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Cambridge City Council has ‘lessons to learn’ over flats decision

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A council said it would try to learn lessons after it failed to block plans for new student accommodation.

Cambridge City Council has 'lessons to learn' over flats decision
Cambridge City Council has ‘lessons to learn’ over flats decision

Four blocks of flats will be built at Owlstone Road, Cambridge, providing 60 rooms for postgraduates at Queen’s College.

Cambridge City Council rejected plans over fears they could impact wildlife at the nearby Paradise Nature Reserve.

Developers disagreed and appealed, and the decision has now been overturned by planning inspector Philip Mileham.

He rejected claims the development could harm the ecology and biodiversity of wildlife at the reserve, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

‘Fatally undermined’

He also argued light from the development could be minimised to make it more acceptable.

At a meeting of the full council last week, a member of the public accused the authority of “fatally undermining” its own opposition.

They said: “While the planning committee unanimously refused the application, its position at appeal was fatally undermined by a set of favourable officer reports and weak, hastily-drafted reasons for refusal, despite a raft of policy grounds on which to reject the application.

“This represents a complete and catastrophic failure of the planning system at all stages, a system intended to protect our communities, schools and environmentally unique nature reserves. What action will the council take to address this?”

Katie Thornburrow, Labour executive councillor for planning, building control and infrastructure, said the council was reviewing the appeal to learn lessons from it.

She added that the authority had already reviewed and revised its pre-application process.

Ms Thornburrow said: “The climate and biodiversity crises are worse than we imagined and legislation is not reflecting the reality nor providing anywhere near the adequate action plan. We seek ways within our ability as a district council to do more.

“Our refusal was based on our assessment of the evidence and our reasons for refusal were carefully considered.”

She said no wider precedents had been set in terms of the council’s approach to ecology or biodiversity.

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