Councillors brush off conservation area concerns to approve housing plans

How the proposed St Mary's Street development could look.

How the proposed St Mary's Street development could look. - Credit: Archant

Councillors voted to approve plans for a small-scale housing development in Ely – despite warnings that doing so could cause “significant harm” to the city’s conservation area.

The planning committee voted last Wednesday to approve Peter Audus’s plans to add a second floor and two new flats to a former office block in St Mary’s Street.

Mr Audus already had permission in place for six flats but entered fresh plans to add two more flats to the 1960s building, while altering the layout and landscaping of the surrounding car park.

East Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning and conservation officers were critical of the plan, labelling it “poorly designed”, but councillors disagreed and voted to accept the plans.

Council conservation officer, Lorraine Brown delivered a withering assessment of the plans, saying: “This application is of a poor quality design that pays no regard to the local context.

“Whilst there is a desirability to ‘right the wrongs’ of our predecessors, should this application be granted the resulting building would only serve to replicate the same mistakes again and result in a visually dominant, poor quality ‘replica’ of a traditional architectural style.

“Simply because the property is located within the conservation area does not mean that we should settle for a poor quality imitation of a distinctive architectural style.”

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And council planning officer, Julie Barrow said: “The benefits of the scheme would not be considered to outweigh the significant harm caused to the setting of nearby listed buildings, including St Mary’s Church and Ely Cathedral and the wider conservation area.”

In support of the plans, the Ely Society said the development would provide an ‘improved façade’ while ward councillor Richard Hobbs said the building would “enhance the street scene of St Mary’s Street and Cambridge Road”.

The City of Ely Council was also supportive of the development, saying it had “no concerns” with the planned work.