Azara Blog: Latest plans for the Cambridge railway station area

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Date published: 2007/10/11

The Cambridge News says:

Major redevelopment plans for the Cambridge station area include more than 1,200 flats, homes and a huge shopping square.

The News was given an exclusive first look at the new master plan for cb1, which features sweeping changes to designs published earlier this year.

Residents were not happy with the height and mass of the project so developers Ashwell have had to have a rethink.

Ashwell and architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSH + P) unveiled their vision for the area surrounding Cambridge's 19th Century railway station. It is believed the project will cost more than £850 million.

A health centre with space for three surgeries would be built alongside cafes, restaurants and seven offices.

The creation of the "largest urban green area in Cambridge" and a new police station for transport officers also feature, as does a significant redesign of the station foyer and roundabout outside.

Planners claim the development will have a "neutral impact" on local traffic, with the number of office car parking spaces "kept to a minimum."

The major change from the earlier plan is the switch from mainly privately owned accommodation to 1,250 apartments for Anglia Ruskin University students.

A total of 250 apartments, which will mostly be one or two bedroom, will be available for private ownership.

Developers say 40 per cent of these will be for key workers, such as staff from Addenbrooke's Hospital.

Improvements to the outside of the station are seen as key to the scheme's success.
Currently, the outside of the station is regularly congested with buses, taxis and private cars dropping off and collecting passengers. The master plan aims to take away all on-street parking in Station Road to expand the entry route to the station.

Taxi ranks, bus stops and stops for the Guided Bus scheme will be spread to either side of the station entrance so that a regular flow of vehicles pass through.

Inside the station, the Marks and Spencer shop would move to provide space for a wider entrance area.

There will be 3,000 spaces for bicycles and a covered car park with spaces for 600 vehicles. For cyclists, this represents six times more storage space, but for car owners the parking provision remains the same level.

Space for buses and taxis will also be the same capacity.

A paved area, which will be double the size of Cambridge's market square, will be the main feature.

Situated to the front of the station, it will be surrounded by shops - the exact number has yet to be finalised.

In Station Road and side streets, further cafes and restaurants are planned. Seven offices will be built across the site, varying in size and replacing existing spaces. A mass of parkland cuts through the middle of the site.

In Station Road, where much of the office space will be provided, buildings are to be set back from the road.

Overall, the scale of the project is 23 per cent less than the first plan, which was unveiled in May. Planners say the new design deals with earlier concerns from residents.

When they say "concerns from residents" they mean that the usual academic middle class suspects objected, as they object to any change in the world. Of course developers always ask for too much development the first time around, because they know full well the usual academic middle class suspects will object, and so developers pad things out so that when they eventually cut things back, they will be left with some kind of viable plan. Apparently the current plan is close to being unviable.

As mentioned in the article, the one big change from last time, beside the reduction in height of some of the buildings, is the introduction of student housing for Anglia Ruskin. Apparently this makes some kind of sense, but it's hard to see why putting a student ghetto in one of the most expensive parts of town makes financial sense. Of course it allows the developer to get away without providing car parking spaces, and students can be squeezed in like battery hens, so perhaps these are the main drivers (politically and economically). It will be interesting to see who owns these flats and whether they will be able to be flogged on the open market in short order (you knock three or four together and soon enough you have a reasonable flat).

And unfortunately that obnoxious phrase "key workers", again rears its ugly head. People who work for Addenbrooke's Hospital are no more and no less "key" than any of the other workers in town, in particular university workers. Without the university, Cambridge would just be a provincial outpost at the edge of a swamp. There would be no Addenbrooke's. Unfortunately government, with the complicity of the media, continues to stick two fingers up to non-public sector workers.

As with all these grandiose schemes, time will tell whether any of this works if and when it is implemented.

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