Mill Road Depot

The council depot on the north side of Mill Road, west of the railway line is due to be redeveloped for housing. The developer will be Cambridge Investment Partnership (CIP), a joint venture between Cambridge City Council and Hill, a commercial housebuilder.

Go to the development website

Response to initial consultation by CIP

CIP’s initial concept proposal for the Mill Road depot site

Inadequate ambition on car usage

Average car ownership in Petersfield and Romsey is much lower than is being proposed in the depot site plans. The apartments recently built around Great Northern Rd in CB1 have 48 parking spaces for 137 units, a ratio of 35%. CIP are proposing about 210 spaces for about 230 units, a ratio of 91%.

We would like to see a large reduction in allocation for surface parking in order to create more public space, a more attractive environment, and more affordable houses. The only surface provision should be for loading, tradespeople, shared cars (e.g. Zipcar) and disabled parking.

Parking (or, more accurately for most people, car storage) provision for the entire site could be contained in the basement of the apartment block. Houses could be provided with more living space and a covered, secure storage space for bikes, gardening equipment, workshop, or whatever – considerably smaller than the proposed garages.

Need for affordability

We want to see a clear commitment to substantially more than 40% affordable housing, and for ‘affordable’ to mean genuinely affordable to ordinary people, with a mix of rented and different ownership structures.

We are concerned that the partnership with Hill means that there will be too much emphasis on generating profit, rather than satisfying the social need for affordable housing. We understand that Hill brings valuable expertise, but it is not clear who is driving this project and for whose benefit. This needs to be articulated clearly with no moving of goalposts later on. This is a unique opportunity to provide for many current and future generations of Cambridge residents. It must not be squandered or compromised.

Public space

Petersfield is short of attractive, usable public space. The most recent additions, Ravensworth Gardens and St Matthew’s Gardens are both disconnected from the wider communities, and therefore underused. For public spaces to be well-used and loved, they must be visible, adjacent to and readily accessible from a major public thoroughfare.

The local community would like to see more than the minimum amount of open space required on this site. A number of recent developments in the area have avoided their Section 106 obligation to provide public space by making a payment to the council instead. As there is no other land available to develop for open space, it has been spent instead on “improvements”. We need more green space!

The best locations for open space on the site are on the south-east corner, which is visible, adjacent to and accessible from Mill Rd; and the north side adjacent to Hooper St.

The initial plan differs greatly from the SPD in having large houses built in the south-east corner. This is not the most desirable location to have a house, being overlooked from the bridge, shaded by trees, and exposed to the greatest road noise. Better to have an open space large enough for people to kick a ball around without causing a nuisance to neighbours. The space would also be ideal for community events, e.g. as part of Mill Rd fairs.

The northern space, incorporating a children’s play area, would be well used by residents of St Matthew’s, being far from traffic noise and pollution.

Some open space should of course be included within the site too, but larger spaces will see more use than many disconnected small pieces.

Design

This site must aspire to be award-winning, and a reference for future developments. We want to to see high quality architecture that is crafted, sympathetic to the local area, and interestingly innovative. The urban design, architecture and landscaping should promote a happy and engaged community. The development should demonstrate best practices in sustainable design, for energy and water consumption, drainage, waste disposal, etc.

Car parks off Hooper St

The cost of waiting for Hooper St garage leases to expire, then redeveloping the site at a later date must be considerably greater than doing it when access and machinery is available from the main site. There is also a large opportunity cost in not providing the ten or so new houses that could be built on the site.

The garages are an ugly waste of valuable space. They no longer serve the purpose for which they were originally intended (to remove cars from Ainsworth and other local streets) as they are let to people well outside the immediate locality and most likely used for general storage.

We understand that at least some current leaseholders have already been approached and rejected whatever offer was made to them. This is too important an issue to leave there. A full cost-benefit analysis must be carried out (with an upper cost limit based on valuations for compulsory purchase – which would not of course be made public). More creative thought should be put into developing options to offer current leaseholders like-for-like or better alternatives.

Hooper St access road

The blocked-off access from Hooper St appears to take up valuable space for little purpose. There is no obvious benefit for refuse trucks, which will need to make a circuit of the site, not go through it.

It would be a more efficient use of space to provide a single pedestrian/cycle access point to the site (which could be wide enough for an emergency vehicle) opposite Ainsworth St. The cycle lane would split off towards the railway line and the footway would continue straight on through the development (and be landscaped so as to be less attractive as a cycling route).

