15 December 2020
Airport and Council Disregard Existing Residents’ Wellbeing in Favour of New Developments
Residents near the Marshall’s Airport site are coming together in solidarity to ensure the relocation of a large and overwhelming new radar tower. It is currently just 40 metres from the nearest resident, and The Green Party says it is unacceptable that residents should be subjected to such an imposing installation. Matt Howard, Green candidate Councillor for Abbey has been helping the leading residents build a case against this uninvited guest in the neighbourhood. It was revealed in a letter only previously seen by the council that the Abbey side of the airport was favoured at least in part “to ensure it does not prejudice the plans for the development of the land north of Cherry Hinton” – disappointing from a company that claims to value its neighbours and until recently maintained a positive relationship with many.
On Wednesday 4th November and 18th November, lead residents attended a meeting with a team from Marshall’s, including the Managing Director Richard Howe, as well as current councillors to work together for a better solution for all. It transpired that there were several locations for the radar which Marshall’s privately considered during 2019, in combination with planning applications for their proposed tall development, North of Cherry Hinton. That development was approved to progress by Cambridge Fringes Joint Development Control Committee in May.
The radar is a hugely overbearing structure which feels very much on top of surrounding houses. Local resident Felipe Franciosi firmly stated when summarising “the only solution we are prepared to accept is for the radar to be moved…to achieve that goal we want to exhaust every possible option we have”.
This is understandably a very emotive topic for all local residents – when many have been restricted to spending more time in houses and gardens throughout the pandemic, working from home, with young families, or in retirement. Several streets are now overshadowed by this 38 m (~12 storey) high structure, making the roads feel more like they’re part of the airport than the peaceful streets of before. Resident Mercedes Steiner added to the exchange “to sit in the garden now, and see the radar, and to go out the front door, and still see the radar.. [the] letter was so misleading, saying it ‘might be seen’… It makes me very upset that you’re making me feel very uncomfortable in my own home. It makes me very angry – and that is affecting my mental health – I have a young son which is why we have the garden, and I feel like that’s been taken away from me”. Sharon McCann of The Westering stated the misleading communications received were written “to lead us to believe that this was really an innocuous structure that would be smaller than the existing chimney. There was no suggestion of the scale of this, or any indication of the actual impact it would have on our street”.
Many other local residents, one of whom has lived on the adjacent street since 1949 having had until recently a positive relationship with Marshall, have also lodged formal complaints. In the initial meetings, the challenge was put by Matt Howard to the Marshall’s team and Councillors that “if there’s been a decision at some point in this planning structure, that’s driven the airport to decide to put it right next to existing houses, in order to fend against not only new houses, but very high new houses, then I think we’ve got a serious problem on our hands.”
The key questions are why did Marshall’s make the economic and political judgement that the ethics of intruding on their neighbours’ wellbeing was not as valuable when counted against the technically feasible, even cost-comparable, alternatives somewhere else on their 400 acre+ site? Maybe more importantly, what investigations did the council conduct before giving Marshall’s verbal confirmation that they had “no comment on the proposals”. Instead, a proper engagement with residents could have been held as has happened in previous airport changes.
Richard Howe has committed to reconsider the location of the radar and will respond in due course.
Responding on behalf of Cambridge Green Party, Matt states “We will now await to see the reaction of the Marshall’s business. I sincerely hope we are able to come to an amicable solution which improves the situation for all. Sadly, it’s a poor start as since the initial meetings, the radar has continued to be tested with a noticeable low level hum, alongside a refusal from Marshall to stop the commissioning schedule due to continue until April 2021. In the meantime Matt will continue to assist neighbours with this issue, bringing in wider people affected, and investigate other routes of action in case the company decides not to move the radar”.