Brookgate (CB1 station development)

New buildings on station car park

Update 13 December 2017: We have submitted our feedback on Brookgate’s proposals (below). Feedback must be submitted by Wednesday 13 December.

View exhibition boards  Download feedback form

Outline

Brookgate are preparing to submit a new planning application in early 2018 for an ‘Aparthotel’ above a multi-storey car park plus a hostel-style hotel plus offices for accommodation for rail staff.

  • Block B2: multi-storey car park (210 spaces over three split-level floors) plus four floors of apartment hotel suites, alongside the Ibis hotel and cycle park (B1).
  • Block F2: budget hotel/hostel rooms with 400 beds, plus railway staff offices and accommodation, between 4½ and 5½ six storeys high, backing onto Ravensworth Gardens.

 

Aerial view from Devonshire Rd of planned further development on station car park
Plan of development on station car park. Red circles indicate conflict areas between people walking, cycling and driving.

 

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 will 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 2018. Please get in touch if you can help organise this (collecting a petition and making a presentation).

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.

Our feedback to Brookgate

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

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

Height and mass of buildings

  1.  B2 and F2 are too tall and massive, far beyond what was proposed at outline planning.
  2. The original multi-storey car park building (B1) was meant to have a maximum height of 18m (8.277), but what is proposed is significantly higher (notice of exact heights still awaited).
  3. 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 5½ storeys (notice of exact heights still awaited).
  4. B2 extends far closer to Carter Bridge and Devonshire Mews than was agreed in the outline consent for block B1.
  5. F2 will overshadow Ravensworth Gardens to an unacceptable extent.
  6. The west-facing windows will overlook at least one of the gardens and rear rooms of the facing terrace on Ravensworth Gardens.
  7. F2 and B2 will loom large over the modestly-sized houses on the corner of Devonshire Road.
  8. The buildings’ design lacks the character and craft appropriate to this gateway to the station from a Conservation Area.

Transport

  1. The junction on the car park road at the Devonshire Rd cycle/footway and car park entrance is highly conflicted. Priority is implied for motor vehicles accessing the multi-storey and surface car parks. That means cyclists approaching from Devonshire Rd must wait for a gap in the vehicle traffic or hope someone lets them through. Consideration should be given to giving the cycleway priority.
  2. Greater segregation between motor vehicles and people cycling is desirable for the safety of the many people who currently travel to and from the station, and between Station Rd/Place and Devonshire Rd via the station car park. The opening of the Chisholm Trail will accelerate growth in cycle traffic along this route.
  3. Since the main pedestrian desire line will now be the western side of the car park access road, there need to be greatly improved crossings at the mini roundabout at the bottom of Great Northern Rd, both to the south side of Great Northern Rd and to the east side of the car park access road. These should be zebra crossings, giving pedestrians legal priority.
  4. Where will over-ranked taxis queue? (Up to 39 taxis have been counted in the rank and queuing through the car park)?
  5. Where will rail-replacement buses queue?
  6. Accessing the car park from Devonshire Road during construction is completely unacceptable. The corner of Devonshire Road is already an unsafe crossing point, with poor sight lines. Having vehicles entering and leaving the car park will create additional conflicts. 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.

Cycle parking

  1. Greater Anglia has a franchise commitment to provide an additional 1,000 cycle parking spaces at the station by the end of 2020. Where will these go?
  2. If the intention is to convert some of the multi-storey car parking spaces to cycle parking, this will need to happen very shortly after the car park opens (unlikely to be before 2020). Where will the cycle entrance be located?
  3. The new cycle parking spaces should be contained in an extension of the existing cycle parking building (which the open-sided design allows), using the same entrance (but with a cleared walkway between the top of the first ramp and the second). If there are two separate buildings with separate entrances, how long will it take someone to find a space if the first building they try is full?
  4. Even 3,850 cycle parking spaces (existing 2,850 plus 1,000 extra) will not suffice for very many years. Utrecht (population approximately double Cambridge’s) now has 12,500 cycle parking spaces at its railway station. It is imperative that the station area is future-proofed with space allocated in anticipation of need, especially for ‘off gauge’ cycles (trikes, cargo bikes, hand cycles, trailers, etc, which are all becoming more commonplace) and bikes requiring greater security (e.g. e-bikes).
  5. Not planning for additional cycle parking at this stage will not only waste money, but will lead to severely compromised provision for cyclists in future.

Car parking

  1. Why preserve 450 car parking spaces at enormous cost when the strategies of the City Council, County Council, Greater Cambridge Partnership and Combined Authority all include enabling and encouraging modal shift away from driving and parking within the city? With Cambridge North now open, Cambridge South being planned, and Trumpington P&R being just 9 minutes away by bus, what need is there to keep anywhere near as many as 450 car parking spaces? If point 16 above is correct and parking spaces may be converted to cycle parking in 2020, why not now?

Landscaping

  1. 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 two trees and low-level planting here. Reinstatement of a screen of trees and other plants is needed to reduce the visual impact of the car park, bridge and buildings beyond.

Public green space

  1. No new public green space is being provided, even though Petersfield ward is severely deficient in this.

Alternative building uses

  1. Once it is accepted that a multi-storey car park is not required, B2 could have an attractive active frontage along the whole of two sides. Retail and other businesses, including for instance Regus-type meeting rooms, would be far more welcome to local residents and most station users than a car park.
  2. Although Greater Anglia based their franchise bid on parking revenues from 450 spaces, that revenue could be replaced by office or retail rental income.

