Azara Blog: Cambridge railway area proposal rejected by council

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Date published: 2006/04/06

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Controversial plans to revamp the area around Cambridge railway station have been turned down after planners said the ££725 million scheme failed to realise the council's aspirations.

Developer Ashwell has said it will appeal against the decision and that it had produced the "best possible scheme for Cambridge".

Cambridge City Council's plannin.committee said redevelopment of the site was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity and did not believe the proposed transport interchange catered adequately for the needs of commuters and residents.

Coun Mike Dixon said: "It is unreasonable to expect the earth from any developer. We can look at what we would like to see there as a transport interchange and there is a danger of asking too much. But what is proposed here is singularly unimaginative."

The proposal, called CB1, included 1,400 flats, a hotel, offices and a multi-storey car park.

Councillors, residents' associations and individual objectors were also concerned about the scale of the proposed development as well as a lack of school places and amenities.

Coun Alan Baker, committee chairman, said: "Ashwell needs to take its proposal back to the drawing board and take fully into account the council's ambitions for this important site."

Ashwell asked the committee to defer the application to make changes, but committee members refused.

In a statement, Ashwell said: "Ashwell Property Group is disappointed at Cambridge City Council's decision to refuse its cb1 proposals.

"With a number of piecemeal schemes for the Cambridge Station Road area having come and gone, the refusal of cb1 is also a major blow for Cambridge as a whole.

"Following consultation with stakeholders and local residents, Ashwell was confident its award-winning architects, the Richard Rogers Partnership, had produced the best possible scheme for Cambridge.

"Our proposals represent a fantastic opportunity to deliver much-needed housing, high quality office space and new retail provision, equipping Cambridge with a vibrant new commercial and residential hub fit for the 21st Century.

"With this refusal we are left with little alternative than to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate."

Council leader Coun Ian Nimmo-Smith said there was still a possibility of a revised scheme getting the go ahead but it had to meet the council's criteria for the site.

He said: "I would urge the developers to look carefully at the reasons for refusal and then to come back with a new scheme that meets the framework that the council has established."

Coun Jenny Bailey, executive councillor for planning and transport, criticised the proposal as likely to lead to serious traffic congestion and said Ashwell was trying to "squeeze in" as much as it could.

She said: "The station area is vital to transport planning in the city. This proposal would cause serious congestion that will affect the whole city.

"We need more provision than 12 bus stops and we need the facilities and shelters to match it. Ashwell's proposal doesn't provide anything like what we need to meet current and future requirements.

This represents a complete failure by the city. If the Cambridge ruling elite did not make it clear all along what they wanted from this development (e.g. how much housing) then it is not surprising that the developer is now exasperated. The city seems to have given no good reasons for such abject rejection, it just seems to be a classic case of Nimbyism. So the city could well lose the planning appeal, and instead of changing the proposal positively through dialogue, we could end up getting exactly what the developer has proposed all along. Cambridge has once again shown itself to be arrogant to the world, and not nearly bright enough to justify the arrogance.

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