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.

Redevelopment of Mill Road Depot

Update 3 July 2017: A public exhibition of plans for the site will be held at St Barnabas Church on Wednesday 19 July between 3pm and 6.30pm. The developer is Cambridge Investment Partnership, a joint venture between Cambridge City Council and Hill, a commercial housebuilder.

The City Council depot site off Mill Road (next to the railway line) is due to be redeveloped for housing. A planning and development brief (known as a Supplementary Planning Document or SPD) has been published, following consultation and adoption by the City Council.

The planning and development brief will help guide the re-development of the site for housing in accordance with the emerging Cambridge Local Plan 2014. It outlines the aspirations of the site, as well as the key issues, constraints and opportunities that will influence how future development on site will take place.

 

Find out more

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