CambridgePPF Opposes the Trumpington Sporting Village and the Abbey Stadium Refurbishment

20th Sep 2016

Despite the obvious benefits of both planning applications to the people of Cambridge, CambridgePPF is unable to support either planning application in the form in which they have been submitted.

Fundamental to its submission is the assertion by Grosvenor that the two projects are financially inter-dependent and must therefore be taken together. CambridgePPF questions this approach. The implication that the viability of one application is conditional on the approval of a second is an approach that CambridgePPF finds unacceptable. Each application should be assessed independently on its own merits.

From the submitted documents, it is not possible to make an informed judgement on the validity of the link between the two projects as the cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’ precludes public scrutiny of the figures. CambridgePPF believes it is in both the developers’ and the public’s interest to establish far greater transparency around the arguments and figures relating to the financial viability, particularly of the Abbey Stadium application and its stated dependence on the additional housing at Trumpington Meadows. Until this is done, we believe that both applications should be rejected.

The Trumpington Sporting Village Application:
CambridgePPF appreciates the exceptional extent of the community benefits proposed by the developer, particularly for young people. The concentration of such a diverse array of sporting opportunities with all the necessary facilities onto one site is welcome, especially in the light of the planned growth in the Greater Cambridge area.

However, despite these considerable benefits, CambridgePPF is unable to support the application for three main reasons:
1. Unless growth in the Greater Cambridge area is plan-led, it will result in developments springing up in an uncoordinated way. The proposed 520 additional houses are not included in either the City or the South Cambridgeshire current Local Plans nor in the emerging 2014 Plans. They also breach the Government’s planning regulations.
2. The opportunity to have these sites included in the Local Plans is to submit them for consideration as ‘Omission Sites’ in the Examination by the Planning Inspector of the 2014 draft Local Plans that is currently underway. This would provide the correct forum for examining whether the community benefits justify the release of Green Belt. The application is therefore premature. We cannot support what seems to us to be opportunistic timing for the submission of this application whilst the Examination of the Local Plans is in process.
3. The proposed extension of the Trumpington Meadows development lies in the Green Belt. CambridgePPF believes that development in the Green Belt should be the option of last resort when all alternative sites outside the Green Belt have been exhausted. The 2015 review of the Cambridge Inner Green Belt Boundary undertaken by LDA Design concluded that this section of Green Belt (Sector 7.1 of the Green Belt boundary) “plays a key role in the setting of the South-West of Cambridge, ensuring that expansion of the city does not continue unchecked…..retaining the distinctive separation between the edge of the city and the M11”. The study concluded that “it is unlikely that any development within this sector could be accommodated without substantial harm to the Green Belt purposes.” CambridgePPF agrees with this analysis.

Abbey Stadium, Newmarket Road:
CambridgePPF appreciates the importance of CUFC to the profile and social cohesion of the City, both in terms of its substantial supporter-base throughout the area and the excellent youth training and community work undertaken by the CUFC Community Trust. We also accept the need for the Club to have a permanent base to secure its long-term future, and therefore in the longer-term we would wish to see CUFC secure in a refurbished Abbey Stadium. However, for the reasons set out below, CambridgePPF is unable to support the application as it is currently presented.

  1. The developer asserts that the Stadium cannot go ahead unless the additional housing at Trumpington Meadows is approved – that is, unless additional land is released from the Green Belt. We question this conditionality. Until the validity of this linkage can be unambiguously demonstrated through rigorous scrutiny, the application should be refused. If the Trumpington Sporting Village was to be approved, then the applicant might be encouraged to negotiate a S106 agreement with the Council to support the refurbishment of the Abbey Stadium as a material community benefit, but the implied conditionality is unacceptable.
  2. A thorough examination of the financial viability of the Community Stadium proposal as a stand-alone project is required. CambridgePPF calls on the City Council to give such scrutiny the highest priority in assessing this application. For example, why should CUFC, which is a commercial organisation, receive a 79% reduction in its annual rental and for how long will this reduced rent run? Can the mix of housing and commercial use not generate sufficient income for the project to stand alone?
  3. CambridgePPF believes there may be other development opportunities on the site that the proposal misses. For example, the spaces beneath the stands might be appropriate for small commercial units, or even student accommodation. Some football clubs, such as Leyton Orient which like Cambridge United is in Division 2, when up-grading their stadia have made use of the right-angle of dead-space where two stands adjoin. We believe the plans need re-thinking with a greater emphasis on opportunities for increased commercial development that could improve the viability of the stadium as a stand-alone project.
  4. The new piazza facing onto Newmarket Road could create an attractive public space, but this could be diminished by the overshadowing of the surrounding buildings, particularly the eastern block. As part of this re-think, we would urge the developer to re-consider the design of the square, bearing in mind the need for the project to maintain commercial viability.
  5. Newmarket Road is already one of the more congested roads in Cambridge. The Transport Plan has been tested on three scenarios of attendance figures with the maximum being 11,000, a figure that is regarded as exceptional rather than normal. This may be realistic for today but makes no allowance for growth in attendance numbers in the future. The plan does not match the club’s aspirations.

Chairman of the CambridgePPF Planning Committee, Robin Pellew, said, “This has been an exceptionally complex application to assess because of the assertion by the developer of the inter-dependence of the two projects. Both projects provide substantial community benefits, and we are particularly keen to see Cambridge United secure in a permanent base. However, we believe both applications have a number of failings that should be subject to detailed scrutiny by the planning authorities. We urge Grosvenor to drop the cloak of commercial confidentiality to allow a more rigorous examination of the figures for the Abbey Stadium, and to submit its plans for the Sporting Village for examination as part of the Local Plan. Until then, CambridgePPF opposes both applications.”

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