The new mosque was designed by the late David Marks, a Jewish architect who, along with Julia Barfield, invented and designed the London Eye. One has to say that Dr Winter, being the son of an architect himself, has recruited a professional who has created a stunning gem for Cambridge.
To each side of the main entrance, which will look out onto gardens, into which the whole community will be welcome, will be a community meeting-room (to the west) and a café (to the east).
The timber deliberately – and effectively, in the view of this honoured visitor – evokes trees in a forest.
Natural daylight floods the main prayer hall from the ‘forest canopy’ of the structural timber trees. This is in tune with the desire to create a world-class eco-mosque of which all of our communities – Cambridge’s Muslims of many traditions, the wider Cambridge community, and the Mill Road ‘community of communities’ can be justifiably proud.
Whilst female and male worshippers pray separately, in practice the degree of separation in different traditions has considerable variation, explained Islamic scholar and academic, Dr Winter. Some sisters do not want to be on view by the brothers whilst praying, others wish to be in the sisters’ own area but feel no need to be obscured. Whist there will be a sisters’ gallery, building permanent physical separation in the main prayer hall, would take no account of variations in different Islamic traditions, nor of potential future variations in the proportion of sisters vis-à-vis bothers worshipping.
The Cambridge Mosque Trust will not follow or expect adherence to any particular school of Islam and will welcome worshippers from every part of the Muslim family, of both genders. [from Cambridge Mosque Trust’s Mission Statement]
The solution? A beautiful, intricately-carved, moveable wooden screen will be constructed, which will delicately taper from above 2 m in height by one wall to reach ground level at some point across the prayer-hall. Any sister, from any tradition should, thus, be able to find a prayer-space with which she is comfortable.
The octagonal windows, high in the wall, and the arched windows of the dome will have an extra layer of coloured glass in islamic patterns.
Well, the dome, clad in gold-effect copper-anodised zinc, would look spectacular from an open-top tourist bus.
On the less-visible parts of the roof will be eco-friendly, sustainable energy equipment – photovoltaic arrays and air-source heat-pumps* – together with rainwater harvesting apparatus.
[*Whilst ground-source heat-pumps have some advantages over air-source – particularly at low air-temperatures – the large underground car-park and the height of the water-table on the site ruled this out as an option, Dr Winter explained.]
One can see how the sustainable energy installations will go a long way towards fulfilling the plan to be Europe’s first eco-mosque.
Reflecting Islam’s contribution to contemporary debates over sustainability, the mosque will incorporate significant design features which will minimise carbon emission and emphasise the role of faith in promoting responsible management of the earth’s resources. [from Cambridge Mosque Trust’s Mission Statement]
The edges of the roof will be finished with crenellation stones cut in an English quarry, to be fitted by an Irish company.
The international sourcing of the mosque will be completed inside with marble flooring from Spain, and oak panelling from Northern Ireland, whilst service access grilles will be comprised of wooden decorative panels.
Exterior walls will be finished off with tile cladding evoking Cambridge’s Victorian bricks – whites with red detail – and the alternating red and white brick and stone elements of (eg) the Mosque of Cordoba, in beautiful patterns of Islamic calligraphy.
Site Manager Stephen Rodgers remarked that a number of Belfast construction workers are about to become the province’s leading experts on Islamic calligraphy. He probably wasn’t joking: any tiling errors would need to be dismantled and re-clad!
The mosque is due to open in January 2019. (This visitor was relieved that this would be well before the Brexit deadline caused any potential hiccoughs – or worse – to supply chains and the availability of specialised workers.)
If you are equally impatient to see the wonders of the new Cambridge Mosque. Take a look at the Cambridge Mosque Trust’s photographic gallery.
CHS Group (the trading name of The Cambridge Housing Society Ltd) claims demolition and re-development is needed to fulfil its charitable duty to provide as much social housing as possible.
The loss of the square would not only mean the loss of well-loved homes and valuable green space, but also the loss of a vision of how housing should be, with areas that are individual and areas that are communal, with places to meet and to play as well as space to relish personal privacy.
Montreal Square was built by Cambridge Housing Society which was started in 1927 by Alderman Conder, Councillor Mrs D Stevenson and Dr Alex Wood (after whom the hall in Norfolk St and the bus shelter in Petersfield are named). The CHS was set up to help families who couldn’t afford market rents.
When the Montreal Square houses were built they didn’t have a separate bathroom but had baths in the back kitchen with a lid over it to form a table.They were still very popular with the first residents.
