Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service recently received a series of questions from a media organisation regarding the development at 3-4 Station Square, Cambridge (formerly Murdoch House) and the wider ‘CB1’ development. The questions are here presented with a simplified version of the responses sent to the media organisation.
Taking into account that one in five of the apartments in 3&4 Station Square have been leased to purchasers based overseas after being marketed internationally, does the council stand by its planning officer’s analysis that the proposals for Murdoch House did not require any affordable homes to be included?
Planning applications are considered based on material presented to the Planning Authority at the time. Regarding 3&4 Station Square, the applicants argued that the development was not viable if affordable homes were included. The council employed independent experts to review this in line with the government’s national practice guidance. The valuation exercise partially reflected the high existing use value of the former commercial building. The process that the council followed at the time was consistent with approved practice and national planning policy requirements that still apply to developments.
What is the council’s response to a councillor’s assertion that the CB1 development has not ‘done anything for the local community’ and has not ‘lived up to promises’?
The original masterplan for the CB1 area sought to bring about comprehensive redevelopment of the area around the railway station with a range of new uses. As it has progressed, significant new commercial and office space has been created, which has attracted global companies and jobs to the heart of the city.
Some 325 new homes (121 of them affordable or 37%) have also been constructed and 1085 student apartments have been built, along with 6,000 new cycle parking spaces and over £10m of private sector contributions to the railway station, public art, transport infrastructure, education and public open space. The CB1 development has also provided new open spaces for residents to enjoy, and a new public arrival point outside the railway station.
There will always be a range of views on major developments such as CB1. The council continues to listen to the view of residents, businesses, and the community to help its planning and design policies evolve.
How far does the council accept that sales of new-build properties overseas is adding further heat to Cambridge’s property market, driving up property prices and making the city less affordable for people seeking to live and work here?
The council has not seen evidence that the increase in property prices in the city is caused by foreign or overseas sales of a small number of properties (relative to the total housing stock in the city) to people based overseas.
To what extent does the council believe there needs to be controls placed on developers selling new-build property on the international market?
The council cannot currently control the purchase of property interests through the planning process. Some councils have introduced measures to manage occupancy of homes (such as second homes) and introduced incentives to reduce vacancy rates, but that is a separate matter to ownership of the buildings or property – which the council would not have the capacity or resources to control even if such controls were available.
For market sales of residential properties on the council’s own land, the council generally focuses on local/national marketing and does restrict purchases to one purchase per buyer. This is with the aim of making it less attractive to major investors, who often prefer to buy properties in bulk.
Has the council taken any enforcement action against landlords at 3&4 Station Square?
The council is not aware that the development is in breach of any planning controls. On that basis, there is no case for taking enforcement action.
Has the council conducted any “lessons learned” exercises or similar following the planning, construction and sale of 3&4 Station Square, and if so, what lessons were learned and how were changes implemented?
The council always keeps its decisions under review – we’re mindful of the potential for lessons to be learnt around the processes we follow, and outcomes delivered through the planning process.