Saturday, 12 October 2019

Local Plans

It seems that the Mill Road "Ironworks" development is not the only place where Hills/CIP are getting away with  ignoring planning guidance. There was a long and detailed letter from Sonia Spinks of Friends of St.Albans Road Rec, "Our green space is not up for grabs" in the 09/10/19 edition of the Cambridge Independent. [No link to letters page, but a number of article including this.] So I had to write a comment:

"It was good to see the long and detailed letter from Sonia Spinks (Friends of St.Albans Road Rec, Our green space is not up for grabs) detailing the contradictions between the local plans and supplementary planning guidance and the projects submitted and approved by the Cambridge/South Cambridgeshire planning department. I could write an equally long tale about the 2018 Local Plan, the consultation process, the agreed SPD (all at 167 dwellings),  the phase 1 planning application (182 dwellings) and the subsequent planning approval (231 dwellings) for the over development of the Mill Road Depot  site. [Planning slip on Mill Road Depot has featured at length in previous blogs!]

The City Council has asked us to comment on the "Making Space for People" SPD  and is now asking us to engage in the development of the next Local Plan. If developers are allowed to ride roughshod over both the local plan and any subsequent Planning Guidance, it is difficult to understand the purpose of these consultations. Until Cambridge/South Cambridgeshire has a planning department that is able to understand its own planning guidance and stand up to pressure from developers, we can only anticipate people becoming more and more disillusioned with the planning process and more unhappy about the developments that are being forced on them. If Cambridge residents do not think the councils are engaging in these consultation exercises in good faith then the responses will we limited and local democracy will suffer. "

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Mill Road Depot Phase II

 My objection to the previous application for this site can be seen below. The 2019 proposal (19/0175/FUL, The erection of an apartment building (45 dwellings)) extends the development and increases the density. This is my objection to Patricia Coyle at Cambridge City Planning Services

I wish to object to the further development of the Mill Road Depot site as proposed by the planning application 19/0175/FUL as it contravenes the adopted SPD for the site on a number of grounds:
Housing Density
Urban Grain
Size and views


This proposal completes the development of the Mill road depot site, which was subject to extensive planning consultations in 2015 and ‘16 and resulted in the “Mill Road Depot, Planning and Development Brief” published and approved by the Cambridge City Council in March 2017 and “carried forward for adoption as a Supplementary Planning Document at the same time as the Local Plan” to become effective in April 2018.
In December 2017, between the agreement to adopt the SPD and its activation, the CIP applied to develop 75% of the site. The plan, approved by the planning committee exceeded the recommendation of the SPD in terms of both density, number of dwelling and height of building, but provided none of the community facilities that were recommended by the SPD. It was suggested that these would be addressed in a Phase II proposal.
I submitted an objection to the phase I development sent to the planning officer [Sav Patel] on 1st Feb 2018 and posted on the council’s planning portal “idox” site. The text of the objection can be read at
This application fails to meet the recommendation of the SPD in terms of density, urban grain, sustainability and the size of the building.


The 2017 application increased the proposed density of the site by almost 40% from the SPD. Since then the developers have submitted two further applications:
18/1947/S73 “application to vary condition 2 of planning permission …” and
19/0175/FUL “The erection of an apartment building (45 dwellings) ...”
Both of these applications request that more dwellings are developed on the site. The table below summarises the process of development creep:
Number dwellings
Site area
Mill Road Depot SPD
Phase I application 17/2245/FUL
Section 73 application
Phase II application 19/0175/FUL

It must be noted that this density is substantially more than the surrounding St. Mattews area and more than almost all of the development sites listed in the Cambridge Local Plan 2014. Indeed the site opposite the depot of Mill Road, R9, Travis Perkins DevonshireRoadhas a proposed density of only 35dph.

Urban Grain and Scale

The SPD states:
“3.2.3 Proposals should provide a contextual approach to scale and massing in response to the typical domestic scale of development on surrounding streets”
The proposal for the apartment building B.01, as shown for example on page 13 of the “Views assesment” document, dwarfs the existing buildings as seen from Mill Road and the railway bridge.
Having relocated the building from the position in the SPD adjacent to the Old Library, B.01 is now more closely related to the language school buildings and the buildings opposite on Mill Road. To respond to the “ scale and massing” of these buildings, a 5 storey building, orientated North/South is entirely out of context.
Figure 27 on Page 40 of the SPD shows a block as “new mixed use zone with courtyard” of appximatley 13m x 37m located in the 3 and 4 storey zones of figure 42 on Page 54 which would suggest a height of no more than 13 metres. Ignoring the suggestion of a courtyard, the potential block has a volume of no more than 6,253 cubic metres.
On p31 the D&A states:
“The site layout is also consistent with the framework plan (Fig 27) in the Planning and Development Brief (SPD) with the exception of the location of the linear building, which has moved further east to mitigate any impact on the Language School ...”
The plans show a block B_01 as 18m x 50m and the elevation shows 5 stories and 16m to the eaves. The volume of B_01 exceeds 14,400 and so is almost two and a half times more massive than the allocation in the SPD.


