297 flats and an aparthotel proposed in Cambridge

Plans for hundreds of new flats and an aparthotel  in Cambridge have been put forward for public consultation.

Benjamin Hatton www.cambridge-news.co.uk 

Vertex Living, which would manage the property if approved, has proposed the development on the site of the former National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Huntingdon Road.

The plans include 297 build-to-rent apartments, a 201-room aparthotel, a cafe, microbrewery and bike shop, as well as “pocket parks” on site.

The plans have no formal planning status at present, but a planning application is expected early next year after the consultation.

The developer said the tallest building on site would be around five storeys.

Vertex Living is the property managing agent for Marchingdale Developments, which already has permission to convert the former NIAB offices into 149 flats.

That proposal proved controversial for including “very small” flats with a floor space of 17 square metres, about the size of a disabled parking bay. The city council’s executive councillor for planning policy. Labour’s Katie Thornburrow, branded it “appalling” and said it would provide “inadequate spaces to live in”.

‘Gym and swimming pool’

Marchingdale Developments obtained permission for the conversion in May via a national policy that encourages developers to convert offices into homes, bypassing some of the locally enforced regulations, including, in this case, the council’s minimum space standard of 37 square metres.

At the time, the leader of the city council, Labour’s Lewis Herbert, described the method of obtaining planning consent as a “loophole”.

The developer defended the plans, saying they comply with the relevant planning legislation, and saying “the units are of a perfectly reasonable size, allowing for all of the necessary functions to support daily life”.

The latest proposal would retain 68 of the flats that proved controversial, which will be developed by converting the frontage of the 1920s building of the former NIAB offices while replacing the plans for the other 81 flats with the new purpose-built flats and aparthotel.

Although the developer is seeking permission for its latest proposal, it already has permission to implement its original plan should it choose to.

Vertex Living says that all of its plans for the site are compliant with the necessary planning policies and that the latest build-to-rent scheme will address a need for rented homes in the city by offering purpose-built rental accommodation with secure tenancies, aimed at those who do not qualify for affordable housing but who cannot afford to buy a property.

‘Build-to-rent for those who cannot afford to buy’

A spokesperson for Vertex Living said: “The private rental market is the largest housing tenure in the city and currently 49 per cent of all households in Cambridge rent privately.

“The build-to-rent concept is new to Cambridge, however the council has acknowledged that there is a need and demand locally for this form of accommodation. The new homes are primarily targeted at those people who cannot access social housing but also cannot afford to buy due to the high cost of property in Cambridge.

“The build-to-rent homes will provide future residents with secure tenancies within a well-managed development that will offer excellent communal facilities, high-speed internet and on-site maintenance.

“Affordable dwellings will be delivered as part of the build-to-rent offering and provided as discounted rent homes allocated to local workers. This approach is compliant with National Planning Guidance and supported by the housing team at Cambridge City Council.