Supermarket Visible From Cathedral Window

ely_cathedral17:24 Thursday 7th November 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: Plans for a new supermarket and retail park on the outskirts of Ely have been approved by East Cambridgeshire District Council, despite objections from its Conservation Officer and English Heritage. The design of the park was described as disappointing. Well our reporter Emma Howgego has been to Ely.
EMMA HOWGEGO: The proposals will see a new Tesco superstore built on land near Angel Drove, just south east of the existing industrial unit. The plans also allow for a number of smaller retail units, a petrol station, a DIY store, and over 1,000 car parking spaces. Now in the past there have been objections from parts of the local business community. They thought it would take customers away from the city centre. However, at yesterday’s planning meeting it was the design of the proposed development that caused a lot of concern. East Cambridgeshire District Council’s own Conservation Officer said that the design of units was neither modern nor contemporary, and replicated existing retail units around the country. She also said it would not enhance or preserve the quality of the setting of Ely as a cathedral city. And English Heritage have raised similar concerns, saying development would erode the relationship of the Cathedral with the surrounding fens, in particular, the view from the Cathedral’s West Tower. So what do local people think?
PUBLIC ONE: I’ve only been in Ely for, what, four and a half years. My entire time in England actually. And from what I’ve noticed, people are a bit picky about what things look like. In Australia everything looks the same. It’s all newer buildings. So for me, it doesn’t really matter what it looks like.
EMMA HOWGEGO: Would you like to see a design more in keeping with Ely’s historical nature, and taking into account the views of the Cathedral?
PUBLIC TWO: I don’t think it matters on the outskirts of Ely. I really don’t. I think people just want good value for money, and they’ll go there.
PUBLIC THREE: I think they should. Things should be tasteful in any case, and they shouldn’t be bland, shouldn’t be garish. I think in a place like Ely things should be similar. Maybe not similar, but in keeping.
EMMA HOWGEGO: Do you think when they’re building new buildings they should think about the setting they’re in, and pay heed to the historical nature of a city like Ely?
PUBLIC FOUR: To a certain extent. A bit of sympathetic building wouldn’t go amiss. But other than that, fine.
PUBLIC FIVE: Definitely. Yes. Ely is an historical city, isn’t it, so it should be in keeping with the area.
PUBLIC SIX: I think the need is more important than design, if it’s needed, which I don’t think it is. But if it’s needed, that’s fine. Where’s it going to be?
EMMA HOWGEGO: It’s going to be out on Angel Drove, past the train station towards the A10.
PUBLIC SIX: Oh. Well out there there’s no historical buildings out that way, is there?
EMMA HOWGEGO: Well some people say it might spoil the view from the Cathedral, when you look out from the West Tower, you’re going to be able to see it. Does that bother you at all?
PUBLIC SIX: Hadn’t thought about it to be honest.
CHRIS MANN: Emma Howgego there reporting from Ely. Well let’s bring in Mike Rouse now. Hello Mike.
MIKE ROUSE: Hello Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Councillor for Ely North, a Member of the East Cambs Planning Committee. Now English Heritage have made some objections to this. They talk about a blot on the landscape, apart from other things. What do you make of that?

MIKE ROUSE: I find that remark difficult to understand. We’re talking about a site right on the edge of the town. It is, after all, a supermarket, with some other buildings around it. At yesterday’s Planning Committe I think we worried too much about some aspects, and there are other parts of the plan, the landscaping, the ponds, the restaurant. If you look at the whole package I think people will be actually quite agreeably surprised at how it looks. But it’s difficult to .. you don’t want to disguise what it is. But it keeps a low profile on the site, and I think they have given that a lot of thought. But as some of your people you were speaking to just earlier I was listening to, they take a fairly commonsense view of it, don’t they, where it is?
CHRIS MANN: English Heritage are saying a) that it’s very important to the look of the town when you arrive. If you’ve got some big horrible platic-y building there, it’s not so nice. And also, why not insist that it fits in with the look of what is a very beautiful town?
MIKE ROUSE: Well absolutely, if it was in the centre of some very beautiful town. As one of your ..
CHRIS MANN: But shouldn’t the outskirts of the town be beautiful too?
MIKE ROUSE: Oh yes. You’ve got the golf course on one side, and I think this will be quite an attractive building. Your reporter referred to the industrial estate. It’s actually a business park, where the buildings on it look like buildings on a business park. There was only so much you could do. I wouldn’t want to see some sort of mock Tudor or some sort of pastiche building there. It’s on the edge of the city. I think it will be actually an attractive building. If the by-pass goes ahead it will be close to the by-pass. That will be right alongside it. I really agree with some of the people you spoke to in the street, who said that is not as important as the scheme itself, and giving people of Ely better facilities and better choice, because Ely is a growing town.
CHRIS MANN: OK Mike. Thank you so much for joining us there. That’s Cllr Mike Rouse on the Planning Committee.