New uni accommodation at Peterborough’s Solstice approved

Plans to demolish the Solstice in Northminster and replace it with new private and student accommodation have been approved despite an acceptance that views of the cathedral will be lost.

By Rob Alexander
Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 12:26 pm

Peterborough City Council’s planning committee gave the green light on Tuesday to an application for the nightclub to be knocked down and replaced by 56 apartments, 77 student rooms and retail and restaurant units.

The plans for the new three and seven storey blocks also include 36 basement parking spaces.

The development, which had been recommended for approval by planning officers, represents the first private sector investment in student accommodation for the new university - ARU Peterborough - which is set to open in 2022 by the Embankment.

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How the development could look

Concerns had been raised before the meeting from Historic England and Peterborough Civic Society, with the latter claiming that the building would contravene a council planning policy which states that “new development must, where appropriate, protect important views of the cathedral”.

This includes from Stanley Recreation Ground.

But speaking at the meeting, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said: “As deputy leader of Peterborough City Council I’m supportive of the regeneration of the city, and this site is pivotal to anything we might achieve in the future.

“While the views of the cathedral are important, and very much a part of the issue with this application, the best views of the cathedral are surely to had by standing right in front of it, not, as here, set back from the cathedral site several hundred meters away as this building will be once the site has been redeveloped.

“We must remember that in approving this application we set a precedent for the future redevelopment of Peterborough – something I think we all agree upon in principle.”

Committee member Cllr Amjad Iqbal (Labour, Central ward) asked: “I’m totally in favour of the regeneration of the city and the building of social housing, but not at the cost of converting the centre of our city into a residential area.

“My concerns are highlighted by a Marks & Spencer’s building that has now been converted into flats.

“We’ve all considered the application before us today very carefully and it’s easy to see that the heart of this matter will probably be determined only by the views of the cathedral from various vantage points.

“But, from what I have gathered, your presentation on behalf of the applicant is that you consider the view, or views, completely irrelevant – is that correct?”

Cllr Fitzgerald replied: “I’m not saying that the view, or views, as you put it, are irrelevant; what I’m saying is that they have to be weighed in the balance as the planning officer has described.

“Once you’ve done that it’s then about the impact of a given view and the weight that you give to it – and due consideration has been given to that in the application.

“If we listened all the time to nothing but the views of Historic England and the Civic Society – both of whom I greatly respect – what we would have would be a beautiful cathedral completely surrounded by fields!”

Consultant for applicants MPB Structures, Simon Machen, said: “What nobody seems to be mentioning at the moment, but which is very much a reality, is that Stanley Rec at the moment is a bit of a ‘no-go’ area and hardly the place that anybody would actually want to linger and use as a vantage point for looking at the cathedral.

“Police support for this application is partly because of the anti-social behaviour in the area, and one very significant advantage you get from putting residential and commercial property on the ground is a natural surveillance of the activity going on there.

“Very quickly thereafter, what was a piece of scrubland with a couple of lads kicking an old football around on it, and a complete ‘no-go’ area, changes according to the people who live there and use it.

“To my mind, using sites like this for residential use, including commercial usage on the ground floor, is beneficial because what it does is to re-populate the city centre in a sustainable location.”

The application was unanimously approved by the committee.