Cambridge Tories have a decision to make on the Romsey Labour Club

It might sound strange, but this has as much to do with our broken planning system as it does with protecting Cambridge’s civic heritage – and it’s a decision that is taken under the authority of what is currently a Conservative Secretary of State.

I received this in the post this morning: A notice from Cambridge City Council that the developer’s agent is appealing against the refusal of planning permission for short-term apartments being built on the site of the Romsey Labour Club.

Above – the council’s letter.

You can read my background blogpost which I raised the issue of the old club building at the recent city council elections. Furthermore, I tabled a public question about the future of the building following the elections at the City Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee on 11th May 2023 – with Petersfield’s Cllr Mike Davey, now the Leader-elect of the City Council responding.

Above – from Cambridge City Council’s Strategy & Resources Cttee 11 May 2023

If you want to make your own representation, see for the guidance and (when the website is up and running again) see here for the appeal documents.

See also Guidance: Planning appeals dealt with by written representations: taking part from central government.

Will the appellant if successful simply re-list the site with the attached planning permission on the market for sale at a higher price?

Only that’s what seemed to happen last time around.

“Back in 2019 I wrote the above article shortly after the site owner secured planning permission for the development of a complex of apart-hotel rooms on what was the garden of the club. This was because shortly after the planning permission had been secured, the site owner put the site up for sale with the uplifted price of the planning permission.”

CambridgeTownOwl 15 April 2023

This isn’t the only example of a developer seeking to overturn a refusal and looking to profit from the sale of a site with new planning permission attached. Remember the Flying Pig site? Similar circumstances with the site being acquired by RailPEN shortly after the appeal was granted – and a tidy profit for the developer.

Hence my repeated complaints about a broken planning system

…One that ministers have utterly failed to deal with over the years despite complaints from local residents, environmentalists, and developers alike.

“Why is there a big decision for the city Tories?”


  1. They have campaigned heavily in and around Mill Road over the proposals from the Greater Cambridge Partnership over both congestion charging and the Mill Road Bridge traffic restrictions
  2. The decision on the site will be taken under the authority of one of their Cabinet Ministers – in this case Michael Gove, following years of complaints about a broken planning system that their Government has not come up with a solution for, despite 13 years in office.

Questions: Will they back the developer’s appeal, or will they support the City Council’s refusal? Furthermore, would they support an effort to acquire the building and turn it back into a proper community facility?

In one sense, few might have noticed had they maintained a low profile in recent years and/or concentrated in other parts of the city far away from Mill Road. One of the things that any election candidate who engages with the public will tell you is that what your personal priorities are don’t always match what the priorities of individual local residents are. It will be interesting to see what statements or actions Cambridge Tories – along with Labour, Liberal Democrats, and The Greens make & take over the future of the historical building whose foundation stone was laid by Britain’s first Labour Prime Minister nearly a century ago.

Food for thought?

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