As reported in the Cambridge Independent Press of November 30th 1928, the Mayor, Alderman J.E Purvis visited Romsey, and a plaque was unveiled which can still be seen today.
Nigel Howlett, CHS’s Chief Executive said: “As a charity, we have a duty to provide as much affordable housing in Cambridge as we can. Private rented property in Cambridge is unaffordable for people on low incomes – we want to build more affordable homes to help more people. It’s currently very difficult for CHS to find or build affordable housing in Cambridge, where need and lack of affordability is greatest. We recognise that moving customers out of their homes will be disruptive and we will do our best to offer them as much support as we can.” May 2018
After our last meeting in May which ended in a stalemate as we were not prepared to go forward and discuss the best way to Demolish our homes, CHS asked us to discuss with residents if they wanted us to discuss a design brief for the development of Montreal square.
As the majority of residents still remain totally against the idea of destroying homes and a well established community the answer was a resounding NO.
On the 5th June we sent a letter to CHS to inform them of our decision advising them that we could not continue with their consultation period which only had the aim of doing a design brief.
Attached is a copy of the letter all residents received from CHS last week.
Again CHS choose to try and divide the community by asking the minority to go against the majority and get involved in a design brief.
We are still doing every Saturday afternoon outside the Co-op on Mill Road collecting signatures of support from the local community.
With the online petition and the hard copy from the Co-op we have over 2,000 signatures of support now.
CHS have said they will get back to us by the end of July.
That, by July, is over 6 months of stress and anxiety for the residents with the possibility of a lot more to come yet.
Letter to Montreal Square residents from CHS Group Chair
18 June 2018
Thank you for your letter of 5th June, received last week.
We note that many of you remain opposed to any redevelopment. Your letter also clarifies that the strong sense of community among Montreal Square residents is based on shared social values and responsibilities, which add to the pleasure and wellbeing from living there.
As agreed at the first public meeting in February, we will move on to develop options for a redevelopment scheme, working with any residents who wish to have further input. We assume from your letter that the Residents Committee is choosing not to participate in this, but we are very happy to involve them if they wish. These options will be shared with all residents. We will get back to you by the end of July to outline how a decision will be reached.
The panel of Board members that met with the Residents Committee has already accepted the invitation to visit Montreal Square and remain happy to do so if you would like to suggest some convenient times.
Chair of CHS Group
Letter to Montreal Square residents from CHS Group Chief Executive
26 July 2018
In June we said we would let you know by the end of July how the CHS Board will reach a decision on the future of Montreal Square. This letter outlines what will now happen, so that the Board can make a final decision at their meeting in mid October.
To reach a decision, the Board will need to weigh the problems that would be caused by a redevelopment against its advantages, mainly extra affordable housing.
So our next steps are:
To develop an outline design, as requested at the first public meeting, that will include all the feedback you and your neighbours have given us about how any redevelopment would affect you and what you would want in a potential scheme.
To give you an opportunity to comment on this potential design before this is presented to the Board.
To get an indication from the City Council Planning Department that the outline scheme is likely to meet their requirements. This is so we can be reasonably confident that the Board will be considering the advantages of a scheme that might be able to go ahead if they decide to proceed with redevelopment. It would also reduce revisions and delays both before and during any planning application stage.
To develop outline costings to make sure that the potential scheme is affordable for CHS and would deliver value for money in terms of additional affordable housing.
The Board will carefully consider what many of you have told us about the impact that any redevelopment of Montreal Square would have on you.
Although we understand that the current uncertainty is very uncomfortable for you, the earliest we believe we can produce all this information is by mid-October – which is an ambitious timescale for a scheme of this nature, especially as many aspects of the process are not within CHS‘s control.
If the Board decides in mid-October to go ahead with redevelopment, further work would then be required to submit a planning application and go through the approval process, all of which typically could take between 12 and 24 months.
As we think it is important to talk this through with each of you in more detail, we would like
to visit you on 2, 7, 8 or 9 August. Please call our Customer Services Team on [✂︎] or email [✂︎] to let us know when would be convenient.
“OVER 2,000 people have said NO to the idea to DEMOLISHING Montreal Square”
The campaign to try and save our homes at Montreal Square, Cambridge, is still in progress. Back at the end of January Cambridge Housing Society told residents they wanted to look at the idea of DEMOLISHING Montreal Square to build more properties on the site.
