Stay of execution for 291 Hills Road …but now it’s 292

If you hadn’t heard the news, thanks to a fantastic campaign by local residents supported by councillors from Queen Edith’s and beyond, last week the City Council planning committee rejected the plan by Gibson Developments Ltd to replace 291 Hills Road with two blocks of flats. The scheme produced nearly 200 objections, although – sadly – unpopularity with local residents isn’t grounds for rejecting a plan, and it took some excellent work to find issues that the planning committee could agree should stop the development in its current form. A video of the objection at planning committee can be seen here.

The area may well hear more from Gibson Developments (who are also responsible for demolishing the lovely houses at 3 and 5 Queen Edith’s Way). Nor, it seems, are they the only people comfortable with destroying long-established family homes in this way: notice has now been given by the owners of 292 Hills Road that they want to demolish what is quite a magnificent house, this time without any plans having been submitted for a replacement.

292 Hills Road

Hills Road

There have been prosperous times for Cambridge before, and 100 years ago an earlier ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ saw many individual houses designed and built in Queen Edith’s for well-known local businesspeople. According to Capturing Cambridge, “292 Hills Road (York House) was built by the builder Cyril Ridgeon in 1924, to the designs of the architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens. The house is one of three houses designed by Lutyens in the Cambridge area, the most well-known being ‘Middlefield’ in Hinton Way, Shelford. York House is an example of Lutyens country house look and has fine brickwork and mock Tudor panelling.”

The Lutyens connection cannot be proved, it seems, but the sheer class of the house clearly doesn’t mean enough to stop the current owner from wanting to destroy it. Neighbours have tried to get the house listed, with support from CambridgePPF, but their request was rejected. While there are grounds to turn down new building plans (see 291 Hills Road above), there are very limited powers to stop an owner from demolishing an existing building. Residents’ groups asked the council to request that the owner desists from degrading the house while they made a case for making it a “Building of Local Interest”. A Building Preservation Notice can be served by local planning authorities, but neighbours say that city council officers are uninterested.

For Queen Edith’s, the past week has been one step forward, two steps back.

How do I make a comment to the council on this?
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Click here to email your comments to the case officer, Mary Collins. You must quote reference 18/0608/DEMDET.

8 Replies to “Stay of execution for 291 Hills Road …but now it’s 292”

  1. I have a couple of points to make.

    That photo doesn’t do any justice to the quality of the building, which could be a real asset to the streetscape. I would encourage anyone who gets a chance to spend a couple of minutes looking at the details of the brickwork, or the lovely coach house set back from the road. 292 was a happy family home from its construction in 1924 until its sale in late 2015.

    Unfortunately you have to work harder to see its loveliness because the current owners have wrecked the once lush garden setting of the house. This has been exacerbated by the City Council’s approval of two separate applications in 2017 to build double garage blocks. The one which has been finished has been built to such shoddy design that the brickwork is already stained by leaking water.

    The destruction of yet another attractive family home, in a sound state of repair, under these circumstances and in such a prominent location would be environmental vandalism. It would also be yet another sign – as if one were needed – that as long as the 1km square tourist honeypot in the centre of the city is preserved, the heritage of the rest of our city can be pillaged at will.

    1. This photograph was taken three days ago and shows the barren site in which this house now stands.

      There also seems to be some confusion about the felling of the magnificent and mature Judas tree that was on the far left-hand side of the property over the Christmas period. A previous owner of the house thought that she had placed a Tree Preservation Order on it , but according to the Guildhall yesterday , the only tree with a TPO on it is a False Acacia in the front garden of no,292A but passing byon a bus today, I did not recognise such a tree there.

      Some years ago, i was sent s TPO information map which placed 19 trees in my front garden. I contacted the Tree Expert and pointed that I did not live in a small forest. Indeed, they had transposed the neighbouring properties trees into my front area.
      They also felled a tree on the verge of my property – when I was out – one December day some ten years ago, without my knowledge. When I complained, they admitted that they should have placed a 21 day notice of intent on it. They hadn’t.

      I am not at all happy about such mistakes being made by our local planners. I certainly hope that they do not make yet another one on this lovely house.

  2. Interesting that the QE councillors came out in force to support the resident’s opposition to the development at 291 Hills Road. No such support for the residents opposing Gibson’s developments on Fendon Road roundabout and 3/5 QEW which faced similar issues. Is there an election coming up????

    1. I feel that is an unfair comment,..
      3/5 was opposed by residents , etc, alike . The last house to die on the roundabout was nowhere near such style and beauty as 292 Hills Road. Personally, I am really sick and tired of seeing my home town eroded away, month after month, year after year. It is appalling.

  3. Vivien, it’s hard to get it listed because, despite neighbours who have lived here for 40 years having been directly told of the Lutyens connection by a member of the Ridgeon family, at the moment we are struggling to find any documentary proof. The County Archive doesn’t appear to hold anything (so far) and it’s clearly not in the new owners’s interests to say what papers they’re in possession of.

    But for me the link with Lutyens is only part of the justification for saving this building. It’s an asset to our neighbourhood, it’s a beautiful viable family home, it was built for a man who is a big part of the commercial history of our town. Why, when we have all of that in the balance, should the inability to *prove* the Lutyens link be a deal breaker? Why isn’t the onus on the applicants to demonstrate that demolition and replacement is better for anything other than their bank balance?

  4. I find it very disturbing that there are no plans as yet – beyond demolition. With a mass of garages on the site? This does not appear to me as the usual approach to any site for future planning requests for development. The garages that have been constructed are already showing damage to the north- east facing wall , caused by bad construction and the water is seeping down and going into the brickwork. Currently there is a well-built attractive house, built 90 years ago, with excellent and sympathetic materials.- but judging by the garages built within this last year, no future edifice would have the stamina to last very long. Certainly not 90 years.

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