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Bid to move Cambridge nightclub Ballare and build 125-room hotel delayed

A bid to move a popular nightclub to an underground location and build a 125 room hotel above it has been delayed amid concerns for the potential impact on traffic.

Cambridge City Council’s planning committee had been recommended to approve the plans for Ballare at its meeting on Wednesday (December 5) but instead voted to defer the application until the “next possible opportunity”.

According to a report which went before the committee: “The proposed hotel would provide 125 rooms and accommodate approx. 288 guests. It would be accessed from the entrance to George House, adjacent to Fisher House. A large amount of brickwork will be removed and replaced with a glazed wall to demarcate the entrance.

The proposed new Ballare nightclub Picture: Aberdeen Standard investments.
The proposed new Ballare nightclub Picture: Aberdeen Standard investments.

“A new single storey structure is proposed to accommodate the nightclub entrance. The entrance is proposed adjacent to the ground floor entrance to Lion House and would include acoustic treatments to minimise any noise spillage.”

Speaking at the committee Wednesday, Cllr Kevin Blencowe, executive councillor for planning, said that, while he supported the plans in principle, the designs that had gone before the committee were “poor”, and a “missed opportunity” to make the city centre better.

“I think it is lacking,” said Cllr Blencowe. “It is probably not the most aesthetically interesting part of the city, but I think in design terms this is pretty poor.”

Cllr Blencowe asked whether the scale of the proposed hotel was right for the area. He said a smaller, boutique hotel might be more suitable.

Ballare is one of the busiest clubs in the city. According to the Cambridge Retail and Leisure Update Study 2013, the club caters for 35 per cent of the total nightclub capacity in Cambridge.

Councillors were reassured the basement would be a safe location for the club, and that there were suitable evacuation measures in place should there be an emergency.

Cllr Dave Baigent welcomed the inclusion of sprinklers in the designs. He said that, especially after the Grenfell Tower disaster, it was important to put fire safety first.

The committee voted to defer the application. One of the problems the committee identified which will need addressing was the lack of a “clear and proper” transport plan for how guests and staff would access the hotel.

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