Some 6 months later we are no further forward to them making a decision about this proposal and have just had a letter telling residents they will not make a decision until mid October. Their initial decision was going to be made in March.
Since March we have done what CHS had requested of us.
We have set up a democratically elected Montreal Square Residents Association at their request and we have attended three meetings.
At our last meeting we were asked to discuss the best way to DEMOLISH our homes. Unfortunately as we represent the majority of residents at Montreal Square it was decided that we could not continue with any steering groups or engagement panels that involved any design briefs because the majority oppose this idea.
CHS have since chosen to ignore the Montreal Square Residents Association and have again offered residents individual meetings about the redevelopment in order to try and get some residents to work with them against the majority of residents.
Romsey city Cllr Dave Baigent (Labour) said, “I think it would be a tragedy if they changed Montreal Square the disruption it would cause would damage that community. There is nothing left to recommend this process.”
Romsey Liberal Democrat team have said, “We are backing Montreal Square residents because mini-communities that make up Romsey are important and one with green space and mature trees doubly so.”
We believe now the only thing keeping this idea afloat is CHS’s obsession with trying to increase their revenue for this site.
Maybe their enthusiasm for this site would be better directed at maintaining the site better as very little as been done in the last 10 years.
The last story about Montreal Square was on the 16/05/2015.
Residents including the elderly and vulnerable feel it’s time to end this and allow us to live in peace.
The residents, some of whom have lived in the square for more than 40 years, say they will continue to fight the plans being consulted on by charitable housing association CHS Group. They have now gathered the support of Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, who says he cannot support a plan opposed by the community.
Mill Road poet, Carol Ann Wood visited some of the Montreal Square residents and was moved to write and record this poem in tribute to their campaign. Click the image to download your own copy of the poem. (PDF 6.7 MB)
Mill Road TV filmed the gathering and interviewed some of those present.
The montreal Square Residents’ Association have now launched there own newsletter. Click the image to view or download the full version of the 1st edition. (PDF 2.8 MB)
This is just eight years after CHS Group undertook some improvements to Montreal Square’s homes and accepted that residents did not want a redevelopment scheme…
1st 2010 letter to Montreal Square residents from CHS group
14th October 2010
The future of Montreal Square
I am writing to you to ask if we can come and visit you. The reason for this is that we need to ask for your views about the long term future of the houses at Montreal Square. CHS has begun a review due to the age and condition of these houses and we want to talk to you about the next steps.
Your Housing Officer Doug Stother would like to call on you personally at home on either Tuesday 19th October or Wednesday 20th October. He can come morning, afternoon or early evening. We have provisionally set a time of approximately 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday 19th October for Doug to visit you. However if this is not convenient, or you would prefer to meet somewhere else, then please do let us know and we will agree a more convenient time and location with you.
Doug works out of the office a lot of the time, and so it will not be easy for you to call him direct if you need to re-arrange the visit time. Therefore would you please call our Customer Service team on 0300 111 3555 who have access to Doug’s diary and can re-arrange the time for you.
I am sorry if this letter is quite short notice of our visit – we have assumed that you would be keen to ﬁnd out more about this as quickly as possible once we wrote to you.
2nd 2010 letter to Montreal Square residents from CHS group
23 December 2010
Last Monday I met with a group of residents from 10 of the houses in Montreal Square. We talked through what the next steps might be following our decision not to now pursue the option of redeveloping the Square to provide new modem homes.
The feeling of the meeting was that you wanted CHS to leave your homes alone and just make sure that we would carry out repairs and maintenance to keep your homes above the Decent Homes Standard. The meeting did not want us to explore more significant improvement options and the problems of funding these.
I explained to the meeting that while CHS was keen to be led by residents’ views about redevelopment and improvement it was possible that in the longer term we would have to you about this again. This is because we might well need to carry out some major works at some point in the future to ensure we provide homes that are more affordable to heat and maintain. I want to stress that we have absolutely no plans to do this but it is fair that I should explain that this might be an issue in the future.
I am writing this letter to make sure that everyone is aware of the latest position.
Last weeks meeting identified a number of building issues, including the need for some boiler replacements and loft insulation. I suggest therefore that the best way ahead is for us firstly to survey the condition of the houses in Montreal Square to draw up a complete plan of any work needed now or in the near future to make sure that we can keep them above the Decent Homes Standard. We propose to carry out surveys using our own property staff, starting in January, and at times agreed with each of you.
A question was asked about flushing through heating pipework and I can confirm that this is done as part of all our new boiler installations. We will let you know in January if you have a boiler that we plant to replace in the next few months.
