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Proposal to redevelop Cambridge synagogue rejected by planning inspector after appeal





Proposals to build a new synagogue in Cambridge would have an “intrusive” impact on neighbouring homes, a planning inspector has said, writes Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter.

The appeal to redevelop the existing synagogue in Thompsons Lane was dismissed and the inspector said it would “unduly harm” the living conditions of two neighbours.

The planning application for the synagogue and community facility was put forward by the Trustees of the Cambridge University Jewish Society which said that the existing facility was “inadequate” and no “longer fit for purpose”.

It was refused by Cambridge City Council last year when councillors raised concerns about the “bulky” design and how the new building could impact neighbours.

An appeal was lodged against the refusal of the application but this has now been dismissed.

The proposed redevelopment of the existing synagogue in Thompsons Lane, Cambridge, has been dismissed by a planning inspector after an appeal following its initial refusal by Cambridge City Council. Picture: Picture: RH Partnership
The proposed redevelopment of the existing synagogue in Thompsons Lane, Cambridge, has been dismissed by a planning inspector after an appeal following its initial refusal by Cambridge City Council. Picture: Picture: RH Partnership

In the decision report the planning inspector said there would be “unacceptable harm” caused to some of the neighbours by the proposed new building.

They said: “I recognise that this is an urban location where development is reasonably dense and the historic arrangement of buildings may have included a much larger building to the rear of Portugal Place in the past.

“However, the occupants of numbers 25 and 26 currently have a pleasant outlook which is not unduly dominated by built form.

“Notwithstanding that I have found that the living conditions of the occupiers of numbers 27, 28 and 29 would not be unduly harmed, the appeal scheme would introduce a building that would have a materially oppressive and intrusive effect on the occupants of numbers 25 and 26.

“Accordingly, I conclude that the appeal scheme would cause unacceptable harm to the living conditions of neighbouring occupiers 25 and 26 Portugal Place with particular regard to their outlook and sense of enclosure.”

The planning inspector disagreed with the city council’s concerns about the design of the proposed new building, and believed it would be “compatible with the relatively diverse surrounding” buildings and would make a “positive contribution to the street scene”.

And the inspector also recognised there were “significant” public benefits of the redevelopment, that the new synagogue would support the Jewish population in the city, and said it was accepted that the current building was “not fit for purpose” due to being “too small”.

However, the inspector said these benefits were not enough to outweigh the harm it could cause, adding that the plans also failed to show that there would be adequate protection for the root stems of trees that were proposed to be kept under the redevelopment.

The inspector said: “I am mindful that in not granting planning permission, individuals using the existing facility will need to continue using a building that is not fit for purpose and this will have a negative impact upon their enjoyment of the building, their ability to practise their faith and their wellbeing.

“I also note that the appellant has made several revisions to the scheme in an attempt to overcome concerns of the council and neighbouring occupiers.

“It was also put to me at the hearing that it was unlikely that an alternative scheme would be brought forward at a future date.

“However, drawing all matters together, I have found that the appeal scheme conflicts with the development plan and the material considerations weighing in favour of the scheme, individually and combined, do not outweigh the harms I have identified above.

“As such, the material considerations in this instance do not indicate that determination should be made otherwise than in accordance with the development plan.”



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