Sunday, August 17, 2008

Station Area Comments

Prior to the deadline for comments last week, I have submitted the following comments on the amended Station Area planning application for Ashwell's CB1 scheme:

I am writing to object to the above (revised) planning application.
The essence of the objection is that the density of the proposed
redevelopment for the whole site (in terms of total sq ft of
floorspace) is too high, with the following adverse consequences:

1. Lack of sufficient public open space. The area dedicated to public
open space generally, and the new station square specifically is

This is particularly important for this application in view of the
need for space in station square for a transport interchange, coupled
with the need for an area suitable for welcoming visitors to the City,
and providing facilities appropriate to waiting for and accessing

If we do not get this right now, and require extra space for transport
in the future in the station square, it will not be possible to extend
the square with the buildings proposed.

A commuted sum in lieu of sub-standard public open space would not be
acceptable in this instance. The space is needed in this area, and
there is already considerable unspent s106 funds available in the City
for public open space from other schemes and other developers, so it
is unclear how a commuted sum could be used to increase public open
space elsewhere or even be used at all sensibly.

2. Height of the proposed buildings is out of character with the area
and Cambridge generally, and will dominate the skyline.

3. The high density increases the number of people that need to access
buildings on the site, so will add to the traffic management problems
of the site.

The suggestion that severely limiting car parking will control car
access to the site may prove to be naive, and will add to already
significant parking problems in Coleridge ward, particularly in the
Rustat Rd area. To mitigate this, if permission is granted, I would
request conditions or agreements are made to ensure the developers
will fund and implement consultations with residents and parking
control measures if appropriate to reduce the problems for Rustat Rd
area residents.

Whilst I believe the high density will have an unacceptable impact on
car traffic levels in the area, if the application is accepted, I
believe these impacts can and should be mitigated by further
improvements and access to the site for sustainable transport such as
cycling and pedestrians. The connection from Carter bridge needs to be
quick and convenient. I am concerned that the cycle parking proposed,
whilst a significant improvement on current levels may still prove to
be inadequate and fail to support future demand. Also, the cycle
parking should all be at ground level and as near to the entrances as
possible. Finally, to encourage non-car access to the site, I believe
a new pedestrian and cycle bridge should be built as a condition of
the application to connect the Leisure Park area to the station area
more directly than the already overcrowded Hills Road Bridge.

Other issues and comments:
Management - That acceptability of the plans will depend crucially on
management of the site going forwards. Assurances from the applicant
that they will manage relevant parts of the site themselves so far as
is possible should be backed up by appropriate planning conditions. In
particular, I am concerned about the usage of student accommodation
during the summer holidays, and how problems experienced elsewhere
with a succession of short term occupants of the accommodation over
the holiday period can be avoided. There also needs to be stingent
conditions to reduce noise concerns from the student accommodation,
and strong enforcement on prohibitions of car ownership by students.

I have serious concerns about the appropriateness of the 'modernist'
design vision implied in the application supporting documents to date.
Design should be distinctive, high quality, with exceptional quality
of materials and construction, to reflect the high profile of the
area, but must be consistent with the architectural heritage of the
City of Cambridge (which is not the City of London).

On the plus side, this is an area that desperately needs
redevelopment, and I welcome the proposed improved transport access to
the site in general (without commenting on the specific details of the
implementations proposed) in so much as the application provides
additional access to the area, both for cars and cyclists, strongly
support the increased number of cycle spaces, and recognise that the
application as it stands is a significant improvement in terms of the
transport interchange at the station site.

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