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Developer loses appeal to redevelop The Emperor pub in Cambridge

A developer has lost its appeal to demolish part of The Emperor pub in Cambridge in order to build new offices.

A planning inspector said the redevelopment of the pub in Hills Road would harm the character and appearance of the conservation area.

The Emperor pub on Hills Road. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Emperor pub on Hills Road. Picture: Keith Heppell

The inspector dismissed the appeal and upheld Cambridge City Council’s refusal of the plans.

The original application put forward by MPM Properties (FY) Ltd proposed to demolish most of The Emperor pub, keeping the front facade, in order to build new offices at the back.

The plans proposed to keep space for the pub on the ground floor and basement of the new development.

The application was refused by the city council at a planning committee meeting in October last year.

The plans had been recommended for approval by planning officers, but councillors said they were unhappy with them.

The committee unanimously agreed to refuse the plans and gave five reasons for its decision, including that the “excessive scale, massing and design” would result in a “cramped form of development” and would overdevelop the site.

The council also raised concerns about the viability of the future pub business if the existing outdoor area was lost, and about the lack of off street servicing space for the pub and office buildings, claiming this could lead to “unacceptable highway safety impacts”.

The developer subsequently appealed to the planning inspectorate arguing the decision to reject its application was not justified.

The planning inspector said they did not agree with some of the city council’s concerns, stating in their report that they did not believe the plans would be harmful to highway safety or to the viability of the pub.

However, they said the redevelopment would be harmful to the character and appearance of the conservation area, in particular highlighting the impact of the size of the proposed building.

The inspector recognised the developer’s comments that the plans would meet a need for office space in the centre of the city, and that the pub would be kept in some form. However, they said this was not enough to outweigh the harm of the scheme.

The inspector said: “These are without doubt very significant public benefits of the scheme. However, they would not be sufficient to outweigh the considerable importance and weight attached to the harm to the conservation area.

“As there would be harm to the character and appearance of the area and the conservation area then the proposal would conflict with design and conservation policies within the development plan.”

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