I knew what I was going to write in this week’s blog – a report on the application to build 40 short-stay apartments at 11 Queen Edith’s Way, the site of the former retirement home, the Hollies, which was heard at Planning Committee on Wednesday.
But then on Thursday morning, a cyclist was killed at Addenbrooke’s roundabout, a young physiotherapist on her way to work, Anna Garratt-Quinton. This is the second serious accident to involve a cyclist in recent years on the doorstep of the hospital.
And on Friday, I received an email from a staff member at Addenbrooke’s, asking me as a City Councillor, what I was going to do “to make cycling in and around Addenbrooke’s safer”.
Dispiriting and upsetting
Writing my reply was dispiriting and upsetting. The truth is that the link between the planning system and transport delivery is broken.
The truth is that multiple layers of government (City Council, County Council, Greater Cambridge Partnership, Combined Authority) all bang the gong for growth but haven’t got a clue how to solve the problems it’s creating.
The truth is that the City Council has no direct power over the allocation of space in the streets of this city.
We don’t yet know the circumstances around this accident but we do know that the redesign of the roundabout in 2017 (both the process and the outcomes) was heavily criticised by local residents and by CamCycle. This was yet another big and disruptive project in our neighbourhood. Did it really serve no useful purpose other than ticking a box on a list of Campus planning obligations?
Having lived on Hills Road for over 20 years, I have had ample opportunity to watch traffic volumes in the area grow relentlessly. And when walking or cycling around the area, I have had ample opportunity to experience the damaging and sometimes dangerous effects of that growth. For how much longer will the Powers-That-Be insist that it’s possible to keep cramming a quart into a pint pot? There will be 30,000 employees at the Campus by the end of this decade – now it’s suggested we can add yet another 10,000 by 2041.
What could possibly go wrong?
Access to 40 apartments? No problem.
By the way, if you want to know more about the Queen Edith’s Way planning application (shown above), do read the write up in the Cambridge Independent by the new Local Democracy Reporter, Hannah Brown, and you can read the full text of my speech to Planning Committee below. The Planning Officer’s report makes it clear that they see no problem with vehicles from 40 apartments entering/exiting the premises across a shared use path used extensively by cyclists and pedestrians on their way to school or work.
Of course they don’t.
Notes for Planning Committee, 6th October 2021
From: Sam Davies
I’m grateful for this opportunity to speak at today’s meeting and to draw councillors’ attention to aspects of the application which I believe need clarification, and which lead me to urge you to reject the application.
Firstly I would like you to consider the appropriate balance of two policies in the 2018 Local Plan.
The officer’s report refers to Policy 77, Development and Expansion of Visitor Accommodation. Just to recap, Policy 77 states that high quality accommodation will be supported “at Cambridge Biomedical Campus (including Addenbrooke’s hospital)”. In para 8.5 of the report under consideration today, the officer suggests that 11 QEW is close enough to the Campus to qualify for approval under Policy 77.
However, Policy 77 should not be considered in isolation from Policy 17, Cambridge Biomedical Campus Area of Major Change. Policy 17 both explains the intention to site visitor accommodation on the Campus (para 3.45); and describes the Campus boundaries (para 3.46). It is clearly the intention of Policy 77 that the Campus’s visitor accommodation needs should be met on the Campus site, that site being defined in para 3.46. This being the case, I would argue that Policy 17 effectively trumps Policy 77 in this instance, as the raison d’etre of this QEW development is to provide visitor accommodation for the Campus, and Policy 17 details that the Campus should be meeting these needs on its own site.
This interpretation is further supported by Policy S/CBC in the new Local Plan First Proposals. These rightly now require the Biomedical Campus to utilise its own land efficiently to meet its needs and specifies:
“Given the existing piecemeal development on the biomedical campus, any proposed release must contribute towards improving the wellbeing of campus users and surrounding communities, as well as addressing the spill over impacts on individuals and communities of this intensive employment location.”
The clear intention of this provision, to ensure that the Campus no longer pushes out its negative externalities into the surrounding residential neighbourhood, reinforces the primacy of Policy 17 over Policy 77 in relation to this application.
Secondly, I would like to draw councillors’ attention to the impact of this development on the character of the local neighbourhood. The section of Queen Edith’s Way between Hills Road and Fendon Road roundabout is characterised, as the officer’s report describes in para 8.2, by “predominantly early-mid 20th century, 2.5 storey detached houses”; and while it has seen an acceleration in conversions of these family houses to more modern developments, including flats, over the last decade, it still retains its residential character.
However, the application under consideration today is incompatible with this residential character, in terms of both scale and usage type. The plots on QEW which have been redeveloped as flats have a maximum of 15 units for permanent residents, vs today’s proposal for 40 short-term occupants of aparthotel rooms. This is a very different proposition for which there is no precedent in the area.
Finally, I’d like to make a couple more points which may not been apparent to councillors who do not have detailed local knowledge:
1. the entrance/exit to this development is not just crossing a pavement. Queen Edith’s Way is a heavily-used shared use path, frequented by hundreds of cyclists accessing local employment sites, including the Biomedical Campus, and education sites including Netherhall School, Long Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology and Trumpington Community College. I’m disappointed that the comments from the Highways Authority did not make specific reference to cycle safety. It seems bizarre to me that officers would overlook this consideration when the County Council recently spent £2.5m on cycle safety and cycle promotion measures only 200m away at the infamous Fendon Road ‘Dutch’ roundabout.
