one. Cllr Dixon concluded expressing his support for the proposal which would “provide recreation – at a time of year when the space is not much used”.
The planning officer advised that cars and caravans would be parked outside the site under consideration – outside the “red line” on the plan before the committee. As such the planning officer advised that no conditions could be made relating to parking, he also noted that the footpaths were all outside the area too, and advised no conditions could be made relating to them either.
Cllr Hipkin came up with a potential solution to the problem, asking if it was possible to insist that all vehicles park within the site, and then if they parked elsewhere enforcement action could be taken. The officer agreed, but pointed out that as the council owns the land they would be making an enforcement notice against themselves. Cllr Dixon surmised that the parking and paths issues were “matters for open spaces”, and the planning officer agreed.
The applicant asked to clarify a point, and was allowed to “make a brief factual statement” by the chair. He said that in 2008 there had been two connections crossing the path, one for broadband internet and one for water. He said that there is a new connection under the path, and the water situation would not recur in 2009 as the connection is on the same side of the path as the rink.
Cllr Blencowe raised the fact that when dealing with planning applications on council land confusion surrounding where the “red line” was and what activities were inside or outside of it were common place. He suggested that in this case all parking could probably not be accommodated inside the red line drawn, but said in an ideal world that would be the case – so all the conditions could be set by the planning committee. Given the situation infront of him and his fellow councillors he suggested “an informative to our parks department”.
Cllr Dixon said he didn’t see what a fairground ride had to do with an ice-rink. Cllr Zmura said she liked the fairground rides with the horses that go up and down and said they attracted a different kind of person to other types of rides. Cllr Hipkin agreed, saying: “a single carousel is a clear sign that the facility is for the enjoyment of young children, it is the right signal”. He said that where people of all ages come together for enjoyment there was less chance of anti-social behaviour.
After making sure they’d given permission for only one ride, the councillors present unanimously approved the application.
Other items on the agenda
- Lensfield Road Hotel – application approved
- Neath Farm – application for 40 new homes near the Airport, off Coldhams lane approved. A representation from Cllr Newbold in which he expressed concern about the height of the “very tall buildings” proposed was reported to the committee. Committee members did not agree with Cllr Newbold and Cllr Blencowe joked that “Cllr Newbold is a very short fellow”.
Cllr Hipkin and the planning officer had a heated argument about the reduction in affordable housing on this site. The officer had claimed a reduction was due to “rounding”, but Cllr Hipkin demonstrated that it was a real difference. A previous application had 16/45 units affordable, this one had 12/40. Cllr Hipkin said that the officer’s mathematics had to be improved.
Cllr Blencowe questioned the sizes of property included in the social housing provision, noting a need in the city’s homelink system for 4-5 bedroom houses. 3 bed houses and 2 bed flats were present. Cllr Blencowe appeared largely to be making a suggestion to officers that they do better on this next time – saying “I don’t know what negotiation there’s been”.
Again this application was unanimously approved by the five members of the planning committee who were present
- With respect to an application for 40 flats for the over 55′s on the site of the Simons House nursing home on Histon Road / Rackham close (approximatly opposite Aldi/Iceland), the officer debated if the over 55 stipulation ought be in a condition or not, and concluded it ought be.
Cllr Blencowe drew attention to the concern over particulate matter from the use of Biomass fuel and wondered how the competing objectives of energy efficiency and particulate pollution could co-exist.
Only five members of the planning committee attended.
The council’s website lists the membership as ;
Al Bander (LD), Baker (LD), Blair (LD), Blencowe (L sp), Dixon (LD), Dryden (L), Hipkin (Ind), Reid (LD), Stuart (LD)
Alternate: Zmura (LD)
Those absent were:
Al Bander, Blair, Dryden, Reid and Stuart.
Cllr Blair apparently does not attend council meetings during the school holidays.
I would like to see the council make “decision notices” available online following meetings like this.