Surprise as Council approves redevelopment of 241 Hills Road

At a busy South Area Committee meeting tonight, councillors surprisingly went against the advice of their own officers and approved a proposed development on the corner of Hills Avenue and Hills Road. The existing house (241 Hills Road, although effectively part of Hills Avenue) was long ago considered to be “of no merit to warrant its retention”, but a previous application to replace it with six flats had been rejected in 2011. This time, the applicants had proposed three “town houses” (below).

241-Hills-Road

Council Officers had come up with a number of objections to the design, and at the Area Committee meeting, there were statements from the Officers and, on the other side, from a Planning Consultant working for the applicants. After listening to these, Councillor Dryden (from Cherry Hinton) commented that he didn’t dismiss his own officers’ recommendations lightly (or often), but in this case he thought that “far more substantial developments have been permitted in the area” and that in this case the development should be allowed “in the interests of consistency”.

All three councillors representing Queen Edith’s disagreed with him, but he was supported by other councillors from Cherry Hinton and Trumpington, and the Council Officers’ objections were dismissed after a tied vote and a casting vote from the chair.

I believe that with a tied vote, the chair should have acknowledged that the councillors who actually represented the area (who are from different parties) were unanimously supporting the Council Officers’ objections, and reversed his vote. But it was not to be. I do wonder if a different result might have resulted had there been forceful (or indeed any) real support for the Council Officers’ objections from residents. Maybe the fact that there was so little was what persuaded the councillors from Cherry Hinton and Trumpington to vote the way they did.

The applicants, it should be noted, seemed genuinely shocked to have received permission to go ahead with the development.

2 Replies to “Surprise as Council approves redevelopment of 241 Hills Road”

  1. I am a resident of neighbouring Homerton Court.
    I am disappointed that the architectural plan for the redevelopment of 241 Hills Road gives only minimal respect to neighbours through its overshadowing and overbearing impact on Homerton Court.
    I am disappointed that a single (chair) person’s casting vote at a meeting can simply overturn the Council’s recommendation and approve the proposal without seeking to address the issues carefully reported.
    I am disappointed that the chair person opted for an easy win-lose scenario, rather than a win-win scenario. It is a financial win to the development team and a loss of light, privacy and potential value to me (and others) as a neighbour.
    How different the outcome could have been if the development team had at the very start viewed neighbours as stakeholders to be consulted, or had empathetically offered, or been asked by the chair person, to seek a creative solution to give us a little more light and space. That would be holistic, winning design, and we would all have been proud of our new neighbourhood.
    With such short notice, I did not cancel my prior personal and work commitments in order to attend the meeting because I and other residents had already commented substantially in writing and assumed that the chair person would take the trouble to read those comments. I also assumed that it would not be necessary to attend because the Council was already recommending a refusal. People assume that the public are all well versed in the procedures and politics of planning applications. We are not, and we should not be taken advantage of by others’ assertiveness and assumptions on a single day simply because we were not able to be present ourselves.

  2. What is the point of having professional officers if their advice is not followed or if further professional advice is not sought in the event of a tied vote which represents doubt? To add insult to injury, no response from the Chairperson or the developers following the surprise approval decision to my request as a neighbour for a little more light and space and instead I see on the council planning website tonight (29 July) that the developers now wish to move the bins to the rear of the development adjacent to our fence. First sight, then smell… II wonder which sense will be the next to be assaulted…

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