Queens' challenges claims that new accommodation would be ecologically harmful, with students raising the need for more affordable student housingQueens' College

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched by local residents to fund legal advice to respond to an appeal by Queens’ College to extend one of its residences. The college’s planning application was rejected in January, but Queens’ now seeks to appeal the decision, which requires a public inquiry by a planning inspector.

Queens’ is seeking to challenge the rejection of its plans for new student accommodation in the garden of its existing residence, Owlstone Croft. The ‘Friends of Paradise’ pressure group argue that the noise and light from the new buildings on the boundary would impact wildlife within the Paradise Nature Reserve. The group has also raised concerns about the felling of trees and impact on protected species of bats. The plans, which would create 60 new rooms, were objected to by 140 people.

These concerns were echoed by the Council when it unanimously rejected permission in January. Its decision referenced, among other factors, the close proximity to the Nature Reserve, potential harm to the Reserve’s recreational value, and the lack of proof that protected species would not be unduly harmed.

In its appeal statement, the College maintains that the development would contribute to the city’s supply of housing, and that it has been sensitive to the surrounding area. It has stated there would be a 50% biodiversity net gain on the site, and describes the development as “high quality, highly sustainable, landscape led, well designed and well-considered”.

Some students are also unconvinced by the opposition to the development. Emma Munday, a student and Owlscroft resident, highlighted the growing unaffordability in Cambridge “due to a chronic under-supply of housing.” She said she was “deeply disappointed to see the council reject new student accommodation with such unfounded objections.”

These concerns were echoed by student Sam Hudson: “Preventing the construction of student accommodation will inevitably lead to increased demand on an already under supplied private rental market, pushing costs up even further. People who support this project, whether they like it or not, are prioritising spurious claims about bats over the most vulnerable and underprivileged Cambridge residents. I find that disgusting quite frankly and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.”


Mountain View

Student petition calls to stop Queens’ new accommodation plans

The two students were also sceptical of the environmental concerns. Munday described the opposition as “NIMBY green-washing” and stated “the proposed development would be modern energy efficient accommodation within a five-minute cycle of the city centre - which should be welcomed by genuine environmentalists.” Hudson added: “A minute of critical thought reveals that the claims put forward by the individuals behind the fundraiser are completely exaggerated and that the use of ‘an ecological consultant’ to support their claims, whose pay is dependent on the money raised, creates a serious conflict of interest which is obvious to all.”

The inquiry is due to be held later this year, after which a planning inspector will make a decision on whether the development can go ahead.

Friends of Paradise were contacted for comment. Queens’ College declined to comment.