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Some of you will have seen the Cambridgeshire Live article announcing that The Cherry Tree is now on the market . Those who have read the previous opens letters:1 and 2 , will be aware that this is something we have sought to avoid.  

The article also referenced the application for planning permission for a 4-bed house at the site - along with the creation of an improved car park and cover for the patio.   Unfortunately, East Cambridgeshire District Council rejected the planning application in September.

The reasons provided for rejection are threefold, as follows: 

1. The proposal would result in a significant loss of garden space for the existing café/public house which has the potential to impact the ongoing viability to The Cherry Tree. 

2. The proposal has failed to demonstrate a safe and convenient access to the proposed car park and failed to demonstrate servicing arrangements for the café/public house. 

3. By way of the siting and layout of the proposed dwelling, the proposal would give rise to significant overbearing and oppressive impacts to the occupiers of no.10 Duck Lane. 

We have provided responses to the above, over the past several months, as follows: 

1. We have demonstrated (on scaled plans) that we can accommodate the same number of customers on the improved / covered patio area - as we currently do with patio and lawned areas. The improved patio will also be usable for 12 months of the year as opposed to the current 8 months, and have minimal maintenance costs, as opposed to the ongoing maintenance of the lawns / garden area. 
The purpose of this is to enhance the viability of the business not negatively impact on it.  

2. Refers to 2 objections received from Cambridgeshire County Council Highways. 

The first is that delivery lorries (we have two each week) may cause an obstruction on Duck Lane. They go on to say that this is not an issue if it “mirrors current practice”.    Obviously, this does mirror the current practice as delivery lorries have been parking on Duck Lane while they deliver (which they are legally entitled to do - even with the new double yellow lines), for the whole time the premises have been a pub (40+ years?). Despite being advised of this fact, this has been included as part of the reason for refusal.

The second is that the location of the new / improved car park’s entrance is adjacent to a set of (one of very few remaining) speed cushions in the village. They state that anyone “entering or leaving the (proposed) car park ‘at speed’…… might damage their vehicle”.  
We had countered this objection by offering to remove the speed cushions.  CCC Highways responded to this by stating that 20 mph roads should be self-regulating and therefore the speed cushions should remain.  This is despite the fact that they, in negotiations with Haddenham Parish Council over the implementation on the new 20-mph zone in the village, offered speed cushions as part of the scheme and, having been told by the Parish Council that they were not wanted, agreed that the new scheme could proceed without speed cushions.   

3. This objection has never been brought to our attention for discussion / mitigation.  We were first aware of it when it was included in the rejection letter. Interestingly, reference to the ECDC planning portal shows that there has never been an objection received from number 10 Duck Lane - the planning officer has decided to include this objection even though the resident of that house appears to have no issues with our proposal.  The proposed new house is further from number 10 than its existing neighbours and has been carefully designed to maximise the distance from it.

This application has now gone on for over 18 months - at considerable expense to the applicant.  During that time ECDC have requested (and received) no fewer than 8 extensions to their proposed decision date.   Notwithstanding this - the issue was finally brought to a head when an email was sent to the local Ward Councillor at 2.35pm on the 29th of August 2023.  That email gave a series of options (that I assume was intended for discussion with the applicant and / or, their agents.) The deadline for the response to that email was set at 12.00 the following day. So, after 8 extensions and months of ongoing discussions, ECDC decided that our request to have additional discussions with CCC Highways regarding their 2 objections - and might take 2-3 months, was unreasonable and instead set a deadline for response that was c. 7 working hours after issue.  

We have been advised that one case officer at ECDC Planning is currently personally dealing with 60+ applications.  Perhaps this explains the provision of 7 working hours’ notice (to include discussion with the applicant and their agents) and the sudden need for a resolution to this application.

I sign off with the thought that perhaps ECDC would serve its customers better by striving to find ways to support local businesses, rather than raising a series of issues / objections and then suddenly needing to “clear their desks”. 

Despite all the above, we are still striving to keep The Cherry Tree open and operating as it has, a valued and loved community asset.

Please watch this space for further updates.   

C. Taylor

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