The SPD specifically mentions the importance of sustainability issues, for example:
4.8.3 A combination of passive design solutions and building design solutions should form the basis of site energy strategies for future schemes.
4.8.11 There are likely to be opportunities to enhance the ecology and biodiversity of the site.
4.8.13 Flat and low pitched roofs could provide an opportunity to improve the ecology of the site and contribute to the general increase in biodiversity.
However, there is no evidence that Block B_01 has been designed with sustainability in mind.
The Cambridge Investment Partnership’s Design and Access Statement (prepared by Allies and Morrison) does refer to issues in the SPD, but then refers to the Ecology and Tree reports by consultants, Property Risk Consultants Ltd for more information These make no specific recommendations or design proposals.
The statements in the Design and Access statement refer Block B_10. Block B_01 is the most massive structure in the proposal and contains the greatest number of dwellings. However, it is orientated east-west, limiting the use of passive solar design or PV solar panels. It has no measures to enhance the ecology and biodiversity of the site


The current proposal exceeds the requirements of both the SPD and the Local Plan and does nothing to enhance the site in relation to Phase I.
I hope the Council will recommend rejection of this proposal to the planning committee.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Climate emergency

In response to a (more demanding) e-petition, the Cambridge City Council declares a "Climate Emergency".

Cambridge Extinction Rebellion say "There were no new targets and no new policies. An existing “aspiration” for zero carbon by 2050 remains. This is far too late. The council promised to widely publicise this state of emergency, a concession to our demands.The feeling overall was that the council displayed a lack of political courage.Politics-as-usual will not suffice in the face of an emergency. The fight goes on, as we knew it would."

To Councillor Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Environmental Services
Dear Ms. Moore

Congratulations for proposing and approving the Climate Emergency declaration on
the 21st. Feb.

I am concerned that the councils motion is to respond to this emergency by
promising that it "Will continue" with its current actions and will establish a
Cambridge Climate Charter which is a repeat of its actions in 2009.

I am also concerned that the motion is complacent in its self congratulations
for being on target of a 20% reduction in emissions by 2021, a trajectory that
merely follows the trend since 2015 and only touches "net zero" after 2042 if
the council can continue to make reduction at that rate. The IPCC says we must
reach this target by 2035 if we have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate
change. [In reality, after you have exhausted the low hanging fruit, you may be
pressed to make reductions of 20% of the last five year plan (not the 2015
figure). The exponential decline could result in the council only reach 33% of
its target.]

At the same time, your strategy seems only to be concerned with projects which
have a real financial payback time, and therefore should be seen primarily as
good management.

I am also concerned that your concept of carbon reduction is only concerned with
direct emissions. Can you say when the council will become concerned with:

The impact of continued growth in the city and the Greater Cambridge area

The impact of the embodied carbon in the materials to deliver the significant 
infrastructure projects proposed by the Greater Cambridge partnership and CIP.

and how these will be considered in your "Net Zero" aspiration.

I look forward to your comments.

Best wishes, Andy

"If I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today."
attributed to Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Thursday, 18 October 2018

List Of Tips

It is a relief that the latest IPCC report Global Warming of 1.5°C has been largely well received. We can tell because there has been a spate of Lists Of Tips for people to reduce their emissions. Many repeat some of the old Urban Myths. Carbon Conversations shied away for giving List Of Tips (although we did list over 100 actions with their comparative impact) but presented Rules Of Thumb for sustainable housing, travel, eating, consumption and talking to friends and family.  I have extracted them below from the old "In Time For Tomorrow, the Carbon Conversations Handbook"

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Making New Housing Sustainable and Energy Efficient.

A short talk to the Calder Valley Community Land Trust on the 22nd August 2018

"I have a little to add to the presentations by Duncan Roberts[1] and Marianne Heaslip[2].
I started work as a building services engineer, the job of making sure the heating, ventilation, lighting and plumbing work. These are essential elements for creating sustainable buildings and have been involved in low energy projects, modelling and measuring for some years.
I would like to introduce 3 ideas that I think helps keep sustainability on the project agenda.
Avoiding sustainability slip,
The value of measurement,
And on being a good citizen.