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26 homes for Cambridge approved by planning inspector despite ‘unacceptable’ design

A developer has won an appeal to build 26 homes in Cambridge even though the planning inspector saying they “would not provide acceptable living conditions”.

The new homes for private sale - including four houses with four bedrooms and 22 with five bedrooms - will be built on land off Sandy Lane.

Illustrative image of some of the proposed homes to be built on land off Sandy Lane in Cambridge. Image: Sandy Lane 2021 Limited
Illustrative image of some of the proposed homes to be built on land off Sandy Lane in Cambridge. Image: Sandy Lane 2021 Limited

The developer, Sandy Lane 2021 Limited, offered nine flats as ‘affordable homes’ on land it owns next to the site.

When the application was presented to the city council’s planning committee at a meeting in October last year, planning officers recommended refusing the plans and councillors agreed. By that stage, the developer had already appealed because the decision had not been made in the proper timeframe.

In the council’s statement to the Planning Inspectorate, it said: “The proposal was considered to create a substandard accommodation for future occupiers; a poor public realm with an under provision of public open space; overprovision of car parking and inadequate cycle facilities; and under provision of affordable housing.”

The developer argued that the latest plans would create a “high quality and more efficient layout” than the previous proposals.

A “patchwork” of previous planning applications had come forward and been approved. Under these permissions, 29 homes could have been built on the site.

The inspector recognised there were valid concerns about the living standard at some of the new homes, raising concerns that the level of natural light in some rooms would be “poor” and create “gloomy spaces”.

Some dining rooms would be “oppressively subterranean” and “poor” daylight levels would be “detrimental to the living conditions of future occupiers”.

The inspector said the design of some of the proposed gardens was “impractical and odd”, reducing their usefulness.

The “harm” of this was “exacerbated” by the lack of any “usable communal open space” where children could play and the proposed open spaces were “disjointed” and “would serve little than to separate dwellings and provide some limited scope for sitting outside”.

The inspector shared the city council’s landscape officer’s opinion that it would be “somewhat sterile and gentrified areas” and said the development “would not provide acceptable living conditions for future occupiers”.

The inspector also agreed with the council that the proposals did not meet council policies by failing to provide 40 per cent affordable housing on site.

The report said: “The housing mix proposed, both the affordable and general market, would not be particularly balanced, resulting in large, high value market housing at one end of the spectrum and small apartments adjacent to the busy ring road at the other end.

“An opportunity to secure a good housing mix and balance of housing across the Sandy Lane site has been missed.”

The inspector noted the proposed cycle storage in the basement was “low-grade” and not encourage bike use and said it was overall “poor in such a sustainable location”.

The proposed 52 car parking spaces would “significantly exceed” the maximum parking standard of one space per house.

The inspector wrote: “There is no locational justification for such an extensive over-provision of car parking at the appeal site.”

But the inspector said the “patchwork” of existing planning consents for the site did create a potential alternative scheme. The fallback position had “significant weight” in the decision-making process.

And the existing permissions would result in “significant harm” and create similar issues to the present plans.

The inspector said: “Were it to be implemented it would be unequivocally of greater harm and conflict with the current development plan compared to the appeal proposal.”

Due to the possibility this “more harmful” development could be built, the inspector made the decision to allow the appeal and grant permission for the new homes.

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