view | James Littlewood, Chief Executive of Cambridge Past, Present and Future
Who decides what is being built in our city? You might suppose that it is the people who are democratically elected by us to make such decisions: the dedicated local politicians on the Council Planning Committee, who give up their time on our behalf to consider what should and should not be given consent. Among other things, they take into account the opinions of their constituents, this is me and you.
But our local politicians are just a control of development, weighing the pros and cons against too many contradictory policies. What to build is usually decided by the property developers.
There are some good developers who, as part of the planning process, solicit the views of council, stakeholders and local residents. They provide a development that balances those views and local context with their profit goals. They submit their plans to the build board to help them improve them. We may not all agree with the outcome, but our elected representatives are likely to agree with such developments.
Unfortunately, not all developers are like that. Others are more motivated to maximize profit and see the planning system as a handicap. They often know in advance that our elected representatives will reject their applications, and they know in advance that they will appeal against the decision of the Council. They do this because it would result in a planning investigation, an expensive legal process in which they can outsmart cash-strapped local councils and overworked council officials by buying a better legal and professional team. We’ve seen this on several occasions around Cambridge recently, and unfortunately this strategy sometimes works.
This is the strategy Brookgate is pursuing to build a massive new development in north-east Cambridge. Looming over the meadows by the River Cam, it will be what you see on the horizon when you walk, run, bike, paddle, canoe or sail along the river or when you enjoy a picnic at Deaton Meadows, or a pint in the riverside plow garden. This is going to change our city’s skyline, so it’s a development we should all care about and want to right, for now and for generations to come.
What Brookgate proposes would be 300 meters long and 22 meters high. Like a giant wall of “anytown” architecture, Northeast Cambridge’s Great Wall will be great. There is no need to imagine what it might look like, you can see for yourself as they have already erected two similar buildings which have unfortunately been given permission by our councils. All you have to do is imagine this extended by 200 metres. Then ask yourself if this is the best Cambridge could do? Do you want our futuristic city to look like?
The application will be decided by local politicians on March 22 and is expected to be rejected. Not wanting to wait for the outcome, Brookgate has already requested a planning investigation which is scheduled for June.
So, what can we do as citizens to have a say in the future of our city? You can give your opinions on the board, and it will also be available for planning inquiry. e-mail Planning@graduatecambridgeplanning.org and reference ‘Land North Cambridge North Station’.
You can also support charities such as Cambridge Past and Present & Future, which will take part in the public inquiry, advocating for a better outcome for our city. You can read our responses to the app at cambridgeppf.org/planning-responses.
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