Burnside Lakes in Cambridge: ‘This won’t be a country park, it’s a concrete park’
Residents living close to where an urban country park and commercial complex are planned say they feel “blindsided’’ by developers.
They argue the proposed green space is “not a country park, it’s a concrete park”.
The neighbours, who all live close to Coldham’s Lane in Cherry Hinton, were originally pleased that a new park was planned close to their homes which would open up Cherry Hinton lakes for public access.
However, they were alarmed when the plans for the the former quarry were unveiled and found that instead of low rise commercial buildings on the site there would be a 13.6 metre high “last mile” delivery depot.
They were also concerned at the possibility of asbestos fibres being released when the former landfill site is dug up.
Rose Scott, one of the residents, said: “It’s not a country park, it’s a concrete park. It feels like that was just some sort of window dressing because the developers did all of these beautiful information displays about what was going to happen. There was a feeling that it was going to be natural and enhance the area but now it seems this depot has been rail-roaded in on top of that.”
Plans have been submitted to the city council by developers Anderson to open up the “east Cambridge lakes” to the public as a new urban country park.
It proposes that commercial space and a last-mile delivery hub would be created on a neighbouring piece of land just south of Coldham’s Lane.
Currently not open to the public, although used by an anglers club, the area would be named Burnside Lakes.
Residents of nearby streets contacted the Cambridge Independent after receiving notice of the planning application and discovering the proposal was not what they expected after they were previously consulted on the project.
Pat Babbington Smith said: “We feel we’ve been undermined and that they’ve come at it sideways. They have blindsided us completely with this after all the consultations and the plans that we saw three or four years ago.
“We were promised all sorts of things by the lakes, like a cafe and recreation area, and now it seems we’re not going to get any of that, so we definitely feel short changed. Some of us are thinking, well, we’ll move house but we can’t because obviously, the value of our houses will go down very sharply given what’s coming.”
Their main concerns hinge on the new last mile delivery depot which would stand almost 14 metres high and block views and sunlight from some gardens and, they fear, will mean a huge increase in traffic.
Salim Seedat said: “After the consultations we thought they were going to build low rise commercial buildings and we thought that’s not too intrusive. But we received a letter from the council a few days ago and what they have actually submitted is plans for a 14-metre high warehouse and last mile delivery hub.
“And even with a buffer of the cycle path, and a little bit of green buffer of vegetation it’s still still going to obstruct sunlight into the gardens of where we live and totally block our lovely views that we have currently of the Gog Magog hills.
“They are putting a last-mile distribution hub in the middle of a residential area with no consideration for the impact it will have on traffic in our streets. It’s going to have a massive impact on noise and air pollution.”
Teacher Asnat Dosa explained her fears were around the health impact of digging up the former landfill site.
She said: “The element that is really critical to start with is health and safety. We’re worried about methane gas, we’re worried about asbestos. Some of us recall yellow bags of hospital waste being dumped here. We know they’ve tested the ground, but we’ve never seen any results of these tests. We don’t believe it is safe to disturb this ground.”
The application describes the lakes as an “oasis” and says the area will also be enhanced for wildlife.
The planning application is made up of three parts:
- Parcel A: outline planning application for commercial development and “last-mile logistics hub” .
- Parcel B: full planning application for green space site between the lakes and Coldhams Lane - for “ecological enhancements” only, not a public park.
- Parcel C: full planning application for the lakes area as an “urban country park” – for landscaping, “ecological enhancements” and public access for recreation.
A spokesperson for the developer Anderson said: “The council’s Local Plan allocates these sites and provides clear direction on the type and form of development envisaged for each. We are delivering on those requirements by providing low-rise commercial space with modern facilities and generous landscaping. Alongside this, we remain absolutely committed to rejuvenating the lakes so that they can be opened and run for the benefit of residents living in and around Cherry Hinton.
“There is a detailed remediation strategy which has been informed by discussions with the Environment Agency to ensure that the land can be built on safely. As a groundworks specialist, we are well-placed to take forward this scheme, which is designed to provide an effective, improved and permanent solution to the existing risks posed by the historic landfill.
“We appreciate that traffic continues to be a major problem across the city which is why these proposals, alongside a package of mitigation, offer a real step-change in how goods are disseminated across the city with the use of smaller electric vehicles.”