Mill Road Depôt Development – Phase 2

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Update from Petersfield Area Community Trust

At the Mill Road Depot consultation in December 2018, PACT learnt that their design requests for the Gatehouse Community Centre on the depot site had been heard, and we feel the design now being submitted for planning approval is excellent and will serve the community well now, and into the future.

PACT would now like to invite you to a meeting to bring you up to date and discuss any ideas you might have, as the location of the community centre will not only benefit the whole of Petersfield, but also the wider community.

To this end, there will be a meeting at The Salvation Army Community Centre, 104 Mill Road CB1 2BD (next to St Barnabas Church) on Tuesday 26th March at 7.30pm.

We hope to see you there!

Romsey Lakes

At the most easterly end of Mill Road, through Brookfields, across Perne Road are three large lakes. They are not currently open to the general public.

That may change before too long.

The Land South of Coldhams Lane, including the lakes south of the railway and land parcels to the north of the railway, is identified as an “Area of Major Change” in the new Local Plan. As well as built development, ideas include the ecological enhancement of the area, outdoor recreational uses and a new urban country park.

Anderson Group, who own part of the site, is holding a community planning process through the Autumn and has appointed architects and master planners JTP, and other consultants, to work with the local community to create a new Vision for the “Area” including an illustrative masterplan and other matters required by Local Plan Policy 16.

Keep up to date and get involved at the Land South of Coldhams Lane website.

Mill Road’s new Cambridge Mosque

More from other publications…

On Monday 17 September 2018 two of our committee members (and one ex-member) were honoured to have a guided tour of the new, nearly-completed Cambridge Mosque in Romsey Town.

We were welcomed by Tim Winter, Chair of Cambridge Mosque Trust and Site Manager Stephen Rodgers.

The new mosque was designed by the late David Marks MBE, a Jewish architect who, along with spouse 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.

Supporting timbers from Switzerland

The most stunning aspect, at ground level, must be the structural supporting timbers manufactured in Switzerland and erected in Cambridge by a joint team of Swiss craftsmen and Irish construction workers.

Inside the mosque. looking through the framework of the soon-to-be-installed glass screen to the portico

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.

The structural timber ‘trees’ in the main prayer-hall.

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.

Daylight streams through the arched windows of the dome

We even speculated whether Cambridge City Sightseeing  bus tour might, in future, run via Mill Road.

The dome, seen from roof-height

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.]

Entrance to the underground car-park with spaces for around 80 cars

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.

Site Manager Stephen Rodgers shows one of the evaluation prototype grilles


Two evaluation prototype grilles side-by-side

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.

A prototype section of tile cladding, above the car-park entrance for evaluation of colours and design. This will soon be removed and re-tiled.

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.

A traffic-free Mill Road?

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

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See our readers’ comments. Add your own. And check out linked blogposts from this page: Mill Road – what route for the future?

See our (historic) post Closure of Mill Road Bridge for Railway Works, for a flavour of some of the issues which arose.

Throughout and following the closure there were:

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

Let’s continue the debate in the comments section, below, or on the Mill Road – what route for the future? page.

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, Petersfield resident, 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

See also this excellent piece from The Observer: Deadly air in our cities: the invisible killer

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.

This image does not support reader technology. Lick it to read/Download a PDF which should be accessible.
Click the image to view/download a PDF.

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

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