Talking Together – February/March 2023

Yes. Talking, with other older adults, about shared interests. On your telephone. Not Zoom. Not Microsoft Teams. Not FaceTime. Not WhatsApp. Not Skype.

Just your telephone. Landline or mobile.
And it’s free!
But registration is required.

Image is of info from page 1 of the linked PDF.
Click the image to view/download a 2-page PDF of the latest programme of talks.
The PDF has selectable text, so should be compatible with a screen-reader.
Click the image to view/download a 2-page PDF of the latest programme of talks

COPE (Cambridgeshire Older People’s Enterprise) is delighted to announce the latest series of TALKING TOGETHER, a new initiative that brings older adults together for engaging and stimulating conversations about topics of shared interest. This free programme offers weekly telephone-based discussion groups which are joined from the comfort of your home. No special technology is needed, just your own telephone. Each group, scheduled for 45 minutes, is facilitated by skilled leaders with whom participants can share their ideas, opinions and experiences.

Image is of info from page 2 of the linked PDF.
Click the image to view/download a 2-page PDF of the latest programme of talks.
The PDF has selectable text, so should be compatible with a screen-reader.
Click the image to view/download a 2-page PDF of the latest programme of talks

Do you know an older adult who doesn’t have internet access who would enjoy these phone chats? Or someone (perhaps yourself) who just prefers a chat?

Take a look at the full leaflet by clicking either of the images above.

You and/or your friend can register by filling in the form, and posting it to:
COPE, St Luke’s Community Centre, Victoria Road, Cambridge CB4 3DZ
(If you don’t have access to a printer, just write your details on a sheet of plain paper.)

Or you can put your details in an email to or by phoning COPE on 01223 364303. (You can leave a message on the answering machine if there is no volunteer manning the COPE telephone (10.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.)

PS: Do you know someone who COPE might approach to lead a set of conversations on a subject about which they have some knowledge? If so, why not email COPE with your suggestion using this link?

COPE is a registered Charity run by volunteers. Registered Charity No. 1110887

St Matthew’s Piece Trees (Again)

Under threat… Again!

Another guest post from Valerie Neal, a Friend of St Matthew’s Piece
Aerial image of St Matthew’s Piece showing, on the western edge, the three trees, subject of this planning application.
The three trees under threat


An insurance claim at 193 Sturton Street (a new-build approx 25 year old property) blames clay shrinkage subsidence on three 125-year-old trees. A planning application has been submitted for the felling of these three trees.


Objections from members of the public are urgently needed. Objections must be submitted as ‘Comments’ via Planning Application 23/0119/TTPO on the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Portal. (Requires registration.)

Objections would be most helpful by Monday 20th February, but will be accepted after that date.

Scroll down for possible grounds to use in your objection.


Last summer, Cambridge City Council’s Planning Committee refused permission for these three precious trees to be severely cut back in both height and spread. The harm to the trees was judged not to be justified by the evidence. More information was required. (More here in this earlier post: St Matthew’s Piece Trees – Under Threat. Especially useful are the soil moisture deficit graphs.)

Instead: the applicant has now submitted a new application (23/0119/TTPO) to fell the three trees (or to install a ‘root barrier’ along part of Sturton Street). Their scanty documents fail to address even the reasons for refusal last summer. 

However, this time, the applicant has also given a bit of information on an alternative to felling or pruning, namely a ‘root barrier’. They have shown one aerial photo for the possible location of a root barrier and obtained one quote for the cost of delivering this. See pp. 10-11 of the applicant’s Addendum Report On A Subsidence Claim Arboricultural Recommendations under the ‘Documents’ tab for 23/0119/TTPO on the Planning Portal.


