Over 400 people have written into the City Council objecting to plans for a massive block of student accommodation on stilts above the former Howard Mallett centre on St Matthew’s Piece in Cambridge.

The comments include describing the proposed structure as a “a behemoth”, “an ugly monstrosity” “a monolithic structure with its bizarre cladding”

Cllrs Mike Davey and Richard Robertson (Petersfield ward), and Cllrs Haf Davies, Richard Johnson, and Nicky Massey (Abbey ward) have submitted strong objections to the proposed development. The Labour Councillors have also called in the planning application for scrutiny and decision by the Planning Committee.

Local councillors and residents say that the height and scale of the proposed development, which would stand at 6 storeys high, would be entirely out of keeping with the local area and have a major impact on surrounding homes, ruining views and blocking sunlight.

Cllr Richard Robertson (Petersfield) said: “The Pennsylvania-based developer Federated Hermes carried out a consultation with local residents last April and over 150 people told them the plans were awful and totally out of keeping with the area. However, they changed virtually nothing and submitted a planning application with the same monstrous block.

“I have served as a city councillor for nearly 15 years and cannot remember a planning application which was in conflict with so many of the Local Plan policies. The council goes to a lot of trouble to develop and consult on planning policies appropriate to the city, and for a developer to seek to ignore so many of them is breath-taking. Such arrogance is what gives developers a bad name.”

Objectors feel that the proposed building would also overlook and overshadow the protected open space at St Matthew’s Piece, which includes a children’s play area which is used by many families in the area and is highly valued by the local community.

Cllr Nicky Massey (Abbey) commented: “As part of our policies on Climate Change and Biodiversity the Labour run city council has strong policies for the care and protection of trees. We recognise the importance of preserving and adding to the tree canopy of Cambridge and our planning policies back that up. Yet here we have a proposal to fell two of the majestic Plane trees on the New Street frontage of St Matthew’s Piece and apply heavy tree surgery to others just so this monstrous building can be imposed on us. That’s just not acceptable.”

A local resident wrote in saying: “St. Matthew’s Piece is the only open public park in Petersfield, a ward significantly lacking in trees in comparison to other areas of the City. St. Matthew’s Piece is surrounded by majestic veteran trees, many over one hundred years old. It is the only green space and Protected Open Green space for many of its inhabitants.”

Cllr Haf Davies (Abbey) said: “The proposed development would have a major effect on residents of neighbouring streets which fall within Abbey ward, towering over local homes. The proposed building’s height and scale is completely inappropriate for the local area and would severely impact on a valuable, widely-used and protected public open space and playground. We stated these objections to the developer at the pre-application consultation stage, and our concerns remain.”

Cllr Mike Davey (Petersfield) added: “Our residents in Petersfield ward would also be badly affected. We have been working with the Friends of St Matthew’s Piece for 9 months now making sure everyone who uses St Matthew’s Piece as their local park was aware of the plans for this six storey structure. There has been a massive response from residents and because of the public interest we have “called it in” for consideration by the full Planning Committee.”

The public consultation on the application finishes on 13th  January and the application will go to a meeting of the City Council Planning Committee in due course.

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