A new “cycle-themed café” has been given the go-ahead on a stretch of protected land near a city lake, but some worry the move could leave the door open for other restaurants, even a McDonalds, to open in the green belt.
The cycle café will sit on green belt land off Newmarket Road near Barnwell lake. It will be a “pit stop” on the new “Chisholm Trail”, a segregated bike “super-highway” which will allow bike commuters to access different parts of the city without having to go on the roads.
The café will include a kitchen and an outdoor picnic area, as well as a bike maintenance and repair section. There will also be 24 car parking spaces, and 100 cycle parking spaces.
The plans were given the green light by Cambridge City Council's planning committee yesterday (November 7).
Transport campaigner Jim Chisholm (after whom the Chisholm Trail is named) said many people currently do not even know there is a lake there. He said the site is a hot-spot for fly tippers. He noted that opening it up would allow more people to enjoy the area, making it safer and more accessible.
The Chisholm Trail
Roxanne DeBeaux, executive director of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, said the café would make the area safer for people to visit.
“CamCycle supports this application,” she said. “It would help clean up what is currently an over-grown site. It will allow it to be enjoyed by all of the community, rather than just a few dozen fishermen.
“The café will provide proper public access to allow residents to allow the lake. The trail, complete with the café, will encourage sustainable travel.”
Some, however, were not keen on the proposal. Environmental activist, Chris Smith said developing the site, which is in the green belt, would have an adverse effect on biodiversity in the area. He asked how the committee could stop other cafes being built in the green belt if permission for this one was granted.
“There is no shortage of cafes in the area,” Mr Smith said. “But there is a shortage of wildlife.”
Cllr John Hipkin (Independent) said there was “intrinsic value” in protecting the green belt. He said it was there to protect the city from “urban sprawl” and should be considered “sacred”.
Cllr Hipkin warned that the council would not be able to control who occupied the site if permission for a café was granted. He said there would, potentially, be nothing to stop a fast-food chain like McDonalds setting up on the site once permission was granted.
Dave Baigent (Labour), however, said opening the area up would encourage more people onto bikes and attract people to the area. He said it could become more of a “destination” in the city where people wanted to spend time.
Kevin Blencowe, executive councillor for planning at the city council, told the committee he often “trespassed” on the site to enjoy the lake. He said it was sad that people had to trespass, and that there was “significant value” in improving public access to the area.
Despite an officer recommendation to refuse the application, the committee decided to back the plans on the basis that the benefits to the public would outweigh the “inappropriate development” in the green belt. They also said the café would encourage more people to cycle.
The committee voted to limit the opening hours of the café, so as to put off restaurants taking over the site and staying open later, and also stipulated that the café should not be used to serve take-away food.
Because the development is in the green belt, the committee heard the decision will automatically be referred to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire.