Azara Blog: The university wants a supermarket in the north-west Cambridge site

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Date published: 2009/03/23

The Cambridge News says:

Residents are banding together to fight plans for a giant supermarket on land owned by Cambridge University.

The proposals for a store up to 5,000 sq m have been unveiled for the university's north-west Cambridge site, bounded by Huntingdon Road, Madingley Road and the M11.

Canterbury Street resident Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon is spearheading a campaign to oppose the plans for the biggest supermarket in the city, which she said would bring traffic chaos for residents.

Dr Brooks-Gordon said:

"This project has the potential to create a store larger than any other in the city.

"We already have three large Tescos, an Asda, and a Sainsbury's a short car or bus rideaway - we simply don't need another large supermarket."

She added: "It would bring with it giant delivery lorries travelling through our streets.

"It could also attract hundreds of shoppers from the north and west of Cambridge, who could converge on this area.

"The extra traffic it could generate would be disastrous.

"It is imperative that we act now to stop these plans getting the go-ahead.

"I would urge everyone to get behind this campaign."

The campaign is being supported by the Liberal Democrats in Castle ward and across the city.

Cllr Sian Reid, executive city councillor for climate change and growth, said: "I am extremely worried about this project.

"It has the potential to destroy the quality of life for people living near this site.

"The extra traffic it would generate, including heavy lorries, would seriously increase the level of carbon emissions in a highly populated area of the city.

"This development is being proposed for purely commercial gain, not to fill a need, and could only serve to harm the local shops."

Of course the "development is being proposed for purely commercial gain". How shocking. Needless to say neither Reid nor her husband have ever done anything for commercial gain, which is presumably why they are so poor that they ended up living on Millington Road. (Or maybe they just inherited it all, which is hardly any better.)

And it is equally bizarre that another reason she gives against the proposal is that it "would seriously increase the level of carbon emissions in a highly populated area of the city". Whoa, those carbon emissions will just kill you if they are emitted in your neighbourhood. The poor people who live near all the other supermarkets in town must be dead. Or perhaps the rich people who live in the Huntingdon Road area are just especially sensitive souls.

The academic middle class people who run Cambridge (and this includes pretty much nearly all the Lib Dems) hate supermarkets. So this hysterical reaction has to be seen in this light. But there are no decently sized (or even decent) supermarkets west of the river in Cambridge, forcing all residents to cross the river to get to one. And with a large expansion in housing coming on the west side of the river, there is plenty of good reason to build one there. Indeed, Reid herself claims it is already a "highly populated area of the city".

It would have been extremely sensible to have built a supermarket on the Arbury Park (Orchard Park) site. As it happens, Sainsburys wanted to do that many years ago (so before the residential development was even mooted) but interested parties managed to stop it. And the ordinary residents of Cambridge who live in Arbury and King's Hedges would be far happier to have a new supermarket nearby than the academic middle class residents who live in the Huntingdon Road area, so there would even have been far less fuss generated. It is too late to put a supermarket in Arbury Park itself, but there is space across the other side of Histon Road (but it's hard to see that being allowed by the planners no matter how much sense it makes).

A supermarket in the north-west Cambridge site would make almost as much sense as a supermarket would have in the Arbury Park area if only decent road links were designed into the development, and that includes a decent road link from Histon Road near the A14 to Huntingdon Road near Girton. But this is extremely unlikely to happen. If there is anything the academic middle class of Cambridge hate more than supermarkets, it is cars. So they will make road access abysmal. They will then wonder why the road congestion is so bad, and of course blame the drivers, rather than themselves.

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