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Proposals to revamp The Emperor pub in Cambridge to add offices rejected after objections

An application to demolish much of The Emperor pub in Cambridge to create space for offices at its rear has been rejected.

Under the plans, the front facade would have been retained in the mixed use development on Hills Road, with the pub remaining on the ground floor and basement.

The application was deferred in August for a fire safety report, which councillors heard last week had been submitted and was considered acceptable.

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

But an objector who spoke at the meeting who lived in a flat next to the pub said that the new offices would block sunlight, while the office windows would overlook the flat’s living room and bedroom, forcing him to either live in “in public or darkness”.

Another objector raised concerns about the impact on traffic, while Alistair Cook, of the Cambridge branch CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) also objected, raising concerns that the changes would impact the future viability of the pub.

He highlighted the loss of the pub garden and the lack of accommodation for the licence holder.

The agent representing the applicant, MPM Properties, said the pub would still be viable in the future and disagreed that the offices would impact the light reaching the neighbours’ flat.

No objections had been made by the highways authority, the agent noted, adding that there was a “high demand” for grade A office space.

Council officers had recommended at approval, but councillors raised concerns.

Cllr Katie Porrer (Lib Dem, Market) said: “For me at the moment I feel there is too much crammed in, there is no give.”

Cllr Martin Smart (Lab, King’s Hedges) said the proposed development was “rather bulky” and a “bit too big for its siting”.

Cllr Alex Collis (Lab, King’s Hedges) was concerned about the loss of open space, while Cllr Katie Thornburrow (Lab, Petersfield) agreed the loss of the garden could have a “detrimental” impact on the pub, while also raising concerns over the impact on the highways.

Cllr Davie Baigent said the basement dining area was not accessible to wheelchair users, although officers said accessible dining was available on the ground floor.

Cllr Naomi Bennett suggested this created an issue of social inclusion.

A majority of councillors voted against the officer’s recommendation, and then in a follow-up vote on a proposal to refuse the plans, voted unanimously to do so.

Councillors agreed at the request of officers for the exact wording of the reasons for refusal to be put together after the meeting and agreed with the chair, vice chair, and cross party representatives.

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