Romsey Labour often discuss the possibility of how Mill Road can be made safer and this was raised again at the last meeting. At that time opinion was balanced in favour but this is a moving feast and it was decided to have it as an agenda item at the next ward meeting.
What follows is a view in favour
This action follows a very positive response to the unexpected blockage of Mill Road by a road collapse 27th-28th June – this has reopened the debate about if we could have a trial stoppage of through traffic. A trial closure at Mill Road Bridge monitored by CCTV could mean:
all private vehicles would be stopped from crossing the bridge
all of Mill Road would still be accessible
deliveries could be 24/7 and this would help traders.
buses could have a traffic free route and be on time
Of course there remain people who are against this because it will interfere with their car journeys – there are also concerns about pushing traffic onto other roads. The traders have also indicated that they remain opposed.
Cambridge Cycling Campaign on the other hand are enthused and they have raised the potential of introducing ‘parklets’. Seen below these would be used to widen the pavement and allow shops to extend their frontages – to allow ‘pop up cafes’ for example. They believe that trade would be increased for traders if the road was closed to through traffic and with parklets there would be further gains.
These ‘parklets’ would be relatively cheap to construct and make so much difference to the narrow parts of pavement on Mill Road.
Nothing that has been suggested would remove access from any part of Mill Road. Deliveries could continue as before and because there was no through traffic the lorries would be unlikely to frustrate drivers, cyclist and pedestrians. This has got to be a way forward and people should contact their councillors to make their views known (for or against).
It may even be that the Greater Cambridge Partnership could be approached to fund this trial.
As a non-party-political community group, Mill Road Bridges would love to hear from councillors and/or activists of other parties about their vision for Mill Road. Come on Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats!
ON THURSDAY 13 September, a by-election takes place in the Petersfield ward of the city following the resignation of former councillor Ann Sinnott.
Candidates have been announced as follows:
Making space for people on Mill Road – Smarter Cambridge Transport
The closure of Mill Road while a sinkhole was repaired prompted people to wonder whether the road could be closed permanently to through traffic. Some have called for a trial closure and Camcycle is putting forward a vision for a Mill Road with wider pavements, improved streetscape with parklets, and more cycle parking.
The café tables on the pavement around 196 Cocktail Bar hint at what a vibrant street culture we could have if Mill Road were more hospitable for people, and less so for motor vehicles. As alocal, I’d love to see this. It’s exactly the vision that our local community should be aspiring to.
But, wearing my Smarter Cambridge Transport hat, I have two concerns: the first is about the practical impact of a closure point on vehicles needing to access homes and businesses. Even if Mill Road were opened up in the early morning for shop deliveries, at other times, motor vehicles of all sizes (other than buses) would have to be directed around loops through residential streets either side of the closure point.
A bigger concern is the effect of treating this part of the city’s road network in isolation. Mill Road is special, particularly to those who live around it, but…
At the start of July, Mill Road was closed to through traffic, as a sinkhole had appeared near the Co-op. Calm and tranquillity broke out. You could hear people talking across the street. It was at last safe to cycle. Mill Road felt like a place again. Just for two days.
We want to make this permanent. Mill Road has for too long been a conduit for traffic rather than a place for people – the result of cars cutting through it to get to/from the city centre.
Cambridge didn’t grind to a halt in July. Cherry Hinton Road did experience delays, but we believe this problem can be dealt with, as discussed below.
By taking out much of the through traffic, alternative travel becomes much more attractive. For instance, buses would keep to time, and services could be expanded to be much more regular.
However, it’s not enough just to stop through traffic. We’d like to see a whole range of changes. This change is not really an agenda for cycling: it’s about turning Mill Road back into a place again.
Traffic evaporation – what about surrounding roads?
It’s a common misconception that when streets are changed to stop through traffic all the traffic goes elsewhere. Not so – ‘traffic evaporation’ occurs. People change their behaviour, resulting in a lot of car journeys simply disappearing.
In the case of Mill Road, cycling would at last be safe, bus journeys become practical, and walking without breaking into a cough from the poor air becomes possible.
Of course, some traffic will be displaced, and it’s important that Cherry Hinton Road in particular has action taken on it. Cherry Hinton Road is wide enough for a proper cycleway in many places, again providing an alternative to driving, and ought to be a pleasant tree-lined boulevard. Combined with the proposed Workplace Parking Levy and/or a Toxicity Charge – both of which are needed in Cambridge – traffic in the surrounding area can be minimised.
