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20/01229/FUL - 34 Barrow Road

Meeting: 04/08/2021 - Planning (Item 85)

85 20/01229/FUL - 34 Barrow Road pdf icon PDF 319 KB


This item was considered and determined at the 29 July 2021 Planning Committee.

Meeting: 29/07/2021 - Planning (Item 77)

77 20/01229/FUL - 34 Barrow Road - 16.00pm pdf icon PDF 319 KB


The application sought approval for erection of a new residential dwelling following demolition of the existing dwelling.


The Planning Officer updated their report by referring to the amendment sheet highlighting a response of objection received from City Councillor Copley.


The Planning Officer also informed the Committee that although the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was revised in 2021 this did not alter the assessment or the recommendation of this application.


The Committee received representations in objection to the application from the following:

Resident of 36 Barrow Road

  i.  Disappointed the applicant and agent had declined to engage directly with residents.

  ii.  The only amendment made by applicant in response to resident’s objections were to reduce the ridge height by a ‘pencil length’ and obscure glaze half of the master bedroom window on the south elevation.

  iii.  Believed the Planning Officers’ determination was not accurate by stating the application was for a two-storey dwelling; the application was a three-storey dwelling in a conservation area defined by two-story houses.

  iv.  No. 36 Barrow Road had been described as diminutive in the Planning Officer’s report. The dwelling had a roof height higher than 9 other houses in proximity. However, it would be made to feel diminutive next to the proposed three-storey building, 662sqm, with a higher ridge height of 1m.

  v.  The proposed massing was too big for the immediate context.

  vi.  The overbearing design would affect the residential amenity in lieu of the boundary trees.

  vii.  There would be no opportunity to plant natural screening along the boundary behind the annex, garage, and bin store.

  viii.  Questioned why a boundary tree planting plan not been insisted upon.

  ix.  The proposed replacement of mature boundary trees between the houses was not feasible.

  x.  The application needed to be redesigned to preserve the boundary trees and uphold the character of the conservation area.

  xi.  The footprint of the single storey annex (36 Barrow Road), garden and bin store had always been built up to the boundary of 34 Barrow Road. The boundary walls had not changed.

  xii.  Requested the same condition for the first-floor window position for fixed obscure glazing be included to the five third storey windows at head heighted.

  xiii.  Was one of thirty-four residents who had objected to this application.

  xiv.  The application has put the conservation area at risk by breaching the City Council’s terms of reference and would set a harmful precedence.


Public speaker on behalf of 32 Barrow Road

  i.  The application had failed to acknowledge the limitation of the plot and believed it to be over ambitious with too much accommodation on site.

  ii.  The submission failed to disguise the scale and massing and causing significant harm to the character of the conservation area.

  iii.  In addition to the loss of trees on the site, the root protection of trees on 32 Barrow Road would be compromised.

  iv.  The room in the roof space was itself a family home sized accommodation of 146m2 exceeding all national space standards for family homes.

  v.  The proposal would cause significant harm to the residents of 32 Barrow Road due to the domineering and overbearing appearance when viewed from the garden and the rear facing rooms in the home; the application filled up the entire width of the plot of 32 Barrow Road.

  vi.  The attempt to disguise the bulk of the proposed property did not work. The front elevation and the rear elevation were too far apart, the side elevations that give way to the harm.

  vii.  The harm was less than substantial harm to the conservation area; the statutory test of such harm was that there must be public benefit to outweigh that harm. The proposed replacement home was not sufficient not outweigh that harm.

  viii.  Asked that the Committee protect the conservation area in the area.





The following written statement was read out by the Committee Manger on behalf of a local resident:

  i.  Strongly objected to this proposal, as many others have done in the past. Both myself and many other residents were shocked that it had been permitted to reach committee stage.

  ii.  The design of the proposed dwelling continues to grossly offend the principles of the conservation area. It is an over imposing structure that negatively dominates the residences around it, steals light, adversely impacts the street scene, damages the natural environment and will be harmful to the health and wellbeing of the residents of Porson and Barrow Roads. The City Council should be mindful of this harm, and its legal and moral responsibility to its residents.

