Whither (or wither) Montreal Square?

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Residents of Montreal Square in Romsey may face re-housing with their current homes demolished under Cambridge Housing Society redevelopment proposals
Montreal Square today (Photo: Mill Road Bridges)

Residents of Montreal Square in Romsey may face re-housing – and their homes may face demolition – while the square is redeveloped.

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.

Mill Road TV came along to report on the Montreal Square Residents’ Association‘s fight for their homes.

Follow Mill Road TV on YouTube andTwitter.


Inaugural plaque (Photo – Allan Brigham)

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.

Caro Wilson, Mill Road History Society

Mill Road TV came along to video an update on the Montreal Square Residents’ Association‘s fight for their homes.

Follow Mill Road TV on YouTube andTwitter.

Statement from CHS Group

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

CHS Group

(PDF 146 KB)

Update from Montreal Square Residents’ Association

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.

Andy Smith, Montreal Square Residents’ Association 27 June 2018

Letter to Montreal Square residents from CHS Group Chair

18 June 2018

Dear Residents,

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.

Kind regards,
Nicola Scrivings
Chair of CHS Group

Letter to Montreal Square residents from CHS Group Chief Executive

26 July 2018

Dear Residents

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.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Hewlett

Chief Executive

Press release from Montreal Square Residents Association


02/08/2018 For Immediate Release

Contact – Andy Smith, Montreal Square Residents Associationemail Phone: M: 07546 472103

“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.

Our campaign has had over 2000 signatures saying NO to this idea.

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.

Andy Smith

News coverage in the Cambridge Independent

Residents opposing demolition of their Montreal Square homes in Cambridge plead to be left in peace

PUBLISHED: 11:33 12 August 2018 | UPDATED 11:41 12 August 2018

Photo Cambridge Independent

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner says he can’t support redevelopment plans from CHS Group if community opposes them

Residents fighting plans to bulldoze their homes to make way for a new development say they “will not be broken”.

More than 1,300 have signed a petition on change.org calling for a halt to proposals to demolish Montreal Square in Cambridge.

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.

Read the full article here.

Montreal Square Residents’ Association organised an August gathering

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.

Follow Mill Road TV on YouTube andTwitter.

And Mick Brown, aka Lord Drainlid, captured the mood of the gathering.

Follow Mick Brown’s YouTube channel, or as Lord Drainlid on Twitter.

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The Montreal Square Residents’ Association have now launched their own newsletter. Click the image to view or download the full version of the 1st edition. (PDF 2.8 MB)

Issue Nº1 of the ‘Save Montreal Square’ Newsletter

Now Montreal Square features in a double-page spread in the 28 September 2018 edition of Varsity.

The Cambridge residents campaigning to halt the demolition of their homes

The community of Montreal Square is challenging Cambridge Housing Society’s plans to demolish their houses and redevelop the area

Ann Byerley, Cheryl Smith, and Marti King, heard for the first time in January that their houses could be torn down Isobel Griffiths

by Isobel Griffiths

Cambridge Housing Society (CHS), a local housing association, announced earlier this year that 18 residences just off of Mill Road were to be demolished, replaced by over 30 new houses and blocks of flats. Varsity spoke to three women who are campaigning to preserve the square many have lived in for decades.

Cheryl Smith, 60, Marti King, 73, and Ann Byerley, 67, have lived on Montreal Square, a cul-de-sac of 18 homes just off Mill Road owned by CHS, for 17, 40, and 43 years respectively.

Read the full article here.

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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…

A previous scheme was discussed in 2010

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.

Your sincerely

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.

Cambridge Labour passes motion in support of Montreal Square residents

Cambridge Labour Party has passed a motion in support of the Montreal Square Residents’ Campaign “in their opposition to the demolition of their homes by Cambridge Housing Society and the redevelopment of the site.”