Mill Road is a much narrower road and, unlike much of Cherry Hinton Road, is a high street, densely lined with shops and other facilities. Pedestrian and cycle traffic is much higher on Mill Road, and 18,000+ people live off Mill Road – a very densely-populated area.
Adjudged by The Times in March 2013 as 26th out of ‘The 30 coolest places to live in Britain’, over twenty-five thousand people live in the three Cambridge city wards – Coleridge, Petersfield and Romsey – which surround Mill Road.
Our community outnumbers the population of Wisbech, that of March, of Huntingdon, of Ely and of St Ives.
The Mill Road community of residents and traders are fiercely proud of their mile of independent shops, cafés and restaurants; we view Mill Road as our High Street, our Town Centre.
Cambridge is renowned for quality architecture and open spaces. But are we seeing this on Mill Road’? Two recent planning applications — Mickey Flynn’s site in Petersﬁeld and The Labour Club in Romsey — both support the claim that buildings are being parachuted into the street scene without respect for the surrounding area.
Recently submitted plans for this site have failed to respect the City Council’s advice that new developments should ‘Maximise the unique characteristics of the site to create a sense of identity’ and ‘Make a positive contribution to the character of the surrounding
area’ (Design Guide. 2011). This site could and should be designed to enhance the surrounding area (perhaps opening onto a pavement café), but the plans only made a nod towards this option. The new proposed development rises above the pavement, while the building line comes forward towards Mill Road, reducing the existing welcome sense of space for pedestrians.
Development of this site is a one-off chance to enhance this area, bordered by one of Mill Road ’s distinctive historic buildings — the Bath House. The plans fail to recognise or add to the partial improvements made 15 years ago. These established a base-line by using high quality materials — recycled granite bollards; a special lamp column; Judas Tree; ground cover planting; and underground soakaway. The redevelopment of this former snooker hall should be the completion of this scheme — creating a ‘public square’ in Petersfield and bringing the ‘Cambridge’ quality into Mill Road. Revised plans awaited.
Romsey Labour Club
Over the bridge, plans have now sadly been approved by the City Council for the redevelopment of a piece of local social history — the Romsey Labour Club. Although ‘retaining’ the original facade, the old building will be dwarfed by a block of student flats. This mockery of the historic frontage reduces the important story that it tells about Romsey and is unsympathetic to the Conservation Area. The inappropriate use of materials shout at pedestrians, while the height will block out light from the surrounding streets.
Mill Road is at the centre of a Conservation area. No other arterial road in the city has this designation. The road’s history is central to the story of Cambridge. It is a ‘High Street’ in its own right. It serves the population of a small town in the surrounding catchment area, with the highest pedestrian footfall of any main road outside the city centre, but the City Council has no ‘Plan’ for Mill Road.
Developers exhaust planning officers and residents by first submitting applications that ignore planning guidance. They then return with plans that are marginally improved, and which are accepted. Too often plans lack aspiration and fail to reflect local knowledge. But what is built will be here for 100 years, and it is important that it is not ‘just good enough’, but ‘the best’. So, is it time to have a ‘Mill Road Plan’?
There was a time when the Cambridge News referred to Mill Road as ‘Street of Fear’, and the part of Mill Road ‘over the bridge’ was the most fearsome of all. Now though, things have changed with TravelSupermarket recently naming Romsey Town as the ‘14th coolest place in Britain’.
As a long-time Petersfield resident, it pains me to say that I am inclined to agree that parts of Romsey are cooler. I don’t think it’s because Romsey has better shops and bars – I wouldn’t like to bet who would win in a fight betweenUrban Larder and Garden Kitchen, or Fidelio vs Fabio – and we have some unbeatable gems on our side, Arjuna, Fantasia and of course thepeerless H Gee, to name but a few.
It’s all a question of layout. The Broadway area of Romsey has a village feel, something whichPetersfield doesn’t quite achieve. The widepavements on both sides of the road at TheBroadway are largely responsible for this.
So, is it time for Petersfield to up its game or be left behind? We’ve recently acquired a tailor, an upholsterer, an Italian trattoria and the eclectic Fantasia, but there are units empty before the bridge, whilst Romsey seems to have a far higher rate of occupancy. Why is this? Are the rents on the town side so much higher or is it just easier to keep a business going on the coolend of the street?
Mill Road News would love to hear from youwith your views on these questions.