2. anyone with local knowledge will be aware that the amenities at the neighbourhood centre of Wulfstan Way are extremely limited, for example the takeaway food offer comprises one fish and chip shop. I see no likelihood that infrastructure there could meet the needs of the occupants of 40 serviced apartments, where the apartments are only 25m2, ie only 2/3rd the size of the minimum space standard specified in Policy 50, and where there are no communal facilities on site.
So – Para 8.5 of this application states “Officers conclude that spatially the site is located in a suitable location and there are no express policies that would prohibit the development of a serviced apartment use on this site”. The fact that there are no express policies to prohibit this development strikes me as a pretty low bar to clear. It certainly does not mean that it is the right development in the right location, which is surely what this committee is here to deliver.
I add to this blog weekly if there’s something important to report. Get these posts by email by adding your name to the list, using the form on this page.
The events of last Thursday are devastating and as you say we don’t yet know what circumstances conspired to result in the loss of Anna’s life. I am relatively new to Cambridge and have been shocked to see the frequent occasions of cyclists without lights; without helmets; crossing through red lights; and riding on the wrong side of the road. When I say frequent I can tell you that we saw 3 instances when walking into town today and our bus driver had to use his horn twice on our ride home to warn cyclists who were cycling dangerously without regard for the traffic. My husband and I have feared for the loss of life of cyclists and the damage to lives of drivers who may be involved in any accidents. Could the local authorities undertake an education campaign for cyclists, put up signage etc to prevent other lives being lost when traffic and cyclists interact?
All road users need to be respectful of each other. Plenty of cyclists behave badly, but far more car drivers behave as irresponsibly, and with potentially far more tragic results. Stand on Hills Road for a day and you’ll see dozens, if not hundreds, of cars being driven way too fast, or with drivers paying more attention to their mobile phones than to the road. As a pedestrian, that terrifies me more than a badly-behaved cyclist, although I wish neither played a part in my life.
However, we need to be careful that this does not become an argument about car drivers vs cyclists – that’s not what the problem is here. The issue is the amount of traffic of all kinds being encouraged by the authorities, without the infrastructure to keep us all safe.
Powerful blog this week, Sam. Cambridge residents will understand your anger, as most of us share it.
On the topic of the QEW 40 “apart-hotel” and the appreciable extra traffic movements across the pavement, those Planning Officers who “see no problem “ are City Council (or South Cambs) employees, yes? And the final approval will be given by City Council (or South Cambs) councillors, yes?
Thank you (at least!) for your work on behalf of us all.
Great piece Sam – sorry it had to be written, and thank you. Fully agree.
Excellent ,entire report
Many thanks for a very strong statement to the Planning Committee members. It’s hard to see how they could justify going ahead given the chapter and verse in current regulations. Yet I fear they will.
At this stage in the process is there anything ordinary citizens can do to stop the change of use going ahead?
Our area is left reeling most of us work at the NHS and we helped direct pedestrians, cyclists and traffic on Thursday morning feeling under siege but not knowing why. Our thoughts are with Anna’s family and no one will be able to understand how devastating this is for them.
RedCross Areas Residents Association has a 10 point Vision ex below:
ii. GROWTH OF CBC
From 1967 the site has developed alongside the building of homes on the three streets Red Cross Lane, Stansgate Avenue and Greenlands, making up RedCross Areas, and over the last 21 years Addenbrooke’s and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus has expanded exponentially. The history of this has appeared to the outsider as piecemeal at best and as insular at its worst – witnessing the haphazard development of Addenbrooke’s site by its immediate neighbours. This approach and model has not kept pace with today’s thinking particularly in context of green agendas, sustainability, air quality/pollution/noise and travel/connectivity. The insularity of approach has been particularly felt in a negative way in the local residential community that abuts the site. Until very recently thanks to the work of a young new resident with the NHS CE Team the needs and legitimate aspirations of local people for a safe environment has been compromised by the unchecked growth of Addenbrooke’s and the Cambridge Biomedical site.
With plans will inevitably come pressures on the local area and environment particularly in relation to transport. Potentially many thousands of extra staff on top of the 21,000 2020 and additional 5000 2021 (envisaged by CBC in 2019 to reach 41,387 staff/visitors/patients on an average weekday this year 2021 before any expansion).
I have met with Michael Moore Chair CUH regarding my personal experiences and RARA have shared the wider views and experiences of the community as I am a newbie. It is hoped residents needs and aspirations will be integrated into the CBC 30 year Vision where they state “We want to develop CBC in a way that is inclusive rather than exclusive, and contribute to making Cambridge an even better place.”
The 10 point vision link in my comment is not RARA’s it is a link to CBC 30 year Vision if you can untangle that it would be helpful ta Immy
Brilliant Sam, and thank you again
One day (given your continued input), those whose jobs and “professional” work will inevitably guarantee an ever increasing volume of traffic in our wards (I am in Cherry Hinton, I think) without the appropriate level of infrastructure investment, will hear what we have been saying for, what, 20 years:
“This cannot continue unabated”