Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cambridge Leisure vacant sites

Wetherspoons were stopped from opening a pub on the Cambridge Leisure site, due to the risk of any pub adding to the existing alcohol related anti-social behaviour concerns at the site.

However, this has meant a large unit under the hotel being vacant for several years now, and Councillors are due to meet with planners this week to discuss what possible uses of the site could be acceptable.

At the time of the decision to ban Wetherspoons, it was deemed a decision to ban any new licensed premises, and not directed specifically at Wetherspoons business model - which often involves lower priced drinks resulting in large pubs like the Regal in Cambridge attracting many young drinkers.

It will be interested to hear the thoughts of the planners and owners of the site as to how to best use the available space, and whether they believe the situation has changed significantly since 2007 when the license was turned down. As a general rule, I think we should regulate assuming most people behave responsibly and shouldn't be penalised by regulations designed to tackle the irresponsible few - but we do need to take any problems that do occur very seriously, with strong measures targetted at those causing trouble. We will be consulting local residents to find out their views - please be in touch if you have any comments.


Martin said...

It's worth noting that wethersponges in town also gets a large number of much older drinkers too!

Anonymous said...

When will these so-called social liberals realise that it is their permissive attitudes, 1960s inspired education models and social engineering that has created the binge-drinking, obese, benefit culture in which we all find ourselves today.

We'd be better off banning the politically correct Labour party, the NUT and the completely bonkers Lib Dems than Wetherspoons, Tescos or any other well-established, professional, responsible and tax-paying business that wishes to carry out their lawful business in Cambridge.

Frugal Dougal said...

The Witherspoons model is surely something we want to see in "local" pubs, ie the price of beer coming down. The problem is young people "loading up" on cheap spirits etc before they come out: something that, as a student psychiatric nurse many year ago, I was told by a consultant psychiatrist was a predcitor for alcoholism. So I think the onus is still on supermarkets, corner shop off-licenses to stop selling certain brands of alcoholic drinks as loss-leaders, or politicians to make them stop doing this.

David Vincent said...

The site is still in a Cumulative Impact Zone, where the presumption is that additional outlets selling alcohol should be rejected, unless it can be shown there will be no additional impact. Clearly it is impossible to assume this of any pub opening, so I assume a precursor to this would have to be removal of CIZ status for the Cambridge Leisure area as a whole. I am not clear whether Cllr Howell is pressing for such a change, although I assume the views of the Police will be important in any decision. (Incidentally, the "Wetherspoons business model" does not set out to target younger drinkers specifically, but is tailored to their individual sites. Naturally, The Regal - in the evening - targets young people, but so do pretty much all the other businesses in the City Centre; similarly, the same would be true of a Cattle Market site, as it is of most of the other businesses already there. I do not imagine any other pub opening on the site would be stupid enough to try and market itself to families or older people, even though they might be anxious to charge a lot more than Wetherspoons.)

David Vincent said...

Incidentally, I am disappointed to see that on what is - for the most part - a serious local blog, the site authors allow the sort of pointless and diatribe from "anonymous" above to be published. Unless, of course, they write it themselves, without attribution, simply to let off steam. It would be rather fun to analyse the weight of unthinking and meaningless prejudice behind almost every word or phrase, from "so-called" to "lawful".

Chris Howell said...

Hi David,

Our comment moderation policy is here:

I wouldn't want to start a precedent of not moderating comments just because we didn't agree with the points being made - I'm not aware that any of the blog authors know who anonymous is in this case.

Although I personally think the CIZ is still currently the best approach to tackling the problems with Cambridge Leisure (of which we are reminded every time we speak to residents on say Cherry Hinton Road), generally speaking I do think that draconian measures like this that impact on the responsible as well as the irresponsible need to be used only when absolutely necessary, and this test does need to be reapplied regularly to ensure the measure is still appropriate.

That said, last week Councillors had a very wide ranging discussion with the Director of Environment and planning about the site - to consider usage of vacant site under the travelodge, but also to discuss what other uses of the main square might be possible e.g. to encourage family use and wider community use, and how to improve transport access to the site, e.g. in light of possible station developments.

I'm hoping there is going to be further meetings with the site owners (to ask why they haven't let the site under the Travelodge yet for an appropriate leisure usage) and ideally Network Rail - so further comments about use of the site will be most welcome! (whether or not we agree with them...)

Andrew Bower said...


We are no more keen on censoring comment than we are on banning things and I enjoy debating with ideological opponents on the blog.

I suspect anonymous was being a bit tongue-in-cheek while making a serious point. I think a bit of spice, even hyperbole, should be welcomed in our discourse, so long as it is within civil bounds.

There are clearly different conceptions of what it means to be liberal and they apply in different scopes. There's a difference between liberal law, liberal enforcement and liberal social rules (such as might be instilled by parents or teachers).

One point which I think anonymous made very well is that some people who think they have a monopoly on being liberal perhaps ought to look at themselves from a different angle and see how illiberal they can be.

The other point is that while some of these people (the aforementioned Lib Dem teller types) sincerely blame Margaret Thatcher for all our current social ills but others of us have a different explanation.

David Vincent said...

I am rather at a loss to see what point "anonymous" made well (or indeed at all), but never mind. Of course, there are differences in which laws we feel there should be and which we shouldn't, or how we feel they should be applied. For instance - and perhaps surprisingly - Richard Normington is calling for compulsory vaccination of any children attending school whilst you yourself, Andrew, have come out as a longstanding proponent of strong regulation of the banks and financial service sector. I am quite happy to debate the impact of specific laws (or the removal of them). Trying to work out what anyone means by words such as "liberal" or "permissive" or "responsible" is a different matter.

David Vincent said...

Oh, and in the discussions about the CL site and the station, is there further talk of a direct footbridge \ pedestrian link? I was never quite sure where this disappeared from the original plans and I would still have thought it a valuable idea.

Andrew Bower said...

David, can you remind me when I came out as a "longstanding proponent of strong regulation of the banks and financial service sector"?

If you are referring to a comment about 'easy money', while I do think that banks made mistakes and would have been better regulated by the BoE than the FSA (more effective not stronger regulation), I actually principally had in mind the government's deliberate skewing of inflation targeting by the RPI to CPI change and failing to reflect accommodation and taxation costs in the measure.

David Vincent said...

My mistake. When you and your friends were predicting the financial crisis and blaming it on over-valuation of assets (presumably including house prices) and reckless lending policies, I assumed you were also suggesting ways to prevent it that went beyond a recalculation of the inflation index and cutting government spending.

Equinox said...

As an almost life-long Cherry Hinton Road dweller who, at the moment resides along said road, I've noticed the impact that the site has had.

Outside of the "bars'n'booze" establishments, it's difficult to see what else could be done with it. What market research has been done to find out what people want for it? (Both for residents and regular users).

Chris Howell said...

Generally speaking it is up to the owner to do the market research and come up with ideas as to what to do with the empty space - but we would like to setup a meeting with the owners to talk about why the large unit has been left empty for so long, and what they plan to do with it.

In terms of what is acceptable or desirable for the site more generally, local Councillors have a role through the planning/licensing system and more generally, which is why we spend so much time talking to residents and trying to get feedback on this and other local issues.

Anonymous said...

The local police authorities are obviously totally against a large brewery chain moving into the site but would it welcome an independant Bar/cafe in the vacant units???