Everybody will have good reasons of their own, but here are some suggestions from the Friends of St Matthew’s Piece:

  1. The only official park in the Petersfield ward is St Matthew’s Piece, compared to 56 official parks in Cambridge’s 13 other wards.
  2. Petersfield has a particularly poor tree canopy, with very few mature trees.
  3. All trees matter in Petersfield, which suffers badly from the ‘Urban Heat Island Effect’.
  4. Each of these 125-year-old Plane Trees has a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), and is in our Conservation Area.
  5. Changes to a Conservation Area require public benefit to outweigh public harm – but there would be zero public benefit from felling these three trees, only massive public harm.
  6. These trees are vital to the wellbeing of every person who lives, works or studies in our community.
  7. The applicant has not shown what harm now exists at the property… and completely failed to demonstrate how the “slight” cracks previously reported are due to the trees – rather than poor foundations, shoddy construction or “thermal movement” in the modern brickwork.
  8. If the applicant is convinced that the trees are harming the property, then the Planning Committee could permit them to install a good-quality root barrier, if done without significantly harming the trees.
  9. The applicant (or owner of the property) must pay for the root barrier. Due diligence required them to take into account trees that had been present for 100 years before this property was constructed.
  10. BS5837:1991 (applicable at the time of construction of 193 Sturton Street) described the then British Standards on trees and construction.
  11. The relevant National House Building Council standards document (section 4.2 Building near trees 4.2.7 Foundations in shrinkable soils) is illustrated below.
    Note the NHBC advice: Root barriers are not an acceptable alternative to the guidance given.
  12. The majority of the ‘Standard References’  listed on p.12 of the applicant’s Addendum Report On A Subsidence Claim Arboricultural Recommendations were already published before the construction of 193 Sturton Street, so should have been taken into account.
  13. Felling these trees would breach Cambridge Local Plan (2018) Policies 14, 23, 55, 56, 61, 67 & 71 as well as National Planning Policy Framework ¶91abc, ¶92abc and ¶96, as outlined in greater detail in the parallel Objection prepared by Friends of St Matthew’s Piece.
  14. In 2006, 2007 & 2008, the City Council’s own tree expert repeatedly stressed (in connection with Planning Application 06/0567/FUL Erection of a community innovation centre (refused) the importance of preserving all the trees of St Matthew’s Piece, both individually and as a group – and these trees have only grown in importance since then.
Extract from National House Building Council standards document
4.2 Building near trees
4.2.7 Foundations in shrinkable soils
The sentence: "Root barriers are not an acceptable alternative to the guidance given." is highlighted by the present author.
Click the image to read the National House Building Council standards document section
4.2 Building near trees
4.2.7 Foundations in shrinkable soils


Objection to 22/0271/TTPO – from Friends of St Matthew’s Piece
22 March 2022
(Report against the planning application stopped in July 2022)

Trees of St Matthew’s Piece and Appendix II Input from Heritage Advisors (Both from the report against a planning application stopped in March 2021.)

2.5 minute video on what that threat had been 


To be kept up to date, please email Friends of St Matthew’s Piece, and ask to be added to the Friends of St Matthew’s Piece Supporter’s List. You will be led through a data-collection-compliant sign-up process. This will make sure you receive very occasional email updates on issues like this one.

Local residents have been fighting to protect and conserve local amenity and environmental assets via Friends of St Matthew’s Piece since 30thApril 2020 – and, before that, via Petersfield Area Community Trust, since 1998). We stand on the shoulders of the giants who, 100 years earlier, in 1898 had established St Matthew’s Piece. This included planting the magnificent London Plane trees that provide all of us with such wonderful benefits today. Read more on the history of St Matthew’s Piece, on the St Matthew’s Piece Timeline 1890–2020.

City Council community grants

Could you, or your group, help to improve people’s lives, locally?
If only you had a little bit of funding…

Text: Have an idea for a community, arts or sport activity that will help to reduce inequality?
Voluntary or community organisations, or groups of local residents, could be eligible for an Area Committee Grant of up to £5,000.
North: Apply by Wednesday 25 January 2023 (Arbury, East Chesterton,
King's Hedges & West Chesterton) South: Apply by Wednesday 1 February 2023
(Cherry Hinton, Queen Edith's & Trumpington)
East: Apply by Wednesday 1 February 2023
(Abbey, Coleridge, Petersfield & Romsey)
West Central: Apply by Friday 10 February 2023
(Castle, Market & Newnham)
Click the image to visit the Cambridge City Council Area Committee funding webpage

Fuller details, application forms and a webinar presentation explaining how to apply can be found on the Cambridge City Council Area Committee funding webpage. You can also contact for further information or phone the team on 01223 457875.

Mill Road bridge – again

Cambridgeshire County Council advertised, on Monday 28 November, a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to close Mill Road bridge to all motor vehicles, except buses, cyclists, emergency services, taxis and blue badge holders. The public have until midnight on Friday 6 January, to make comments and objections on the TRO. A TRO is required to implement the traffic restrictions.

Image of hand-held megaphone, with text:
Have your say...
A Traffic Regulation Order to close Mill Road bridge to motor vehicles, except buses, cyclists, emergency services, taxis and blue badge
holders, is now being advertised.
Accompanied by logo of Cambridgeshire County Council
Click the image to visit the Cambridgeshire County Council Mill Road bridge TRO page

Another consultation?

Wait… There have already been two consultations? Three? All of which were overwhelmingly positive regarding the modal filter on Mill Road? And now we need another consultation? What am I missing here?

Cab Davidson, on Twitter, 22/11/2022

The TRO is part of the legal process so open to public comment but not a consultation in the same way. It asks people for objections and other comments relating to the order. All objections must specify the grounds on which they are made.

Camcycle, on Twitter, 22/11/2022

Background in brief…

Between June 2020 and early August 2021, Mill Road bridge was temporarily closed to most vehicles under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO). The closure was part of a government-funded scheme to help people socially distance and encourage walking and cycling during the Covid pandemic. When the order was removed and the bridge re-opened in summer 2021, the Highways & Transport Committee asked the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to review and consult on options for Mill Road to promote active travel and tackle air quality and congestion.

The GCP consultation, which included focus groups of key stakeholders and two public workshops, showed that there was a desire to see traffic reduced while maintaining access for those who need it, including people with disabilities and taxis. There was also a wish to see the environment enhanced along Mill Road, including improving the public realm.

After reviewing the consultation, the Highways & Transport Committee at its meeting on 12 July this year agreed to introduce a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to reinstate the modal filter on Mill Road. The Committee was clear the TRO should include new exemptions, allowing blue badge holders and taxis over the bridge.

Official Cambridgeshire County Council documents

Object or support: have your say

Statements of support, or objections to the proposal, together with the grounds on which they are made or any additional comments, must be sent in writing to:
Steve Cox, Executive Director: Place and Sustainability
c/o Policy and Regulation
Box Nº D8E
Huntingdon Highways Depot, Stanton Way
PE29 6PY
or by email to by midnight 6th January 2023 quoting reference PR0872

Image of cyclist on Mill Road Bridge

Recent news media reports

Another view on Mill Road

Mill Road in Cambridge […] could be fantastic. It used to be fantastic. But these days it is just […].

As a destination it should be a vibrant, exciting, diverse place where people visit, shop, can spend time on the street, and enjoy the cultural and culinary influences of dozens of nationalities and ethnicities represented there. What it is instead is a car sick urban canyon, narrow, noisy, chokingly polluted, and too dangerous to walk or ride on.

And the kicker is, nobody drives between shops there. There’s a car park at Parkside, another at Gwydir Street but nobody can possibly drive between the shops. The traffic that destroys Mill Road isn’t bringing money to the local traders, it’s taking money through Mill Road to the City Centre. Traffic on Mill Road exists at the expense of traders there. 

Mill Road. Why ought I even care? by Cambridge Cyclist, aka Cab Davidson (Warning: this is a robustly-expressed piece deploying strong language 🤬 which would not be used on our website.)

And the backstory…

This post is open for (politely-expressed) comments…

Beehive Centre – Redevelopment

Public exhibition and digital consultation

Image of leaflet, headed:
With aerial view of location
More text:
Railpen would like to invite you to a public exhibition and digital consultation on our updated proposals for the redevelopment of The Beehive Centre.
Click the image above to view/download a 2-page PDF with full details.

The Beehive Centre is adjacent to Sturton Town to the north of Mill Road on the Petersfield (city) side of the railway.

Find out more about Victorian Cambridge & the Building of Sturton Town.
Find out more about the old Beehive Pub, on the corner of Ainsworth Street.

In June 2022 we held our first stage consultation on our proposals for The Beehive Centre at which we outlined our principles for development and asked for the local communities input to create a scheme that brings social value and tangible benefits to the local area and Cambridge.

The consultation was well attended and we heard and captured a wealth of insights and ideas from local people about what you value about The Beehive Centre today, and what you would like to see in the future. This feedback has informed our updated proposals which we are ready to show you at our upcoming consultation.

We strive to work with the people of Cambridge to reimagine a key strategic site, embracing sustainable and inclusive design through a vision to the creation of a new local centre with accessible, green and useable spaces to strengthen Cambridge’s status at the forefront of the science, technology and innovation sector.

four communications on behalf of Railpen

Public exhibition

Thursday 24th November – 2:30pm to 6:30pm
Friday 25th November – 2:30pm to 7:30pm
St Barnabas Centre, (Old Schoolroom) St Barnabas Church, Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 2BD
No prior booking required.

Digital consultation

The digital consultation webinar will take place on Wednesday 23rd November – 6:00pm to 7:00pm

To register your interest for the digital consultation, the QR code on the PDF can be captured with your smartphone/tablet. Otherwise it resolves to:

If you are unable to attend either consultation nor the public exhibition but want to learn more you can email or phone 01223 960001.

Many of you will be aware that Railpen, who invest the Railways Pension Schemes’ assets, will be redeveloping the Travis Perkins site adjacent to Devonshire Road for long-term tenanted residential accommodation, and that, whilst this has been broadly welcomed by the community, some of the details of Rail Pen’s initial plans were felt to be in need of improvement. Of course, this is an entirely different project to the Beehive Centre, but we’ve referenced it to give context on Rail Pen.

Whilst this post is open for comments, and readers are welcome to debate the issues around the proposed development, this does not guarantee that four communications or Railpen will be able to engage with them on this platform.

Mill Road Community Centre – Update

Opening in the New Year!


Wednesday 16th November 2022, 7:30pm
Old School Hall, St Barnabas Church,
Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 2BD

Please come and join Petersfield Area Community Trust and Romsey Mill Trust to find out more details about all the exciting opportunities.

Image of the new centre overlaid with "Opening in the New Year!"
Wednesday 16th November, 7:30pm
Old School Hall, St Barnabas Church,
Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 2BD
Please come and join us to find out more details about all the exciting opportunities for volunteering; our proposed community programme; how the centre will operate & pay its way; an opening event, & even more…
Further details:
Your New Community Centre Needs YOU!
Click the image to download a printable copy of this poster

Please consider printing and displaying a poster to publicise the meeting. Share widely to let all of your friends, colleagues, neighbours and social media contacts know about the meeting.

What can you do to help make the Mill Road Community Centre a success? Email

Mill Road Rocks

Have you seen Mill Road’s very own rock garden just outside Ditchburn Place?

Transforming a hitherto derelict pocket of land by the entrance gates to Ditchburn Place, the Mill Road Rock Garden has been developed by local resident Fiona Smith and volunteers from the Mill Road Fringe, and is brought to you thanks to Love Mill Road – the charity which nurtures and celebrates the Mill Road community – and the generosity of Scotsdales Garden Centre.

Photo of painted rocks, in recycled frames, on a background of slate fragments.
Photo: Lenja Bell

Over the last few months local community groups, including Ditchburn Place residents themselves, have been painting rocks which are featured in the recycled frames. You can spot all sorts of different designs from slogans of encouragement, to cartoon characters to birds and animals and flowers. The Rocks are painted in acrylic paint and sprayed with varnish to keep them from fading.

Rock painting has been around for centuries but saw a revival during lockdown. It is something which is accessible to everyone and at every age. Rock painting has been proved to support mindfulness with positive benefits for mental health. It is also a great family activity.

Photo of painted rocks, in recycled frames, on a background of slate fragments.
Photo: Lenja Bell

Besides the residents of Ditchburn Place, Mill Road based Lifecraft, The Edge Café and Romsey Mill have taken part.  From further afield Rowan Humberstone – Arts centre and forest school for adults with learning disabilities – Arts and Minds – using the arts to help people living with mental health challenges – and Cambridge Manor Care Home have all painted rocks for the garden. Mill Road Fringe thanks everyone involved including the volunteers who have put it all together. The site awaits its permanent sign which we hope will be designed by someone with local connections.

There is room for the garden to grow!

Just help yourself to one of the blank stones near the end by the gate, bring it back once you’ve painted it and place it in one of the frames. If you know of a group that would like to take part, please email

Displaying the rocks at Ditchburn Place will enhance the local environment and improve a piece of land that was previously barren. It is visible, so people walking along can enjoy looking at them and long lasting, as we can encourage anyone in the community to add their own rock. We hope it will be a feature of interest along Mill Road for everyone to look out for and enjoy.

To find out more about the Mill Road Fringe visit Mill Road Fringe – Mill Road Winter Fair 

If you have ideas for future projects, please email or 

Mill Road Community Centre

Let’s get organised!

Petersfield Area Community Trust are holding an ‘Open Forum’ on Wednesday 5th October, 7.30-8.30pm in the Old School Hall, behind St Barnabas Church, Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 2BD.

The meeting is open to all local organisations and individuals who would like to contribute to activities in the new Mill Road Community Centre, which should open before the end of the year.

The Community Centre will be jointly managed by Petersfield Area Community Trust and Romsey Mill.

Image of new community centre with Petersfield Area Community Trust logo
Text reads:
Wednesday 5th October, 7.30-8.30pm
Old School Hall, St Barnabas Church,
Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 2BD
Whether you’re part of a local community group, or a willing volunteer, come and join us to find out more, let us know your ideas, and tell us what you can contribute to community activities at this exciting new local facility.
Further details:
Your New Community Centre Needs YOU!
Click on the image to download a printable PDF of this poster.

For further details, email

Please note: this is not about potential plans for the old Mill Road Library. (See our earlier post Mill Road Library – a community asset.)

Mill Road Library – a community asset

Can the Mill Road community put together a sustainable plan for the old library?

Google street view of the Mill Road Library
Image: Google Maps

Update, a dedicated website has now been set up…

Support The Old Library Community Bid

It’s down to all of you, in the Mill Road community: if you would like to help local activists in their quest to put together a community bid for the former Mill Road Library, email

Earlier activity

On Wednesday 10th August 2022, local community groups received notice from Cambridge City Council that Cambridgeshire County Council intend to sell the former Mill Road Library building.

City Councillor Mike Davey (Petersfield ward) convened a meeting on Wednesday 7th September 2022 which was attended by over 100 local people.

The Grade II listed building, where community and cultural activities have always taken place, is on the City Council’s list of ‘Assets of Community value’ detailing buildings or land which are felt to provide an important service to their community.

More discussion will need to take place, but two local community groups have registered an interest in making a community bid under the Community Right to Bid rules, which means that it cannot be sold until February 2023, to give the local community a chance to compete with commercial groups. There is much work to be done to make this project succeed but also a large number of people eager to make it happen.

Many suggestions for how the old library could serve the community were mooted at the 7th September meeting. There was also warm welcome for the new Mill Road Community Centre which will be opening soon, on the Ironworks (former Mill Road depot) development and a determination that the two centres should work in close conjunction.

Suggested uses for the old library included:

  • an arts cinema, theatre, and venue for local musicians and literary activities
  • an art gallery and exhibition space focussing on local artists
  • a cultural space for Community Arts
  • a venue for the Cambridge Literary Festival

Speaking later to Mill Road Bridges, Piero d’Angelico, Mill Road Traders’ Association Ambassador, saw the old library project as analogous to running a business: “As a trader, I know what my outgoings are, and how much business I must do in order to cover my costs and make a living.” D’Angelico stressed that finding uses which generate a reliable income stream will be key to mounting a successful bid.

One attendee – a long-time Mill Road community activist – hoped that an arts cinema could provide such an income stream. Finding the right ‘niche’ would be tricky; there are three commercial cinemas in Cambridge – Vue, The Light, and the Arts Picturehouse. This latter, is part of a group undergoing ‘financial restructuring’. See: Cineworld files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in US.

It is worthwhile noting that Mill Road Fringe – an offshoot of Mill Road Winter Fair – will showed three films in September 2022. However, as these were free, they wouldn’t pay the bills!

Join Mill Road Fringe on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th September at St Philip’s Church for free screenings of three groundbreaking arthouse films.
These film nights herald the start of a new series of events by Mill Road Fringe over the course of the autumn, leading up to the return of the Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday 3rd December. The films being shown are Microcosmos, Rocks and Flee.
Each film is distinctively rich, remarkable and conveys diverse narratives/stories. All these film screenings have free entry and are likely to be popular, so do turn up in good time to be sure of getting a seat. Feel free to bring your own refreshments (alcohol not permitted) and enjoy the show.
The films have been curated by Hitomi Shinozaki and Tony Jones, of Cambridge Film Projects. They are presented by Mill Road Fringe, which works in association with Cambridge’s Mill Road Winter Fair to nurture and celebrate the area’s community, creativity and independence.
Click the image to visit the Mill Road Winter Fair website for full details

Jordana Learmonthe from Cambridge Art Salon, a hub of local artists, has written to Councillor Davey to pledge the Salon’s support by committing to use the exhibition space, if the facility is provided, and thus some rental income will be ensured.

Another commentator was in touch with Mill Road Bridges to suggest that the building be divided into two floors, with one floor being rented out to an organisation, or to small firms, that can pay a market rent. That could leave the other floor for any community-related functions that complement the new facilities being built, rather than competing.

A number of attendees observed that a brand new, purpose-built community centre, immediately behind the old library, is scheduled to open late this year, seeing it as essential that activities pursued in the old library building be complementary to the new community centre, providing a different type of activity. The general feeling at the meeting seemed to support this aim.

John Franks, Chair of Petersfield Area Community Trust, told Mill Road Bridges, “Using the old library as a generic community centre won’t pay the bills; we have a really good purpose-built one next door!”

Asked if there is now a clear plan, Franks told us, “It’s more the case that people are still open and looking for other ideas.”

Se also our earlier post Mill Road Library building for sale.

If it’s such an asset, why is it being sold?

It’s complicated… Here’s the view of local historian, blogger, and former civil servant, Antony Carpen.

I’m not going to go into the party political issues. I imagine this would have been a very tough negotiation between members of the [County Council’s] Joint Administration. I can’t believe that Labour councillors would have wanted the building to be sold off if there wasn’t a hope of putting together a bid for community ownership. But ultimately the past 12 years of central government austerity has meant councils across the country have had to take similar decisions because ministers and Parliament have not given them powers to raise revenues through much wider means.

Cambridgeshire County Council to sell the old Mill Road Library building,
Cambridge Town Owl (aka Antony Carpen) August 12, 2022

And a bit of history…

Sketch of The New Library, Mill Road, Architect J Waters
Image courtesy of Cambridgeshire Collection, F.F.J96 25963

Mill Road Library, most recently in use as a Hindu temple, and now to be sold by Cambridgeshire County Council, was opened on Wednesday 2nd June 1897, by the Cambridge City Council. The library passed to the County Council’s control when all of England’s local government was reorganised in the 1970s, finally closing in March 1996.

A brief history of the building can be found here – From Books to Bhajans – on the Capturing Cambridge website. Also worth a read is Mr John Pink: Founding Father of Cambridge’s Public Libraries, 1833-1906, by Cambridge Town Owl, January 9, 2018.

In 1998 the Indian Community and Cultural Association became the new tenants, and erected some beautiful carved stonework inside. However, all was not well…

The Indian community organisation that took over the library were granted a 25 year full repairing lease on a peppercorn rent in exchange for maintaining the building fabric. This building which is grade 2 listed was considered a financial liability to the County so this was seen as a zero cost way of maintaining the structure.

Unfortunately the lessees did not spend any money on external maintenance in 10 years allowing water to enter the building and cause extensive damage. The City Council which is responsible in law to ensure listed buildings do not fall into disrepair served notice on the County Council about the deteriorating state and the County sent in surveyors who […] estimated the repairs to be in the region of £300,000.

Frank Gawthrop, local resident and activist

More here: The 5000-strong Cambridge community fighting against eviction by Debbie Luxon, Community Reporter, Cambridge News, 12 October 2019.

