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Major Cambridge development refused planning permission in part due to lack provision for cyclists

Campaigners believe decision could serve as precedent elsewhere in England for schemes that fail to follow recent government guidance on cycling infrastructure

Planning ​permission has been refused for part of a major redevelopment of the area around Cambridge railway station, because it “fails to provide high quality cycling infrastructure commensurate with Cambridge as the leading cycling city in the UK,” including accommodating the long-planned Chisholm Trail cycle route which will cross the city, reports the Cambridge Independent.

The decision was based in part on the scheme's failure to meet the standards of the government’s local transport note on cycle infrastructure design LTN 1/20, published in late July this year, which provides guidance for local authorities on designing high-quality, safe cycle infrastructure.

Campaigners say it could potentially serve as a precedent for future planning decisions elsewhere in England on schemes that fail to adequately consider the needs of cyclists.

Cambridge City Council’s planning committee voted on Friday not to grant permission to developer Brookgate for the development, known as the Devonshire Quarter, which would have been built on the existing car park at the station, with plans for an aparthotel, office block, and multi-storey car park.

It was designed as part of the much larger CB1 mixed use development, where office tenants include Microsoft and Facebook, and would have linked Devonshire Road with Station Square – itself described last year as a “disaster area” for cyclists.

The scheme had been approved by the council’s own planning officers, but the planning committee said on Friday that its rejection of the plans by five votes to two were due to Brookgate’s failure to adequately resolve issues that had been highlighted at a previous meeting in June relating to provision for cycling and the development’s impact on the surrounding area due to its scale.

Objections to the planning application had been raised by parties including local cycling campaign Camcycle, the voluntary group Smarter Cambridge Transport, and the South Petersfield Residents Association.

Edward Leigh from Smarter Cambridge Transport said: “The applicant and Network Rail must review the long-term transport requirements for the station area, which have changed dramatically since the project was conceived, and together come back with plans that will serve the city well for the next 50-plus years.”

Mike Derbyshire, head of planning at commercial property firm Bidwells, which was acting for Brookgate, maintained that it had addressed the concerns raised in June, saying: “We listened and we have made changes to the scheme.

“We have responded to those criticisms as a responsible developer.”

He also insisted that the development would provide jobs as the city recovers from the coronavirus crisis and claimed that the plans supported cycling and the Chisholm Trail.

“CB1 has now paid £994,000 to the county council to fund the trail,” he insisted. “It is an enabler, not a barrier to the trail, and I think that’s been forgotten in this discussion.”

Roxanne De Beaux, executive director of Camcycle, said that the decision was the result of hard work by a broad group of people who could take inspiration from it for future campaigns, and that it could provide a template for others to follow in England.

“We’d like to thank councillors for safeguarding the future of cycling and walking in the station area and speaking out so strongly in favour of preserving Cambridge’s position as the UK’s cycling capital,” she said.

“We’re delighted to see new government guidance on cycling being used already to assess developments and shape the city’s growth in an inclusive and sustainable manner which will benefit everyone who lives and works in the area.

“By applying LTN 1/20 members of the Planning Committee have set a significant precedent that we expect to influence future development and planning decisions in Cambridge and across England.

“We’re grateful too to all the individuals and groups we have worked with on this campaign, who have shared their experiences, contributed ideas and written to their local councillors.

“We will continue to work for safe space for active travel around the station area where it is vital that we accommodate the huge volumes of people travelling through this area on foot or by cycle. We encourage local people to join us in calling for high-quality routes and better public spaces across the Greater Cambridge region.

“Today’s success should inspire everyone to take action for cleaner air, safer streets and a greener future,” she added.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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