Friends of Cherry Hinton Hall group website

City Farm Feasibility Report

The report on the feasibility of siting a City Farm at Cherry Hinton Hall, and possible alternative sites, has now been published, and below the Committee has summarised key findings and conclusions. A copy of the document is available by clicking on the link below:

A City Farm for Cambridge – Feasibility Report Jun 2011

Key Findings

1. The Folk Festival

The Council is committed to retaining the Folk Festival at Cherry Hinton Hall (as the majority of FCHH members are too). This means the City Farm proposal has to be made to work alongside the Folk Festival (as will realisation of the Masterplan). The Folk Festival makes extensive use of the former propagation area “for performers’ accommodation, broadcast vehicles, generators and other equipment. Festival managers are adamant that there is nowhere else in the park suitable for this, and that the allocation of this space to a City Farm would be incompatible with the Folk Festival.”

In this section the report finishes by saying that “Festival managers believe that the City Farm is a good idea and would support it (to the extent of providing promotional space as a community organisation at the festival, and even organising visits for festival-goers). They believe it would meet a need not satisfactorily addressed by the existing animals in the city (which are not approachable) or by sites such as Wimpole (too distant, too costly to visit); they also support the idea of promoting education on food production and sustainable growing practices, which are in keeping with their own sustainability commitments and ethos. They are not however able to accommodate this project within their own demands on Cherry Hinton Hall.”

2. Friends of Cherry Hinton Hall

The report states that “FCCH is strongly committed to the Masterplan and this attracted unanimous support when presented to a meeting. One welcome feature of the Masterplan was the opening up of the former propagation site and its return to the open area of the park, with removal of fences and hedges that at present form boundaries. This would be lost if the City Farm proposal were to proceed. FCCH are disappointed that the Masterplan is not proceeding and feel let down by the willingness of the Council to entertain this idea after approving the Masterplan.”

“The FCCH acknowledge that the Farm might not in practice make a huge difference to the way the park works for its existing users, other than perhaps in terms of traffic, antisocial behaviour, and visitor numbers if it succeeds. They nevertheless think the Masterplan offers a much better solution, which they fear they may now lose.”

3. Impact of a Farm

The report notes that at some point the farm is likely to want to grow, and it will be difficult to prevent expansion. A Farm would also likely further compromise the character of the park and be damaging to its historic and heritage value. And what would happen if the proposal failed? This appears to be a key consideration. The report notes that there is a “risk in the form of a potential liability falling on the Council to cover for failure of the Farm, or to reallocate the land again following failure, when the funding opportunity presented by the Masterplan has passed.”

4. Conclusions:

The report concludes that a City Farm is not feasible at Cherry Hinton Hall. The reasons cited are that –

  • A City Farm is incompatible with the continuation of the Folk Festival
  • There is strong support for the Masterplan and there are dangers for the Council in overturning the conclusions drawn from the 2010 consultation on the Masterplan which suggests the former propagation site is best restored to wider open space
  • A Cambridge City Farm would probably be a good thing. But the scale envisaged at Cherry Hinton is not sufficiently ambitious to allow for a good prospect of success
  • In the event of failure, there is also a greater risk to the Council in a site at Cherry Hinton Hall than might be the case at an alternative location
  • The project may prove to be divisive
  • A City Farm could be better located elsewhere, in an area of greater need, and with higher potential benefit, e.g. in a growth area which would attract section 106 ‘planning gain’ contributions from developers to help fund a successful City Farm project

We must say consultant Phil Back appears to have produced a very thorough and detailed report. Members of the FCHH Committee will be present to give their views at Community Scrutiny Committee on 30 June, when a decision on how to proceed with a Cambridge City Farm will be made. In the meantime, thank you to all FCHH members who contributed feedback to the City Farm consultation process.

Friends of Cherry Hinton Hall Committee

23 June 2011

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