The motion was proposed by Unite Cambridge Community branch, and seconded by Romsey Ward Labour Party in response to proposals by the CHS Group to demolish 18 homes to make way for the new development, which would bring more affordable homes to the area by reducing the size of the gardens. Read more… Go to top

Montreal Square Residents’ Association members with local city councillors and Unite members

Montreal Square Residents’ Association has issued a press release

On the 27th October 2018 Daniel Zeichner. Cambridge’s Labour MP, spoke to over 80 people who gathered to march the length of Mill Road in support of our campaign to save our homes.

He said He could not support anything not supported by the Residents and that he recommended that CHS talked to residents at not at them.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Rod Cantrill also joined the march and told everybody who had marched to Montreal Square that this is something Cambridge Liberal Democrat are against too.

Romsey ward Councillors have all given us their support with Councillor Noel Kavanagh attending the meeting with us on Thursday. He told CHS this project is risking their reputation in Cambridge. Read more (PDF 381 KB). Go to top

Latest updates…

After issuing a press release (shown below) CHS Group informed their tenants of their fate a little later in the day.

Download this statement as a PDF (426 KB) Opens in a new tab.

Note the published time from the source code.

Further updates will follow here…

Please leave your comments below.

A traffic-free Mill Road?

The recent closure of Mill Road for emergency repairs has prompted a debate about removing unwanted through traffic on a more permanent basis. Join the debate.

Go to latest updates

See our readers’ comments. And add your own.

See also our post Closure of Mill Road Bridge for Railway Works.
Will the bridge remain open for pedestrians and cyclists? What linking bus services can be provided along the two sections of Mill Road? What will be the impact on Mill Road’s independent traders?
Read more and join the debate.

Throughout the closure we would like to see:

  • Traffic counts on other routes to the city centre and Grafton Quarter
  • Surveys of traders on the impact on their takings and on deliveries
  • Surveys of pedestrians, cyclists, bus users and local residents using Mill Road on how their journeys have been affected

This will be essential data for planning a positive outcome for more permanent traffic reduction along Mill Road whilst minimising disruption to traders and residents.

A thriving Mill Road: remove the through-traffic

From Martin Lucas-Smith

Mill Road should be a thriving place, with tens of thousands of residents around it, and a fantastic range of shops and community facilities. Yet traders are often struggling. Why is this?

What’s the one thing that almost everyone agrees is bad about Mill Road? The traffic. So isn’t it time something was actually done about it?

These two are strongly linked. Mill Road is currently a place that many people, myself included, either avoid completely, or visit and then leave as quickly as possible. It’s too unpleasant, polluted and noisy. All the trade from people who might actually stay for a while, or would be more likely to walk/cycle through if they didn’t have to battle the cars taking up all the space, is lost.

Mill Road has all the conditions for a popular, even trendy, location: central, cosmopolitan, offering something unique. Yet trading is still marginal. Get rid of the cars simply passing through, and the street can be opened up – to people actually visiting – and spending money and time there.

Some people think removing traffic would make trade suffer. Look at Bridge Street, and the bollards installed in 1997. Before the closure, there were 700 cars per hour passing through. Now, it is a thriving place, with the streetscaping in 2000 providing an even more pleasant environment. Who would return to all that traffic now?

Pretty much all the problems of Mill Road that people complain about can only be solved by getting rid of the through-traffic – it is both the cause and the solution:

  • If you want Mill Road to be a place where people actually want to visit and stay a while, you have to get rid of the through-traffic.
  • If you want lovely new ‘parklets’, where people can hang out and enjoy a coffee outside shops/cafes, without breathing in polluted air, you have to get rid of the through-traffic.
  • If you want traders to have space for delivery bays, getting vans off the pavement, with access 24/7, you have to get rid of the through-traffic.
  • If you want buses to run on time, and be more regular, you have to get rid of the through-traffic
  • If you want to walk and cycle safely, you have to get rid of the through-traffic.
  • If you want to get rid of pavement parking, where people feel they shouldn’t block other passing cars, you need to get rid of the through-traffic.
  • If you want places to park your bike, you need to get rid of the through-traffic.
  • If you want new space for public art, you need to get rid of the through-traffic.
  • If you want wider pavements, you need to get rid of the through-traffic.

