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Romsey Labour Club plan rejected by Cambridge councillors



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A fresh bid to redevelop Romsey Labour Club in Cambridge has been rejected, with one councillor labelling the plans “a betrayal” of what the venue had originally been built for.

Illustrative image of what the redeveloped Romsey Labour Club, Mill Road, Cambridge could look like. Image taken from planning documents submitted to Cambridge City Council. Credit: Duxford Developments Ltd. Permission for use for all partners. (58475912)
Illustrative image of what the redeveloped Romsey Labour Club, Mill Road, Cambridge could look like. Image taken from planning documents submitted to Cambridge City Council. Credit: Duxford Developments Ltd. Permission for use for all partners. (58475912)

An application had been submitted by Duxfords Developments Ltd to redevelop the site by keeping the historic front of the building and constructing 43 short stay flats to the back and above.

Under the plans visitors would be able to stay in the ‘serviced apartments’ for a maximum of 90 days in a 12-month period. A cafe, gym and community space was also proposed.

A previous application to redevelop the site to offer 36 serviced apartments, alongside a cafe, gym and community space, was approved in 2019.

Council officers explained as ground works had been undertaken by the developer then the previous plans could still be implemented.

Councillors unanimously voted to refuse the latest proposal at Cambridge City Council’s planning committee on Wednesday (August 3).

The application had been objected to by the group Cambridge Past, Present and Future, and the ward councillors for the area.

Cllr Mairéad Healy (Lab, Romsey) highlighted the historic importance of the building to the area, explaining how it was built by the “working class men and women of Romsey” and opened by Ramsey Macdonald in 1928.

She said she had several areas of concern with the proposals, and argued the development did not meet the policies in the council’s Local Plan.

Cllr Healy said the plans would be an overdevelopment of the site to build “poor quality tiny housing” which she said there was not a demand for in the area.

The application had been recommended for approval by planning officers, and a report presented to the committee said the plans were not considered to cause harm to the conservation area.

A representative of the applicant told councillors that the new plans made “better use of the site” but said the “key design principles” that had previously been approved were the same.

Cllr Dave Baigent outside Romsey Labour Club. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Dave Baigent outside Romsey Labour Club. Picture: Keith Heppell

The representative said: “The principle of development has been established and the proposals will deliver high quality visitor accommodation within a sustainable location, alongside a cafe, gym, and community space.

“The proposals will regenerate this eyesore and continue the positive redevelopment of this part of Mill Road.

“As outlined the height, scale and massing is almost identical to what has approval and it is important to note the design is fully supported by urban design and conservation officers.

“The impact on the conservation area is considered to be an enhancement and the historic frontage will be successfully integrated into the development.”

The representative also said a “greener construction” method would be used through removing the planned basement, which would result in a reduced carbon footprint, adding that the development would be promoted as “car free”, which they said was possible due to its “sustainable location”.

Cllr Katie Porrer (Lib Dem, Market) said she felt the balance of the application between the residential and the community benefit had changed from the previous plans.

She said the new application proposed “lots of extra rooms, but no extra benefit for users and the community”.

Deputy leader Cllr Alex Collis (Lab, King’s Hedges) highlighted that the number of proposed flats had increased, but the amount of shared open space had gone down, and said this did not “appear sufficient” to her.

She asked what the building would ‘actually add’ to the area explaining that she “could not see the benefits for the local area”.

Committee chair, Cllr Martin Smart (Lab, King’s Hedges) said it felt to him the application was “squeezing a bit too much in on this site”, and described the design “ugly”.

Cllr Dave Baigent (Lab, Romsey) said the area did not need “aparthotels”. He said: “What we need are homes for people, this is a betrayal of what this club was first built for.”

Cllr Naomi Bennett (Green, Abbey) highlighted how there were six flats available for people with disabilities, but that only one disabled parking space was proposed on site.

She said for many disabled people it is “quite difficult to travel without a car” and said that if six flats were planned to be designed to be accessible for people with disabilities, then there should also be six disabled parking spaces as well.

The committee unanimously voted to refuse the application, but the site can still be redeveloped under the previous plans.



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