Previous proposals now superseded

Devonshire Quarter aerial view
Iteration 2 now superseded (FOR REFERENCE)
Blocks B2 & F2 on station car park
Iteration 1 now superseded (FOR REFERENCE)

Dimensions of previous plan

We are awaiting dimensions of the revised plans.

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

Building heights Outline consent Proposed in previous plans
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 B2 and the Carter Bridge in the outline consent was considerably greater than now proposed.

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.

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 (which is a ‘shared surface’).

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 proposed 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.

 

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.

Mill Road Depot

Update 3 November 2017: See the latest iteration of the plans (as displayed on 2 November at Bharat Bhavan). Provide feedback by 20 November.

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 second consultation by CIP

Parking provision

We recognise that there has been significant movement on provision of parking to align more closely with car ownership in the surrounding area. However we still believe that a ratio of 0.65 is too high, potentially wasting valuable space that could instead be allocated to people or cycles rather than cars. The SPD aspires to this being a “low car” development, which we interpret to mean, lower than is typically found in this part of Cambridge.
We would suggest that CIP obtain figures from the County Council for the ratio of vehicle permits to households in the Petersfield parking zone. This will indicate what the true level of car ownership is in this area.
We are aware that a member of Camcycle did an informal audit of local streets on 13 November, and concluded that the ratio of parking spaces to houses is close to 0.5.

We would further suggest that, rather than impose a garage on prospective owners of the detached houses, provide more living space on the plot and offer the option to lease a parking space in the basement under the apartments. The street in front of the houses will need short-stay waiting bays in any case (for deliveries and tradespeople), so owners will still have the convenience of being able to load/unload their car in front of their house.

Cycle parking

We are pleased to see a strong commitment to providing cycle parking, including for off-gauge (cargo/trailer) bikes. However, provision is still too low to meet the aspiration for a low-car development. A significant proportion of 1-bed apartments will have too occupants plus occasional visitors, so 1 cycle parking space per apartment will not be sufficient. A case can be made for having closer to 400 spaces (not including the YMCA). We would like to see more detail on the provision for the apartments, especially for off-gauge bikes (cargo/trailer), which are becoming increasingly popular, and make car-free living possible for many more people.

Providing too little cycle parking will lead to bikes being scattered around the site, as has happened on so many other developments (e.g. around CB1).

EV charging

The proposal is to have 25% of the underground parking spaces with active or passive (unconnected) charging points. It is generally accepted that all new cars will be electric within a decade. Therefore we would argue that all parking spaces, underground and overground (for disabled and car-share vehicles), should have at least passive provision for a charging point.

Open space

We accept the findings that the corner nearest Mill Rd bridge will not provide a high quality recreational space. However, the proposed provision of open green space is too fragmented for recreational use. With the exception of the playground for young children, the green space provides breathing space for residents, but nothing that could be used by older children, to play any kind of informal sport or games; nor it is large enough for community events.
The Limes green space is especially pointless, having been assessed as dark, noisy and polluted. There is a real concern that this area could be attractive for those who live on the street, many of whom have drug and alcohol dependencies and mental health problems. This would be intimidating to those using the Chisholm Trail, especially after dusk.

YMCA building

Given the loss of a community centre at the Howard Mallett building, and past failures to deliver other community buildings in the area, there is a strong desire for something owned and run by the community.
The YMCA’s proposal looks positive and clearly has potential to provide much-needed community amenities in the Petersfield/Romsey area, especially for children and young families. We would like to see more detail and meaningful assurances (i.e. some form of binding agreement) about the facilities that the YMCA or any future owner of the buildings will provide to the local community, and on what terms. This should set out what role local community groups will have in the running of the building and facilities, and how this relationship will be sustained for the long term. This should all be published and evaluated before any decision is made about the rest of the depot site.
We would encourage the YMCA to research local community needs (for instance, nursery care has been identified as a local need), and make a detailed commitment as to what services it will provide.
We have a major concern about the arrangement and orientation of the YMCA buildings, which creates ‘dead space’ next to the Mill Rd bridge and railway line (see ‘Open space’ above). We would suggest that more valuable open space might be created by orienting the YMCA residential block parallel to the railway line (in line with the apartment blocks), and substantially increasing the area of the courtyard.

Chisholm Trail

Those accessing the Chisholm Trail from Mill Rd will be directed past Eagle Foundry St. This won’t work: human nature being what it is, people will cycle the shorter route up Eagle Foundry St and enter Hooper St at what is intended as a pedestrian access. People cycling from Ainsworth St may also choose to use the closer access point and use Eagle Foundry St.
The tight turns where the Chisholm Trail meets Hooper St may need to be re-thought out to provide a clearer link to Ainsworth St.
We are also concerned about how safe the Chisholm Trail will feel. It is not clear how well surveilled the route will be, running past the backs of buildings, with no doorways. Part of feeling safe is knowing that there is help close at hand if needed, such as doors to knock on.
In general, more thought needs to be go into modelling (perhaps with a focus group) likely real-world behaviours and perceptions of safety, and adapting the cycle route accordingly.

Leased garages

We are disappointed that no progress seems to have been made with incorporating the leased garages into the development from the outset. They are an ugly waste of space and impede good integration of the site with rest of north Petersfield. Leaseholders should be given options, for instance to swap their lease for a parking space under the apartments, or to be bought out. The cost of terminating the leases should be set against the opportunity cost of developing the site for more housing and improved permeability of the development, with more direct access from Sturton St.

Cambridge Womens Resources Centre

There has been no mention of the fate of the Cambridge Womens Resources Centre, which provides an essential service, in particular as a refuge for vulnerable and abused women. Where will it relocate to, and how will the City Council assist to guarantee its continuity and sustainability?

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.

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