If you want to be able to drive in and out, to access your house or the car parks, you would still be able to still do this, at any time – we are not calling for pedestrianisation.

This would be achieved by a closure to private vehicles at the bridge. Buses, cycles, emergency vehicles, and (out of necessity) taxis would be allowed through. People can still drive to every part of Mill Road, just not through. Delivery drivers sometimes already exit the same way they came in, or via selected side roads. It’s workable.

We know that most of it is through-traffic, because in July, a sinkhole had appeared near the Co-op. But calm and tranquillity broke out. You could hear people talking across the street. It was at last safe to cycle. People could still drive in and out. Mill Road felt like a place again. Just for two days.

With parklets, and all kinds of other changes like those listed above, Mill Road could be thriving, far more pleasant and safer, permanently.

You can read our full set of ideas at: Mill Road – our vision for 2019 and beyond.

Martin Lucas-Smith, York Street, and Camcycle

See also the article from CamCycle: Mill Road reclaimed for humans – a vision (PDF 384 KB) and CamCycles’ post, Our vision for Mill Road.

Liz Irvin, Camcycle Volunteer, adds…

Dear Mill Road Bridges,
I’m a CamCycle volunteer helping out with our Mill Road campaign.
I am pleased to see that you have published Martin Lucas-Smith’s article about our vision for Mill Road with no through-traffic, which would allow more room for pedestrians, cyclists and delivery vans, reduce congestion, improve air quality and make the street a more pleasant destination. We think the closure of the bridge next summer is a great opportunity to trial elements of our vision. We would love the Mill Road community’s input, and would appreciate Mill Road Bridges being involved in this process.
We are holding two drop-in public consultations over the coming weeks to gather the views of residents, traders and visitors to Mill Road.
Kind regards,
Liz Irvin
Camcycle Volunteer

We say:
It would be great if these two events were to attract a large attendance by a lively crowd to further the debate.

Over 18 thousand adults live off Mill Rd. If it were closed to private through traffic, it could have widened pavements and cafe extensions to shops.Dave Baigent, city councillor for Romsey.

For more on the size of the Mill Road community of communities (over 25,000 souls in 2011) read this post,  or the PDF (316KB)

New! Experimental closure to through-traffic scheme currently on Mill Road … aka street repair. Will Cambridge grind to a halt, or will people cope, showing that a more permanent change would work?  – CamCycle

A view from Romsey Labour‘s Making spaces for people consultation page…

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.
  • it would be much safer space for pedestrians/cyclists (see the amount of collisions)
  • massively reduce pollution
  • 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.

From Romsey Councillors: Dave Baigent, Anna Smith, Sophie Barnett, Noel Kavanagh

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!

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…

Read the full article: Making space for people on Mill Road – Smarter Cambridge Transport (PDF 777KB)

From Leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, Edward Leigh

Mill Road reclaimed for humans – a vision

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.

Read the full article from CamCycle here: Mill Road reclaimed for humans – a vision (PDF 384 KB) Mill Road – our vision for 2019 and beyond and CamCycles’ post, Our vision for Mill Road.

Madeleine Loewe’s comment (see below, 19 February 2019) about the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a 9 year-old girl from Hither Green is backed up by this report, by Nicola Davis, in The Guardian.

Revealed: asthma’s deadly toll on young people in the UK

European health report finds Britain has highest mortality rate of countries studied

Post your (pre-moderated) comments below.

Mill Road – the high street of a small town within Cambridge city?

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.

Do  the various local governance bodies – Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Greater Cambridge Partnership, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority – treat our community of communities with the precedence and respect which it deserves?

Mill Road Population -v- Cambs towns (PDF 316KB)

What do you think?  Do leave your comments.


Time for a Mill Road Plan?

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.

Mickey Flynn’s

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’?

Allan Brigham

Romsey or Petersfield? Which is the ‘Wrong side of the tracks’ now?

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.

Eileen O’Brien