Workshops

The workshops organised to develop the SPD were well-attended and positive. Much was lost in translation in the SPD, and there is a growing feeling that the SPD, and now the initial concepts, are departing significantly from the vision that the community was developing. I would urge CIP to run another workshop or two before committing to detailed designs. Exhibitions have their place, but they are not the most effective way to gather ideas. Well-run workshops promote dialogue, understanding and trust. That’s what we all need!

Supplementary Planning Document

The City Council drew up a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) that sets out a framework for how the site will be developed.

There is much to be commended about the SPD, but it seems that few of the issues raised in earlier consultations have been taken aboard (e.g. with regards to joining up the green spaces, being zero car, removing or relocating  the garages (e.g. underground), sustainability (e.g. energy production and water conservation), and integrating the Chisholm Trail cycle route).

There is a desperate need in Petersfield for accessible, usable green space. The SPD reserves quite a lot of land for green space, but it’s not as accessible to the wider community as it needs to be (think of the underused Ravensworth Gardens pocket park). If more of the open space at the depot were joined up, visible and easily accessed from Mill Road, it would see more use – day-to-day and for community events.

The SPD was approved by the Development Plan Scrutiny Sub-Committee on Wednesday, 22nd March, 2017.

Brookgate (CB1 station development)

New buildings on station car park

Update July 2017: Brookgate are reconsidering the plans shown here. No timeframe has been indicated for progressing this to a planning application.
  • Block B2: multi-storey car park (207 spaces over three split-level floors) plus four floors of apartments, alongside the Ibis hotel and cycle park (B1).
  • Block F2: apartments, between four and six stories high, backing onto Ravensworth Gardens.

View PDF of revised plans (10MB).

Devonshire Quarter aerial view
Artist’s impression of plans for blocks B2 and F2 on station car park
Blocks B2 & F2 on station car park
Artist’s impression of superseded plans (FOR REFERENCE)

The outline planning consent for what was originally planned for B1 & B2 was to be four stories high. What has been built is, in effect, seven stories high. B2 will be still taller.

Building heights Outline consent Proposed now
Block B2 18m max 19.3m + 1.6m plant area
Block F2
(station end)
15m max 19.3m
(inc 2.8m top floor set back)
Block F2
(middle section)
not specified 13.3m
(inc 2.8m top floor set back)
Block F2
(Ravensworth Gardens end)
 9m max 10.5m + 1.7m plant area

The distance between the middle section of F2 and main building line of Ravensworth Gardens is 16m on upper floors and 12.3m at ground floor. The gable end of Ravensworth Gardens is 4.6m away from the northern section of F2.

The distance between B2 and F2 is 15.1m, which comprises 6m for the road, 4.8m pavement in front of F2, and 4.3m in front of B2. At the southern end, a loading bay will reduce the pavement width outside F2. There are no parking bays.

By comparison the distance between the buildings on Great Northern Way at ground level is 16m and 13.3m on upper floors. The road width is 5.5m.

The Chisholm Trail cycle/walking route will pass between blocks B2 and F2, and across the station square. According to Bidwells, “the Station Square has been designed as a ‘shared surface’ and cyclist will be able to cycle across this space.”

Discussions are still ongoing about where over-ranked taxis and rail-replacement buses will queue. Currently they use the car park, but this will not be possible once Blocks B2 and F2 are built.

Brookgate are proposing that, during construction of blocks B2 and F2, access to the car park (the 200 spaces north of Carter Bridge) will be from Devonshire Road.

Our concerns

We are deeply concerned that Brookgate has already pushed the envelope on what they have built to date, adding floors and mass to create what most people are describing as ugly, characterless blocks.

We need to call a Development Control Forum to gain an opportunity to present our case to the planning committee before they decide on the application, which is likely to be submitted in early January 2017. Please get in touch if you can help organise this (collecting a petition and making a presentation).

Please use the comment box at the bottom of the page to submit additional concerns.

References in brackets are to paragraphs of the officer’s report on the original outline planning application.

Height and mass of buildings

  • B2 and F2 are too tall and massive, far beyond what was proposed at outline planning.
  • The original multi-storey car park building (B1) was meant to have a maximum height of 18m (8.277), but what is proposed is 19.3m excluding plant, and 20.9m including.
  • The outline planning consent refers to F2 being up to three storeys high, 15m at the southern end and 9m adjacent to Ravensworth Gardens (8.271 & 8.277). The officer was hesitant to support an application for a building even as tall as three storeys (8.466), yet what is proposed is effectively 4½ to 6½ storeys, with a height ranging from 10.5m (plus 1.7m of plant) to 19.3m.
  • F2 will overlook and overshadow Ravensworth Gardens to an unacceptable extent.
  • F2 and B2 will loom large over the modestly-sized buildings on the corner of Devonshire Road.
  • The buildings’ design lacks character and sense of place (‘a piece of Croydon in Cambridge’).

