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Thousands sign petition against Queens’ College development plans for land next to Paradise Nature Reserve





More than 2,000 supporters of Paradise Nature Reserve in Cambridge have signed a petition against proposals to build student accommodation for Queens’ College next to the site.

Newnham Croft Community presents the petition at Queens’ Porters' Lodge regarding Paradise nature reserve . Picture: Keith Heppell. (59890821)
Newnham Croft Community presents the petition at Queens’ Porters' Lodge regarding Paradise nature reserve . Picture: Keith Heppell. (59890821)

The University of Cambridge college has applied to demolish the nursery building at its Owlstone Croft site and build an extension plus four accommodation blocks containing 60 rooms. Queens’ has pledged that the nursery, which is used by fellows and staff, would not be demolished until an alternative was in operation.

But Friends of Paradise Nature Reserve fear that constructing the new blocks so close to the boundary will “destroy the peace and tranquillity” of the site and “pose a significant threat to biodiversity and the wildlife there”. They have now presented a 2,182-signature petition to the college’s president and fellows asking them to withdraw the application.

Pam Gatrell, chair of the Friends of Paradise Nature Reserve, said the petition shows “the huge concern in the community over the proposal to build two and three-storey houses on the boundary of this much-loved space, visited every day by hundreds of people, including schools, students, families, walkers, birdwatchers, researchers and overseas visitors”.

She added: “The harm that would be caused to the biodiversity of this fragile ecosystem by light and noise pollution would be irrevocable, affecting the 600 species which live there, including the protected species of bats and water voles. We urge Queens’ College to withdraw this inappropriate and environmentally-damaging proposal.”

Paradise Nature Reserve. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59890838)
Paradise Nature Reserve. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59890838)

Meanwhile, the campaigners have the support of the governing body of Newnham Croft Primary School.

Hugh Clough said on their behalf: “The governors and the whole school community are deeply concerned about this proposed development by Queens’ College, which would have a serious adverse impact on the children’s education.”

And Newnham Croft Residents Association chair Jean Glasberg said: “This petition shows the overwhelming opposition to these plans from within our community and across the city. They are harmful to wildlife and biodiversity, and counter to the college’s own environmental policy and plan ‘...to manage all activities, buildings and estates to promote environmental sustainability and to conserve and enhance natural resources and to reduce environmental pollution’. We hope Queens’ will recognise this, and withdraw the scheme.”

However, the agent working on behalf of Queens’ College has said in a letter supporting the planning application: “As the development will not lead to the loss of all or part of the nature reserve, what must be considered is whether the development would harm the reserve having regard to its status, quality and features and rarity.

“Its status is as a Local Nature Reserve, not one which has statutory species protection. Despite this, throughout the development of the scheme, significant efforts have been made to consider and minimise any impact on the nature reserve and its flora and fauna.

A leaflet produced by the Friends of Paradise Nature Reserve in relation to the Queens' College development (59890829)
A leaflet produced by the Friends of Paradise Nature Reserve in relation to the Queens' College development (59890829)

“Several objections spell out in admirable detail the variety of species within (Paradise Nature Reserve). We do not dispute any of this or seek to downplay its value, quite the opposite. The presence of these features does not however mean that buffer zones must be placed around the outside of such sites. There is no policy requirement to do this, and in any case, there is no change of use of the Owlstone Croft site, just the provision for an additional 45 students. We have shown that there will be no adverse impact on the species present within the site.”

Andrew Bainbridge, domestic bursar at Queens’ College, commented: “Queens’ recognises the importance of, and is committed to having, an open and continuing dialogue with its neighbours in Newnham and has proactively sought to engage with local stakeholders and members throughout the pre-application period.”



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