Super-budget' hotel protest steps up in Cambridge
easyHotel in Newmarket Road would bring 'nothing of benefit to community', says opposition group
Campaigners opposing plans for a ‘super-budget’ hotel in Cambridge took to the streets on Monday evening to highlight their concerns about the development, which they say brings “nothing of benefit to the community”.
The Newmarket Road site, which has been the showroom for family furniture firm JH Cooper & Son for the past 110 years, could be demolished and replaced by a 90-room easyHotel following an application submitted to Cambridge City Council earlier this year.
Residents have expressed fears of the impact on congestion and overcrowding in the area. They will put their case to a development control forum – a meeting between petitioners, councillors and the applicant – on September 7.
Riverside resident Mike Evans, who is co-ordinating a growing number of protesters, said at the gathering outside the Cooper store: “What should happen here is sustainable investment meeting genuine needs, for example in building affordable housing and a replacement for the post office lost earlier this year to another speculative development scheme bringing nothing of benefit to the community.”
The easyHotel would join the new Premier Inn and Travelodge in Newmarket Road and sell ‘micro-rooms’ for as little as £19.99 a night.
Almost 100 individual objections have already been put to Cambridge City Council, with comments ranging from “not needed” and “an ugly overdevelopment in a conservation area” – the area is part of the Riverside and Stourbridge Common Conservation Area – to a host of road safety and congestion concerns.
Campaigners have pointed to the absence of parking facilities which they say will result in congestion on nearby residential streets.
The residents are highlighting five areas of concern:
■ The urban design in a conservation area;
■ Sustainability and hotel need;
■ Antisocial behaviour
■ Transport, including safety and parking
■ Noise and the environment.
The lack of parking arrangements has particularly infuriated the local community.
“There will be five rooms for the disabled in the planned hotel,” says campaigner Al Hanagan, “but there will be no disabled parking, which is against the council’s own rules.
“You’ve got a cluster of budget hotels in this part of Newmarket Road already and what we need in this area is diversity.”
The other key concern is a layby on Godestone Road, just a few yards from Newmarket Road, which has been factored in as a drop-off point for taxis.
“We’ve done some maths with a professor of statistics and we reckon there’ll be four taxis coming in regularly at their peak, so there’s a danger of taxis being backed up on the Newmarket Road,” said Mr Evans.
However, the family which owns the JH Cooper & Son retailer says that trading conditions for retailers make continued trading on the site unsustainable.
“I’ve heard their concerns but conversely they haven’t heard ours,” said Gary Cooper, son of owner Michael Cooper and the great-grandson of Jabez Henry Cooper who founded the firm in 1908. “Many local retailers have gone, the post office has gone, but they only mourn us when we go. It’s a double-edged sword. The council has imposed very high rates here, the internet has made trading difficult and there’s a lack of local support for us as local residents have moved and the locals don’t support us.”
Five staff are expected to lose their jobs if planning approval is granted, a process which Mr Cooper says “could take six months, it could take 18 months”.
The immediate area between the Beehive Centre and Elizabeth Way roundabout has seen constant change since the Travelodge opened five years ago, followed in 2014 by the Premier Inn. The former Wests garage is being turned into a 202-bedroom student accomodation block. Aldi and Lidl plan to open stores nearby, and the nearby John Banks Honda site could soon be turned into student accommodation.
The Development Control Forum meeting will be held on Friday, September 7 at 10am in the council chamber at the Guildhall in Cambridge.
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