In June 2021, Cambridge City Council notified residents of Cherry Hinton, on the edge of Cambridge, that a planning application had been received in respect of land unused since 1987. The proposed commercial development divided the land into parcels A, B, and C, and included codes indicating buildings for storage and distribution on parcel A, and “ecological enhancements” on the other two parcels. I’ve been asking residents what they thought of this.
“We got some letter. And we started chatting with one of the neighbours. She sent me the WhatsApp link and said, Oh, see what people say. when the letter came through the door, it was just okay, some advertisement, whatever. So, I didn’t pay that much attention to it. But thanks to my neighbour and this group, I actually sat down and aha, this is what it’s about. I realised that this is bad. Yes. It is really bad.” — Justyna
Take one: three weeks to comment on planned warehouses
The first version of the plan envisaged the storage and distribution buildings as up to 14 metres high, in the service of a last-mile distribution hub. And the letter gave a mere three weeks for registering comments.
Some things moved fast. An impromptu open-air meeting with Tim Chilvers, representing the developer, Anderson Group, led to an extension of the deadline for comments. The first version of the plan was withdrawn, and a new one submitted to the City Council. But residents are no happier.
“Anderson’s lumbered with this piece of land, but clearly, it’s not going to be very satisfactory to them any which way, they’re unlikely to make much of a profit. It’d be a lose lose situation for absolutely everybody: lose for Anderson, I can’t see how they’d really make money out of it; huge lose for Cherry Hinton; huge lose for the wildlife; huge lose for bird watchers. Just the sort of big opportunity loss.” — Sue
Take two: the lorries and the bridge
Besides the ecological risks, key problems identified by campaigners are the increase in traffic that a distribution hub would bring, and the fanciful nature of the solution that has been proposed to this: the creation of a new route for large vehicles by lowering a road to let them pass under a railway bridge.
“Quite a few things are wrong with the Anderson development. There are dangerous chemicals there. Some groups suggested that there are endangered species over there. That means looking into reports of cuckoos and all sorts of others, you know, Someone raised a concern for welfare of children. The City Council has a lot to research on that one. The problem of the traffic is still ongoing. Anderson’s second proposal was not significantly different. It didn’t answer the key issues.” — Asnat
“I emailed Tim Chilvers to say thanks for meeting us, but don’t treat this as a consultation, because you haven’t met all the people who have objected the first time. And the health risk — if the contaminated land is bad for residential use, why is it okay for any other types of buildings? People are going to work there nine to five. The hope that lowering the bridge by Sainsbury’s will be feasible; I don’t think it’s wide enough for cyclists and heavy vehicles to be travelling both ways.” — Salim
“HGV traffic coming past our 13th century church is a huge risk to the fabric of the building and the listed wall.
“They dangled this idea of a park before us but what we’re actually offered now is a path around a lake with no security, no real concern for health and safety, no parking, no play areas, no restrooms; it’s just kind of a path around the lake, which exists already, made a bit wider probably. That’s not very much that we’re getting in return for, you know, a huge development that will increase traffic and pollution, and noise, and be ugly; and make cycling through much less attractive, and more dangerous.” — Karin
Not a big development but it is a big deal
Compared with other planning disputes in the region, the Cherry Hinton issue affects a relatively small area of land. But it’s already wider than parcels A, B and C, and the impact on roads and bridges points to a penumbra a lot wider than Cherry Hinton. East Anglia bylines will continue to cover the issue as it develops.
Anderson Group was approached for comment, but no reply has been received at the time of writing.
For current information see the page maintained by Cherry Hinton Residents’ Association.
Disclosure. Aidan Baker lives in the directly affected area and has taken part in demonstrations against the development.