  iii.  Despite significant objections by residents since last year, the proposal essentially remains largely unchanged since these objections were made. This is a designated conservation area, and the City Council is ignoring the principles of this designation. Conservation areas are meant to have extremely strict rules about development that may infringe on a designated area. We are hopeful that the Council will be transparent about why they have chosen to be so dismissive of this in this particular care, on this plot. The Council has not permitted many less intrusive schemes in conservation areas in Cambridge. This lack of consistency needs to be defended in relation to this application.

  iv.  You will also no doubt be aware that the 20th Century Society has made strong representations to the Council, sharing the expert view that the existing house is of architectural merit, such that it should be designated a Building of Local Interest. The proposal should be refused even on this point alone, much as there are so many other reasons to refuse it, and little of merit to support it.

  v.  Hoped that the City Council Planning Department would heed the overwhelming objections to this proposal and refuse it. We hope that the view that the existing dwelling will be designated a building of local interest. We are hopeful we will not need to pursue resolution of this matter in the Courts.


Mike Derbyshire, Bidwells (Applicant’s Agent) addressed the Committee in support of the application.


Councillor Hauk (Ward Councillor) addressed the Committee about the application:

  i.  Agreed with the Planning Officer that the application provided accessible living accommodation and a good level of indoor and outdoor amenity.

  ii.  Did not agree with the Planning Officer’s comments the proposed development would preserve the appearance of the conservation area and would not have significant adverse impact on the amenity of the surrounding occupants.

  iii.  The Barrow Road Conservation Area Appraisal from June 2016 outlined the features and characteristics of the Barrow Road area that would be diminished by the proposed development.

  iv.  The appraisal stated that “The road is distinguished by its low-density layout with wide green verges planted with flowering cherry trees behind which stand detached two-storey houses” that give a “predominant impression of greenery and openness“ (section 3.1). “The relationship between the buildings and their leafy setting is particularly important for the road’s distinctive character. “ (4.). Key characteristics are that “architectural unity is ensured by the common scale of the houses: all were originally designed as detached two storey dwellings and have the same ridge height.”

  v.  The recommendation of the appraisal emphasised preservation of the roofs, the common ridge height and the character of the road should be preserved.

  vi.  In order to develop a design that was appropriate for the immediate neighbourhood in the Barrow Road conservation area there is no evidence that the applicant, or their agent, proactively engaged with local residents outside the generic planning process.

 vii.  The proposed development had been referred to as a two-storey building.  This would appear as a three-storey building which would impact the local amenity.

viii.  The proposal was different to all other houses in the area who have changed their two-storey storage space into living space and this would stand out with its three-storey appearance.

  ix.  The application proposed a third storey of 146m2 occupying most of the footprint in depth and breadth, which was out of context with the neighbourhood and character of the conservation area.

  x.  The floorspace would increase by 2.8 times, twice that of neighbouring properties and the ridge height would be more that 10% higher of its closest neighbours.

  xi.  The proposed building would have the highest ridge height in the neighbourhood by over 9m. The case officer acknowledged that the ridge height had been reduced, but this was only by 17cm.

 xii.  Ridge heights varied across Barrow Road, which was a long road, but this application would stand out in terms of height and massing within the immediate neighbourhood.

xiii.  Section 6.2 of the Planning Officer’s report referred to 36 Barrow Road as diminutive. This was not the case.

xiv.  The application was not sympathetic to the local characteristics and history; it was not consistent with the height and form of neighbouring properties and over all street scene.

xv.  The Barrow Road Conservation Area’s boundary tree design precedent should be preserved, enhanced, and respected when designing 34 Barrow Road. Replacement trees would take many years to reach the same level of biodiversity

xvi.  With regards to the application for 33 Porson Road, close to the application, the Tree Officer commented on “the important boundary trees that contribute significantly to the character of the conservation area”. As a result, the owners redesigned their building to sit further away from the boundary trees (just under 6 metres).

xvii.  According to policy development would not be permitted which involves felling of trees of amenity or other value unless there are benefits to the public; asked what those were benefits as believed to be none.


