Cavendish Square – no cause for celebration yet

A planning application has been put in for shops and flats on the Phase 3 site (the old-Coop site) which currently has a car park on it. The application is from G&D Estates. It includes 6 shops and fourteen flats.

It’s a bit early to hold a party at Cavendish Square just yet. A cursory viewing of the planning application poses some problems which everybody should be aware of. I understand that the original application, which lapsed, had eight flats. Yet this application has fourteen. Try to envisage fourteen flats on two floors of a not very big area with a car park included. It’s a bit of a squeeze.

Why would the owner nearly double the number of flats he originally proposed? Could it be that he’s not very confident of earning any money from the shops? After all, the council has said it won’t buy back the other Cavi square shops because of the fall in retail values. Notwithstanding Robert Buckland’s efforts to attract some health food stores, the owner might struggle to fill the six shops. Could we be told whether there are any pre-construction tenants lined up?

Look at the plans of the flats and you will see that they are the proverbial rabbit hutches, as small as 44 square metres. Astonishingly this is more than the national standard (no wonder we have the smallest homes in Europe) but it is still profiteering. Even the four two bedroom flats are only from 61 to 63 square metres. Imagine living in one of these things through, let’s say, a pandemic; somewhat claustrophobic.

Originally, of course, this area, Phase 3, was intended just to be shops. Whilst local people would certainly like some variety, it remains to be seen whether they would be occupied.

It seems a touch extravagant to suggest as one councillor did “it will lift the standard of living of the area and will improve it”. How will it do this? Is this the modern equivalent of the parable of the loaves and fishes? Is the owner going to be handing free money to us?

The fact remains that Cavendish Square is a failed regeneration because the council gave the land away and was negligent; allowing the original developers to sell it on without even putting in any drainage. This new application won’t change that fact. We don’t need rabbit hutches for people. It’s clear that making money from these tiny flats is the main motivation for the application.

Martin Wicks

Letter to the Advertiser

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