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Environment Agency objects to Beehive Centre redevelopment over impact on water

Redevelopment plans to transform the Beehive Centre in Cambridge have led to almost 200 objections from residents and community groups.

The Environment Agency has also objected to the proposals on the grounds that it could increase abstraction and risk deterioration to water bodies in the Greater Cambridge area.

Plans for the Beehive Centre in Cambridge have been submitted to the city council
Plans for the Beehive Centre in Cambridge have been submitted to the city council

An outline planning application was submitted to Cambridge City Council in August following two years of consultation.

It has been submitted by Railpen, one of the largest pension funds in the UK, and proposes 12 new buildings as part of plans to create laboratory and office space alongside retail, leisure and community spaces.

The proposal, if approved, will transform the shopping centre, which Railpen warns is at risk of decline, into a mix of new retail, leisure, entertainment and community spaces. Around 20 new shops and leisure facilities are proposed, including a small supermarket and affordable gym.

Plans also include laboratory and office space for companies in science and technology industries.

The application has attracted 212 comments, of which 187 object to the scheme and 22 support it.

Concerns include the loss of the shops and parking, the height and bulk of the proposed buildings, and the impact on traffic.

One respondent said: “The retailers at the Beehive Centre are a key resource for many people, and its position in the heart of multiple neighbourhoods means that redevelopment will impact thousands of residents in one way or another.”

Another wrote: “The new proposal will destroy the pleasant and quiet nature of this area. The buildings are far too high and close to residential properties.”

Better Beehive Cambridge has been set up by a group of cross-ward residents, who recognise and support the redevelopment of the centre, but feel the plans represent over development and fail to respect its location, setting and context.

In a suggested letter to the planning department at Cambridge City Council, the group says it does not believe the current proposals “do justice to the local area or to the city and a better alternative should be found”.

It adds: “Above all, we are disappointed that the applicant does not recognise the potential of strategic city areas such as the Beehive Centre. We believe it would be much more fitting to create an alternative type of development and move away from what is essentially an urban life science/research park that has very little city/local community benefit.”

They also raise concerns about the impact on the local water table of the construction and operation of the development.

Cambridge Past, Present & Future has also raised concerns around the site’s suitability for office and laboratory use.

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