Objection to Proposal to Accommodate 172 Pupils at Mitcham’s Corner

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013. 12:12am

Proposal: Mitcham's Corner Cambridge

Proposal: Mitcham’s Corner Cambridge

I have submitted an objection to a planning application to demolish the buildings on Mitcham’s Corner in Cambridge currently housing Staples and Lloyds Bank, replacing them with a commercial space, that Staples and Lloyds are expected to move back into, along with 172 rooms for the largely 16-18 year old pupils attending Bellerbys College in the city.

I am writing to object to planning application 13/0036/FUL

  1. As the site is surrounded by a busy, hard to cross, road which feels difficult and dangerous to cycle on I do not think it is an appropriate location for accommodating 172 relatively young students many of whom are expected to be new to the UK and unfamiliar with our roads. I don’t think access to the site is easy or safe enough. I am a regular cyclist and pedestrian on the surrounding roads; it is often hard to cross traffic; cars and buses are often changing lanes as they drive around the gyratory which is hazardous; and the shared use cycle/foot paths are badly signed and hard to understand. As an example one shared use cycle/foot path appears (according to the signage) to stop half way along Croft Holme Lane leaving cyclists attempting to cross three lanes of traffic from a position with poor visibility.
  2. I think the proposed new building is too large for, and architecturally out of kilter with, its context. While some effort has been made with its external appearance it is not of high enough quality given its prime location in central Cambridge, very close to the river Cam, Jesus Green and Midsummer Common.
  3. Given substantial re-design of road environment in the area; shifting the priority substantially towards pedestrians and cyclists, perhaps a dormitory for young students of the sort proposed could be appropriate on the site; however no such substantial changes are directly proposed as part of the application. To enable a development similar to the one proposed would require improvements to the immediate road environment.
  4. I think this site, and the adjacent area, including the space currently occupied by the highway, is one which needs pro-active planning; the improvements needed will not in my view easily emerge as a result of applications coming forward from developers.
  5. Proposed Access to Cycle Park at Mitcham's Corner Cambridge

    Proposed Access to Cycle Park at Mitcham’s Corner Cambridge
  6. The application proposes a large cycle park in a basement accessed down steps. This is crazy for a building whose residents would be expected to cycle as a primary means of getting around, and in a city which, given the popularity of cycling, ought be leading the way in requiring high quality cycle parking in new developments like these.
  7. The transport assessment states: “residents at this development will be legally restricted to bringing cars to the city”; I think councillors ought investigate this statement. Presumably it means residents will be in breach of a rental agreement or licence agreement if they bring a car to Cambridge.
  8. Proposal: Mitcham's Corner Cambridge

    Proposal: Mitcham’s Corner Cambridge

    No “Student Departure and Arrival Traffic Management Strategy” has been prepared; it is suggested one might be required as a condition. I find it hard to envisage how students being dropped off and picked up at the start and end of terms will not create a hazard and congestion at the site which is surrounded by a busy and complex road environment.

  9. I suggest restricting the permission given to the specific proposed use, by students of Bellerbys college (or similar institutions) and not for example rented on the open market; or used in whole, or part, by other institutions such as Cambridge colleges; requiring any such changes of use to be brought before councillors if they were to be considered in the future. The impact on the surrounding area of similar uses might well be quite different.
  10. [Full name and address]

See Also

14 comments/updates on “Objection to Proposal to Accommodate 172 Pupils at Mitcham’s Corner

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Some tweets:

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    I live on a nearby street (Milton Road) and regularly visit the area; I’ve walked and cycled through it and shopped in local shops many times since the application was submitted but while I suspect if I go and look very hard I might find a notice on a lamp-post there’s no obvious announcements of what is proposed of the sort which would alert those driving, cycling or walking past to what is proposed.

    I know about the proposals only because I’ve followed discussions at the North Area Committee; I only knew this particular application had been formally submitted and it was open for public consultation having noticed the Cycling Campaign’s objection.

