The Magpas Air Ambulance building will stay for now after plans to demolish it to make way for retirement flats were refused. Huntingdonshire District Council said the proposed four-storey building would be “overbearing” and would lead to a loss of daylight for people living in some of the nearby houses.
The authority also said the development also failed to provide any affordable housing within the plans as required by its policies. The application to redevelop the site had been submitted by Walnut Tree Holdings Ltd and Gainsford Properties Ltd. It proposed to demolish Centenary House in St Mary’s Street, in order to build 30 new retirement flats.
In planning documents submitted as part of the application it said Magpas Air Ambulance was due to move elsewhere and said there was “very little demand” for the office space. At a meeting of the district council’s development management committee this week (Monday, June 19), a representative of the applicant, Simon Richardson, told councillors there was a need for retirement homes of the type proposed.
He said the existing building was “unattractive and very outdated”. He added that the site was in a “highly sustainable location” and would give people living in the proposed retirement flats easy access to the nearby shops and public transport options. Mr Richardson said this would also benefit those shops and businesses and would help “boost the vitality and viability of the town centre”.
He said the existing office building was not designed to be lived in, but suggested it could be converted, although he said this would be “suboptimal”. Mr Richardson said the proposed building had “good design principles and rationale around that”. Huntingdon Town Council had said it did not think the plans were in keeping with the houses opposite on St Mary’s Street and recognised that the new building would be “significantly larger”.
However, the town council said it believed the precedent had been set for a “more larger and more modern building” due to Pathfinder House – the district council’s offices – based further down the street, and therefore supported the plans. One of the ward councillors for the area, Councillor Marion Kadewere, urged the committee to refuse the application. She said the proposed building was “too much” and said the lack of affordable housing planned was “disappointing”.
Councillor Lara Davenport-Ray said she liked the design of the building, but said there were issues that she did not think could be overcome, such as the lack of affordable housing. Councillor Tom Sanderson highlighted that objections had been raised by Cambridgeshire County Council, as well as the conservation and urban design teams. He said: “Frankly I do not see a way to approve this with all those objections.”
Councillor Jon Neish said he did not think the plans were “right for that location” and that he believed the building would be “too large and overpowering”. When the decision on the application was put to a vote, the committee councillors voted unanimously to refuse the plans.