Azara Blog: Yet more conservation areas in Cambridge

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Date published: 2012/04/02

The Cambridge News says:

A conservation area in the centre of Cambridge could be extended.

More of the Castle and Victoria Road areas could be given increased protection from development if city council proposals are approved.

These would include the residential streets east of Huntingdon Road, the southern end of Histon Road, and Victoria Road south to Chesterton Lane.

Conservation area status means any new buildings must preserve or improve the environment.

It will soon be the case that any area of Cambridge that includes reasonable amounts of Victorian and Edwardian houses will be designated as a Conservation area. The city councillors always claim that the residents are the people clamouring for this designation. Apparently one result of Conservation area status is that (already ridiculous) house prices increase, presumably because there are plenty of people who like the idea that nothing can change in their neighbourhood without their say so. That is, until they decide that they themselves want to change something in their house, in which case they discover that allowing middle class busy bodies with little or no aesthetic taste to be able to determine what is and is not allowed is not a good idea.

The city council has a lengthy document (over 50 pages) about the proposed change. That document in itself probably cost a small fortune to produce, at the taxpayers' expense. The maps at the end are the most interesting aspect. You can see the snobbery writ large. For example, the conservation area on Garden Walk ends just where the 1930s housing starts. And the perfectly respectable Peter Maitland Court at the corner of Garden Walk and Victoria Road is deemed to be a building which "detracts", presumably because it is only twenty years old, and indeed the same negative opinion seems to be expressed about any significant post-war building.

Histon Road is a bit of a dump and yet the city wants to make the southern bit up to the cemetery part of the conservation area. But then they claim the view up the road "detracts", so evidently there is not much there that is really worth preserving at all cost. Many of the roads in the proposed conservation area are not much better.

Cambridge is allegedly a town with highly educated people. And yet ironically it is these highly educated, some would say overly educated, people who cannot seem to cope with change, and who therefore insist that everything in town be frozen in aspic. Cambridge could do with more people who have visions for the future and fewer people who have romanticised visions of the past.

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