This left the superb carved stones at threat of being tossed into a skip and used as hardcore. See our earlier post: Beautiful Indian stonework under threat. Thanks in no small part to Piero d’Angelico, Mill Road Traders Association Ambassador, the stonework, believed to be worth £500,000, has been saved and is due to be erected in Ditchburn Place gardens. See: Cambridge temple archway wins planning permission for park installation by Alex Spencer, Cambridge Independent, 20 May 2022.

This blogpost is open for comments but, if you are able to help, getting in touch with the Mill Road community’s activists to help in their quest to put together a community bid for the former Mill Road Library is much more important. Email

Mill Road Library building for sale

Image: Google Maps

On Wednesday 10th August 2022, local community groups received notice from Cambridge City Council that Cambridgeshire County Council intend to sell the former Mill Road Library building. Full text of this letter is shown below.

Dear community group,

I am writing to advise you that the owner of the former Library, Mill Road Cambridge, has notified us of their intent to sell the property.  This property is on a list of ‘Assets of Community value’ which is kept by the City Council.  This list has all of the details of buildings or land which are felt to provide an important service to their community and as such, if they are sold, community groups should have an opportunity to raise the funds to purchase the asset.  You can see the full list of Assets of Community Value here:  Community Right to Bid scheme – Cambridge City Council

The owner of the former library cannot sell the building for a period of 6 weeks from the date they notified us of their intention to dispose of the property.  This is called the ‘interim moratorium period’.  The interim moratorium will end on Friday 16th September 2022.  You are advised that should your community group wish to be treated as a potential bidder for the asset you must notify us of your intent within this period, at which point we will inform the owner. 

If you do wish to be treated as a potential bidder you will have until Sunday 5th February 2023 in which to develop a proposal and raise the money required to bid to buy the asset, so long as you have notified us before 16th September.  Please note that the owner can sell to whomever they wish – this process is simply to allow community groups time to consider whether they wish to bid and if so, to have time to raise the funds for the purchase.

You should be aware that in order to be treated as a potential bidder, interested parties must qualify as a community interest group by a) having a local connection with the land, and b) falling within one or more of the following definitions;

  • a charity;
  • a company limited by guarantee that does not distribute any surplus to its members;
  • an industrial and provident society which does not distribute any surplus to its members and is registered or deemed to be registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965; or
  • a community interest company.

There is some useful guidance on whether a body qualifies as a charity here:

For guidance on community interest companies you could look at:

If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.

Yours sincerely,

Julie Cornwell (she/her pronouns)
Community Funding and Voluntary Sector Manager
Cambridge City Council
On behalf of the ‘Community Right to Bid’ scheme

Amongst groups to receive the letter were Petersfield Area Community Trust whose chair posted:

We are disappointed that the building is being sold, as we hoped the County Council would find a new community use for this historic building on a lease that kept it within public ownership. However, this process gives community groups a chance to assemble a bid, and we would love to hear from any group who would like to do that. Cambridge City Council manages this process for any community asset in Cambridge, so we or any eligible group have until Friday 16th September to advise them if a group would like to take this opportunity. Giving the City Council a notification of an intent to bid would cause a moratorium on the sale until Sunday 5th February 2023, in order to give the group the chance to assemble the bid, although this is still a tough goal in just six months. We are sure there would be huge community support for an effort to buy the building, and its location just behind the new Mill Road Community Centre may provide new opportunities for community collaboration. PACT would be happy to hear from any group which is not sure of their own eligibility to trigger the moratorium.

John Franks, Chair of Petersfield Area Community Trust
Read the full Petersfield Area Community Trust news release here.

If you would like to help Petersfield Area Community Trust in their quest to put together a community bid for the former Mill Road Library, email

Local historian Antony Carpen, blogging as Cambridge Town Owl, posted on Friday 12th August 2022, in support of Petersfield Area Community Trust, giving some of the background to the library, and its recent travails.

You can read his full post here: Cambridgeshire County Council to sell the old Mill Road Library building.

It’s well worth subscribing to Antony’s blog to get email notifications; just scroll down and find where to enter your email and click the subscribe button.

And if you’re in a position to make a donation to support Antony’s ongoing work, you can do so here.

This blogpost is open for comments but, if you are able to help, getting in touch with Petersfield Area Community Trust is much more important.