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St John’s College accommodation plan deferred by Cambridge City Council



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A decision on plans to build new accommodation for St John’s College at the University of Cambridge has been delayed after concerns were raised over who will use the rooms throughout the year.

Proposed site plan of how 245 new student accommodation for St John\'s College, University of Cambridge, could look like. (54256120)
Proposed site plan of how 245 new student accommodation for St John\'s College, University of Cambridge, could look like. (54256120)

A bid to build 245 new rooms across 39 town houses on land off Wilberforce Road, was submitted to Cambridge City Council by St John’s College and discussed by the authority’s planning committee yesterday (January 12).

The accommodation is proposed to be used by students and university academic staff.

The college said in a statement submitted as part of the planning application that it is facing increasing demands for accommodation for students as well as Fellows and staff.

It added that in the case of Fellows, while many wanted to buy their own home in Cambridge, they faced difficulties in doing so, therefore the college wanted to provide accommodation for a few years while they “find their feet in the Cambridge housing market”.

It was the details as to how the proposed accommodation will be split between staff and students that raised concern for councillors.

Illustrative view of a typical shared garden with the raised, semi-private outdoor terraces on the right. part of proposed 245 new student accommodation for St John's College, University of Cambridge (54256122)
Illustrative view of a typical shared garden with the raised, semi-private outdoor terraces on the right. part of proposed 245 new student accommodation for St John's College, University of Cambridge (54256122)

Council planning officers had recommended a condition that allocated 120 of the 245 rooms to only be occupied by students, due to the land being identified for student accommodation of that amount in the adopted local plan.

However, some committee councillors were concerned about the potential for the remaining 125 rooms to only be used by academic staff, when the application was being considered under student accommodation policy.

Councillor Katie Porrer said she did not feel the application should be considered under student accommodation policy, adding that the application frustrated her as in principle she did not object to the plans.

Council officers highlighted conditions that would limit the maximum amount of time anyone could stay in the accommodation to a maximum of three years.

Questions were asked whether a condition could be added to cap the amount of rooms that could be rented to staff to 25 per cent. Council officers said this could be possible, but that there was not any policy to base this condition on.

As councillors continued to debate the proposals, further concerns were raised as to how the rooms would be used outside of term time.

Illustrative view from Grange Lane into a shared garden, part of proposed 245 new student accommodation for St John\'s College, University of Cambridge. (54256124)
Illustrative view from Grange Lane into a shared garden, part of proposed 245 new student accommodation for St John\'s College, University of Cambridge. (54256124)

Councillor Katie Thornburrow highlighted that term time was only 24 weeks of the year and questioned the use for the rest of that time.

In a Section 106 proposal put forward by planning officers it said: “Outside of academic term times the rooms shall only be occupied by students studying at educational institutions within Cambridge, conference delegates or others attending such institutions for purposes linked with the education functions of those institutions.”

However, this raised further questions from councillors as to how the rooms being let to conference delegates would impact the area.

Due to the mounting questions, Cllr Thornburrow suggested that a decision on the application be deferred so that more information could be provided as to how the accommodation would be used outside of term time.

Cllr Porrer said she would support a deferral, if more information on how the accommodation will be split between students and academic staff could be provided.

While the chair of the committee Councillor Martin Smart said he would prefer to make a decision on the application, a majority of the committee councillors ended up voting in favour of deferral.



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