Stephen Hawking joins angry Cambridge protest

July 20, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

Professor Stephen Hawking has joined an angry protest with fellow residents to try and halt hotel development plans which will ”ruin” historic Cambridge riverbank views.

The Cambridge University physicist, 68, objects proposals to build a four-storey extension at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel overlooking the Mill Pond on the River Cam.

Millions of tourists visit the site every year to hire punts from a station just yards from the hotel, and relax in the meadows opposite.

Developers have revealed plans to redesign the current one-storey building with 122-rooms as a four-storey stepped design with 56 new rooms and a leisure centre.

Hundreds of furious from the Newnham area of Cambridge residents – including astrophysicist Hawking – have now signed a petition opposing the expansion.

A spokesman for Professor Hawking, now the Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University, said he fully backed efforts to stop the development.

He said: ”Stephen has seen the plans and fully supports the efforts of Newnham residents in opposing them.”

Jane Ewert, chairwoman of Old Newnham Residents’ Association, slammed the plans as ”imposing and unwanted”.

She said: ”What people love about Cambridge is this corridor of green which leads from the city into the country.

”Professor Hawking is just one of the people to add his name to our petition against this building which will detract from one of the most picturesque areas of the city.

”Our main concern is that a one-storey building will become a four-storey building very close to the river – an imposing and unwanted presence that will overlook an area used by thousands of people each year.

”We will also lose the sight of the spectacular roof-line of the Fitzwilliam Museum and Peterhouse, which is one of the best views in the city.”

The hotel in the heart of the historic city is next to Mill Pond – a wide area of the River Cam where punts can be hired.

Supermodel and Cambridge student Lily Cole, 22, celebrated the end of her first-year exams drinking with friends close to Mill Pond in May.

Tourists hire punts from the famous Scudamores company and make their slow progress along the historic waterfront.

Mrs Ewert added that the development would also worsen traffic problems in the ancient and narrow city centre streets.

She said: ”There are also serious issues with Mill Lane, a narrow and already congested cul-de-sac, which will only get worse if you have 56 more guests driving down there or arriving by taxi.

”We already have enough problems with the mix of tourists milling around on the corner, cyclists coming through the gate and cars, taxis and delivery vehicles.

”It will only get worse if these plans get the go ahead.”

But bosses of the Ability Group, which owns the hotel, have defended the expansion which they believe is designed to suit the environment.

Lionel Benjamin, head of hotel management at Ability, said: ”We have worked very closely with council officials and conservation officers to ensure we manage the key views in this area.

”That is why we asked our architects to taper off the building so it slopes to the side and does not interfere with the views into the fen.

”We will also look at how we can soften the impact of other buildings and we will be looking at cladding the hotel?s north building with wood panelling.”

Mr Benjamin also refuted claims that the development would create further congestion in the area.

He added: ”We feel there would be less traffic if we had more rooms.

”The hotel would be a large facility and could cater for more groups, who could travel in small minibuses, rather than the single guest or couple travelling alone.”

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