Landscaping

  • Alongside the access path from Devonshire Road there used to be a row of mature hornbeams. These were all removed to widen the path. The plans show just one tree being planted here. Reinstatement of a screen of trees is greatly needed to reduce the visual impact of the car park, bridge and buildings beyond.

Transport

  • The original officer’s report indicated that F2 would be set back from the road by 5m (8.288). What is proposed is a 4.8m setback, reduced for a considerable stretch by the inclusion of a loading bay (the need for which is not disputed).
  • With all car traffic being funnelled along one road, it will be much more difficult for people walking and cycling to cross the road. The artist’s impressions show no cars, yet there will be in the region of 1,000 vehicle movements every day, with high peak flows.
  • Greater segregation between motor vehicles and people cycling is desirable for the safety of the many people expected to use the Chisholm Trail to travel to and from the station, Addenbrooke’s and Trumpington.
  • Where will over-ranked taxis and rail-replacement buses queue?
  • The new cycle park will inevitably reach its capacity (just over 2,800 spaces) within the next few years (it is estimate to be running at about two thirds of capacity now). Where will people park cycles then? It is imperative that the station area is future-proofed with space allocated for more cycle parking when needed, ideally as an extension of the existing cycle parking building (which the open-sided design allows).
  • There is a great need for an all-day short-term cycle hire facility for visitors arriving at the station. Currently there is nowhere planned to accommodate this.
  • Accessing the car park from Devonshire Road during construction is completely unacceptable. The corner of Devonshire Road is already an unsafe crossing point without the additional conflict created by vehicles entering and leaving. Devonshire Road is not wide enough for two cars to pass, and therefore will not be able to take the extra traffic flow, leading to gridlock.

Section 106 obligations

  • More homes will place an additional burden on local GP surgeries, schools and roads. How is this being accommodated?
  • No new public green space or other amenity is being provided, even though Petersfield ward is severely deficient in these respects.

Contacts

If you have questions about the plans, please contact Laura Fisher at Bidwells (01223 559546). If you have any questions about the comments on the plans please contact Sarah Dyer (01223 457153), the lead planning officer for this development .

Other notes

Brookgate have indicated that the two buildings originally planned for the north side of the cycle/footbridge (G1 and G2) will not be built if B2 and F2 go ahead.

The Planning Committee gave consent on 3 June 2015 for a new cycle link path to be built through the ‘green’ space alongside the Carter Bridge ramp. This entailed the loss of all but two of the pine trees, which have been replaced by semi-mature trees (about which we were not consulted). Thanks to Cllr Richard Robertson for pursuing this and speaking on our behalf at the planning meeting, though ultimately it was to no avail: council officers believed this was the only viable option, despite obvious flaws and local opposition. Planning application: 13/1041/S73.

The contact at Brookgate to call if you have a question or concern is Alan Barrett, Project Manager, on 01223 465762.

Travis Perkins

Update July 2017: Development is likely to start this year. Travis Perkins have started work on their new site on Kilmaine Close (off Kings Hedges Road), which will complement the reduced site on Devonshire Rd.

Planning consent has been granted (as of 31 March 2015) for Travis Perkins to redevelop their site on Devonshire Road: houses and flats will be built on the southern half of the site, with a new access road; Travis Perkins will retain the northern half, which will be reconfigured with a new shed.

Planners overruled our manifold concerns, including that:

  • the developers intend to fell all of the trees that border Devonshire Road (they will be replaced with much smaller specimens);
  • the car park for the builders’ yard is too small, and is likely to result in additional congestion on Devonshire Rd and Mill Rd;
  • the design of the housing is uninspiring and includes no affordable units;
  • the ‘pocket park’ will not really benefit the local community.

Although Travis Perkins ideally want to relocate to a new site, leaving the existing site to be redeveloped entirely as housing (which residents would also much prefer), they have been unable to identify a suitable site in Cambridge.

One piece of good news is that Travis Perkins has transferred ownership of a small piece of land to the County Council, which will enable a section of the Chisholm Trail to be created: this dedicated cycle/pedestrian link will run from the station car park, alongside the railway, under the Mill Road bridge, to the north side of Mill Road (and, later, to Hooper Street).

Another benefit will be that the pavement running alongside the Travis Perkins site will be widened.

Planning application for new housing: 11/1294/FUL
Planning application for new builders’ yard: 11/1295/FUL