Councillor Copley (Ward Councillor) addressed the Committee about the application through a written statement read by the Committee Manager:

  i.  it is a great concern about the balance between tree and other habitat loss in the City of Cambridge in the context of ongoing development.

  ii.  Reference the view of the Tree Officer which was as follows: "the development requires the loss of a number of trees that will impact on the contribution the site makes to amenity and character of the conservation area." As we have heard at the recent Full Council meeting, many trees replanted die. Furthermore, the time taken for newly planted trees to reach maturity is an order of several decades.

  iii.  Climate change is an urgent and pressing issue and has been declared as a climate emergency by the City Council in 2019.

  iv.  Object to the assumption that newly planted trees can be counted as equivalent to mature trees (irrespective of whether they have suffer disease). Policy 59 part b states that "existing features including trees, natural habitats, boundary treatments and historic street furniture and/or surfaces that positively contribute to the quality and character of an area are retained and protected". 

  v.  Ask the committee to request the applicant finds a proposal that does not require the loss of the mature trees on this site. I cannot see that this application will provide any other improvements for the residents of the City of Cambridge - as it will not alleviate the housing crisis (via for example providing affordable homes) and results in the loss of a building of unusual architecture from a celebrated architect (see the objection on the planning portal listed under Jesus College). 

  vi.  Understood that planning committees were very restricted in their decision making but put to you that policy 59.b should not be breached via acceptance of this application."


Councillor Thornburrow who had given apologies for the meeting addressed the Committee about the application through a written statement read by the Committee Manager:

  i.  This is an important Conservation Area in Cambridge. Most the homes were designed by the same architect, Norman Myers, between 1931 and 1939, while the building under consideration is one of two modernist buildings in this important conservation area. It was built in 1956 to a design by David Roberts.

  ii.  From our planning training we know that in a conservation area, special attention should be given to development that preserves or enhances the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the conservation area. 

  iii.  There is legal precedent that this duty creates a “strong presumption” against granting planning permission for developments that would harm a conservation area, and that therefore decision makers must give considerable importance to any harm to the conservation area arising from the proposal.

  iv.  Believed this proposal would cause harm to the Conservation Area and should be rejected on these grounds.

  v.  The Design and Access Statement for the proposed replacement house at 34 Barrow Road claims that it: ‘will be of an Arts & Crafts style of a similar scale to and with details seen on other nearby dwellings’ (para 3.0). This is highly questionable.

  vi.  There is a marked architectural consistency in the houses in Barrow Road, which were mostly designed by the same architect, Norman Myers, between 1931 and 1939. They were individual designs but shared a basic design strategy of a two-storey rectangular block across the site frontage, with a moderately steep, hipped roof of plain tiles without dormers; the eaves height aligning with the first-floor window head. This basic element was varied by selecting from a palette of secondary architectural features, producing a pleasant and subdued mixture of regularity and variety.

 vii.  The proposed house does not share this design strategy and does not form a natural addition to the Myers streetscape: it is considerably larger, taller, and coarser. The stated design objective is to fit into the existing context, but it fails.

viii.  The essence of Arts & Crafts architecture is not the haphazard sprinkling of architectural details that were popular in the first decade of the 20th century, but an architectural integrity that unifies function, form, material and details in a considered and satisfying whole. An Arts & Crafts building can be in many different styles, but a feeble pastiche like the proposed replacement house at 34 Barrow Road cannot be considered a valid Arts & Crafts design.

  ix.  The proposed replacement house attempts to pack a greatly increased floor area on the site and incorporates a large second floor (second floors are not characteristic of Barrow Roadhouses). Others have written about the functional shortcomings, and headroom at second floor is a real issue, but it is not my concern here

  x.  The street elevation is dominated by two gables (also not characteristic of Barrow Roadhouses), which have a roof pitch of about 50 degrees, but to accommodate the large second floor area the roof between these gables is spread. It has a substantially lower pitch of about 38 degrees which is not shown on the elevation drawings.

  xi.  David Roberts (1911-82) was the most important local architect working in Cambridge in the 1950s and ‘60s. Many of Roberts’ buildings have been demolished, but this should not be taken as a justification for further demolition; on the contrary, increased consideration should be given to conserving his remaining buildings.

 xii.  Roberts was in practice from 1948 to 1982 and 34 Barrow Road dates from 1956, only twenty years after the pre-war houses in Barrow Road.

xiii.  The intervening period was dominated by World War II and the post-war creation of the Welfare State; the revolution in society, politics and the economy was matched by a revolution in architecture.