  3. John Ionides

    Richard, I’m surprised you didn’t analyse the air quality assessment modelling; it all looks suspiciously close to the limit to me (but then if you are going to build something like that in the middle of a roundabout what do you expect ….)

    1. John Ionides

      But as the site is in an AQMA, they [well, actually both the developers and the city planners] shouldn’t be able to get away with ignoring it here.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    Someone has written to me to point out the consultation for this proposal was not listed on the Cambridge City Council consultations page:


    I have been lobbying for a long time asking the council to do more to promote the fact consultations are open on licensing and planning applications in which significant public interest could be anticipated. The council have defended their position of not drawing attention to such consultations on the grounds of needing to treat all applications equally. I think this is nonsense as they could put in place objective criteria against which they could assess an application to see if it warrants extra publicity (eg. listing the consultation on the council’s main consultations page). I’ve spoken at central scrutiny committees on this point, and submitted the suggestion to the council’s recent consultation on consultation however despite the Liberal Democrats standing on a manifesto giving public engagement with decision making a priority councilors didn’t act.

    At the very least the council’s main consultations page ought clearly state it doesn’t carry consultations on planning and licensing applications.

    1. John Ionides

      “I think this is nonsense as they could put in place objective criteria against which they could assess an application to see if it warrants extra publicity (eg. listing the consultation on the council’s main consultations page)”

      So-called “criteria based approaches” seemed to be all the rage at yesterday’s Development Plan Scrutiny Sub-Committee. It would be interesting to know why they are so keen on them in the context of the Local Plan but opposed on an issue such as this. There may, of course, be good reasons (e.g. an increased risk of decisions being overturned at appeal due to the necessarily subjective nature of judging against the criteria).

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    I am attempting to read some of the recent comments submitted to the council. I am getting an error message:

    Document Unavailable
    This document is unavailable for viewing at this time.

    This isn’t very useful.

    My own objection has been published as an image based PDF; it has been redacted to remove my name, email address and URL.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    This application is still showing as “pending consideration” on the council’s online planning file.

    Given the application was received by the council on 21 Jan 2013 its consideration is well overdue and the applicants could appeal to the planning inspector on the grounds of non-determination and bypass the democratic process entirely. It is great credit to the developer that despite councilors’ inaction they have decided to stick with the local, democratic, process.

    A letter on the planning file dated 17 May 2013 from a Cambridge City Council planning officer, Toby Williams, sets out reasons why council officers are not supportive of the application and states:

    I therefore invite you to withdraw the current application and return to negotiations.

    That planning officers are inviting an applicant to withdraw an application does not affect councillors’ responsibility to consider it. I find it very surprising that such an action is being taken by council officers, rather than having the matter considered by councillors. Why are officers asking for the application to be withdrawn rather than councillors considering and (from my point of view) hopefully rejecting it?

    The letter from officer Toby Williams notes Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways department is yet to comment on the application.

    There is another section of the letter which states:

    The gyratory creates a hostile environment for those navigating the surrounding pavements and highway by foot and bicycle and effectively makes an ‘island’ of your client’s site. I agree with the sentiment expressed by the Friends of Mitcham’s Corner. However, revisions to the layout of the highway are beyond the control of your client, are not detailed, costed or embedded in adopted policy and have little weight. In my discussions with the County Council, they have indicated that they have no plans to alter the function and layout of the gyratory.

    Despite this though, planning officer Toby Williams states that the state of the road environment around the site is not a reason for resisting the development as the proposals do not preclude improvements.

    My view is that’s an odd position to take, as if permission is granted, without ensuring improvements are made we would end up with a development of a dormitory for young students on what planning officers accept is a hostile, island, site.

  7. anadapter

    Exactly. You end up with student accommodation not quite stranded, but almost so, in this complex and unfriendly gyratory. Transport issues are, as we know, an important detail that can be used to turn down an application and to say that councillors should ignore that is perverse, imo.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cambridge City Council wrote to me today via a physical letter sent through the post to let me know this application has been withdrawn.

    The thing to watch for now is re-submission of an application; which will then be disconnected from the public consultation comments made in relation to this one.

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