Ridley Hall recently applied for planning permission to extend the buildings; however, the application was rejected last week following a number of objections.

Ridley Hall, situated next to Newnham College on Sidgewick Avenue, is one of the theological colleges affiliated with the University of Cambridge.

The theological college teaches a range of theology and philosophy courses and trains intending ministers. It is also strongly engaged with the wider community through student involvement in local churches, colleges, hospitals and prisons.

 Although it is not one of the University of Cambridge’s 31 official colleges, Ridley Hall maintains a close link with the university and many of its students receive qualifications from the University’s Faculty of Divinity.

Reportedly the application was to gain permission to build more teaching rooms, bedrooms and an auditorium on the site of its principal’s garden in order to increase student numbers and raise its national profile.

The college also sought a larger space for its current students. As the Rt Rev Graham Dow, previous chairman of the Ridley Council, said that the facilities of the college were designed for 40 students, yet there are now 140 living and working there. 

As Dow told Cambridge News, “the proposal will be a worthy successor to the buildings that have helped to establish the character of the whole area.”

Plans for expansion were, however, not well received by the surrounding community.

14 objections to the expansion were made to the city council, including one from the Residents’ Association of Old Newnham who believes the extension to be too big. Even those that recognise the college’s need to expand maintain that plans need refining and that the college is attempting too much in too small an area.

Councillor Sian Reid was one of those who objected to the plans and said that the application was turned down mainly because of the “dominant and intrusive effect if would have on the street”.

Claudia Catacchio, a graduate student at Newnham College, has lived in buildings adjacent to the proposed work for the last 5 years. Upon hearing the expansion proposal she told Varsity, “I would not have been too pleased if Ridley Hall had got planning permission”.

 “For the people living in RFB [Rosalind Franklin Building] it would have meant lots of noise pollution and none of the grads would have appreciated that”.

Building work on Sidgewick Avenue would also have been likely to lead to greater traffic on a road that many of the University’s arts students use every day to get to lectures on the Sidgewick site.

The college Bursar, Colin MacRae, commented, “We are surprised and disappointed by the decision of the Cambridge City Planning Committee.”

Reverend Richard Kew, Ridley Hall’s development director, told Varsity that, "Getting planning permission in Cambridge is not easy, partly because it is such an important heritage area.”

Kew admitted the College’s disappointment but added, “We see this as more of a delay than a
setback. We are now regrouping and creatively considering the various options that might be open to us."

Ridley Hall is now expected to appeal against the decision.

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