xiv.  Traditional styles like the late Arts & Crafts of Norman Myers in Barrow Road were swept away. The critic John Summerson said: ‘There is now, what there was not before the war, a real school of modern design in Great Britain. ... [There is] an agreement to be radical ... This radicalism is the great thing in English architecture today’ (Modern Architecture in Britain, ed. T Dannatt, 1959, p.27). David Roberts designed the house at 34 Barrow Road in this new spirit. His design is as a strong marker of the cultural context of the 1950s as Norman Myers’ houses are markers of the cultural context of the 1930s; and its contribution to Cambridge’s architectural heritage is far greater than the pastiche Arts & Crafts design of the proposed replacement.

xv.  34 Barrow Road is a good design of the 1950s. The taut, geometrical forms and slender detailing were not the result of penny-pinching – they were the aesthetic objective. Compare the two- storey block at 34 Barrow Road with the side wing of Alvar Aalto’s celebrated Villa Mairea of 1938-39, a major work of an acknowledged master of modern architecture. Both designs have exactly the same unadorned rectangular massing with evenly-spaced windows of similar proportions; the west-facing windows of 34 Barrow Road have the same asymmetrical arrangement of wide-and-narrow panes. The building cost for 34 Barrow Road was £6000, a good budget for the 1950s: it was an ambitious, deliberately radical design.

xvi.  Like all buildings of the 1950s, 34 Barrow Road falls short of today’s expectations in many respects, such as thermal insulation, kitchen layout and design, provision of bathrooms, etc, but there would be no difficulty in upgrading these features (just at the 1930s houses in Barrow Road are upgraded). The size of 34 Barrow Road is also smaller than would be expected in high-status detached house today. However, it is perfectly possible for a sympathetic design to expand 34 Barrow Road while retaining its architectural character and cultural significance.

xvii.  The proposed replacement house at 34 Barrow Road is a poor imitation of the Arts & Crafts style that tries to pack a greatly increased floor area onto the site, despite functional shortcomings. It is an inappropriate design that does not respect the quiet, unassuming quality of Normal Myers’ pre-war houses. It fails to meet the stated objective of fitting comfortably into the existing context and by no stretch could it be called Arts & Crafts.

xviii.  The existing house of 1956 by David Roberts is a good design that is a strong marker of the cultural context of the 1950s. The taut, geometrical forms and slender detailing were a deliberate aesthetic choice, comparable to contemporary work by other major architects. The house could be renovated to meet current performance standards, and expanded sympathetically to retain its architectural character and cultural significance.

xix.  The replacement of David Roberts’ house by the proposed design would impoverish the architectural heritage of Cambridge. This view is supported by the Twentieth Century Society and Cambridge Past Present and Future.

xx.  The replacement of this significant building, with this failed attempt to echo the Arts & Crafts style of nearby houses would harm this conservation area. It should be refused under

·  Policy 55: Responding to context

·  Policy 57: Designing new buildings

·  Policy 61: Conservation and enhancement of Cambridge’s historic environment

·  Policy 62: Local heritage assets

·  NPPF para 124, 127, 194 and 196

xxi.  Others argue that the application should also be refused under Policies 50, 52, 58, 59, 60 and 70. All the arguments put forward should be considered as grounds for refusal.


Councillor Robertson (Ward Councillor) addressed the Committee about the application:

  i.  It should be recognised that Barrow Road was a very special road within Cambridge.

  ii.  Residents had chosen to keep the road private, retain the gas lighting and preserve the arts and crafts style of the house.

  iii.  The existing house at 34 Barrow Road did not intrude on the street scape and was low profile.

  iv.  Agreed that development needed as the house had stood empty for a long period of time. The proposed replacement was for a massive structure and out of scale with all the houses in Barrow Road.



  v.  The proposed application would dominate the immediate neighbouring properties and cause unnecessary loss of trees.

  vi.  Other houses in the area were half the size to the proposed application. Special attention should be given to development in a conservation area which should preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the area.

 vii.  The proposed building was clearly three-storey and should not be referred to as a two-storey building.

viii.  Would urge the Committee to reject the case officers’ comments that the proposed house would sit well in the road.


The Committee:


Resolved (by 2 votes to 2, and on  the Chair’s casting vote) to grant the application for planning permission in accordance with the Officer recommendation, for the reasons set out in the Officer’s report, and subject to the conditions recommended by the Officer.

  i.  With delegated authority to Officers to draft the conditions of the windows on the second floor (if the windows were above 1.7m in height they would not be obscured glazed but if below a condition would be added for these windows to be obscured glazed) in consultation with the Chair, Vice Chair and Spokes.