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Friends of Paradise Nature Reserve plan legal challenge against Queens’ College’s Owlstone Croft student accommodation in Cambridge





Campaigners claim they have grounds to challenge a decision to allow a University of Cambridge college to build student accommodation next to a city centre nature reserve.

Queens’ College is set to build 60 student rooms in four blocks on the border of Paradise Nature Reserve in Newnham at its Owlstone Croft site, which will require several trees to be felled.

Illustrative image of what the proposed student accommodation in Owlstone Road, Cambridge, could look like Picture: Queens' College Cambridge
Illustrative image of what the proposed student accommodation in Owlstone Road, Cambridge, could look like Picture: Queens' College Cambridge

A planning application for the project had previously been rejected by Cambridge City Council but that decision was overturned after a planning inquiry in November last year.

Now the Friends of Paradise Nature Reserve say they are preparing a legal challenge against the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of “ecology and amenity”.

Jean Glasberg, who is a spokesperson for the Friends, and a Green party city councillor for Newnham, said: “The Planning Inspector’s decision gives Queens’ College the right to go ahead with their development at Owlstone Croft, but it would still be the wrong thing to do.

“The Friends of Paradise Nature Reserve have now been informed that they do have grounds to challenge the decision, primarily on the grounds of ecology and amenity. It would be a huge step for a small environmental group to take, but there is a feeling that there is no alternative as the consequences would be so irrevocable should the scheme go ahead.

“I hope that the college will reconsider these plans, which would be harmful to Paradise Nature Reserve and our community, especially Newnham Croft Primary School.”

Plans to build the student accommodation next to the nature reserve were unanimously rejected by councillors.

Residents outside the Guildhall before the inquiry. Picture: Keith Heppell
Residents outside the Guildhall before the inquiry. Picture: Keith Heppell

The decision came after a petition against the proposal was signed by more than 2,000 people and almost 200 letters of objection were lodged with Cambridge City Council.

Fears were raised by campaigners that the proposed student blocks could impact bat populations in the nature reserve due to light pollution from the buildings.

Newnham Croft Primary School also complained about the potential for noise and dust to be created by the neighbouring construction works.

Objections were also sent by ramblers, the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations, Living Streets, Cambridge, Past, Present and Future, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Cam and the Wildlife Trust as well as the Friends group.

Councillors cited the “excessive height, scale and massing” of the building next to the reserve, concerns about the project’s impact on the bat population and the adverse effects on the wetland habitat when they initially refused permission for the development. However, the Planning Inspectorate decided the height of the blocks would not be not harmful, and “would not result in a stark and overbearing elevation” next to the reserve.

View of proposed development at Owlstone Croft from Paradise Nature Reserve
View of proposed development at Owlstone Croft from Paradise Nature Reserve

Regarding the three poplar trees and two ash trees on the site along the edge of the nature reserve, which runs along the River Cam, the planning inspector said: “Whilst the removal of the trees would adversely affect the small strip of (Protected Open Space) within the appeal site, when viewed against the backdrop of the wider (Protected Open Space) encompassing the (nature reserve), there would be no overall visual change in the character of the wider (Protected Open Space).”

Therefore, he decided that felling the five trees would not alter ”the overall character” of the protected space and could go ahead.

A spokesperson for the Planning Inspectorate said: “Unfortunately, we are not in a position to comment on an appeal which is being legally challenged.”



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