Devonshire Gardens Q&A

Zoom sessions 2nd & 3rd December

By Charlotte de Blois

The former Travis Perkins site is coming up for redevelopment. It is a site earmarked for housing and, in advance of creating designs for the scheme,  a series of Zoom consultations have taken place hosted by Finlay McNab of The Devonshire Gardens Team. They took place this week on Wed 2nd, Thur 3rd and Fri 4th December.

The purpose of these meetings is to identify design priorities which are in accord with local  needs and aspirations. City Cllrs. Mike Davey and Richard Robertson together with County Cllr. Linda Jones participated. In addition there were half a dozen other interested people from local community groups. There were 3 sessions:

  1. Sense of Place and character,  
  2. Liveability, Health and Open Spaces,
  3. Cycling and walking.

Very soon the first meeting on Sense of Place and character started straying off-topic onto Open Spaces. It is not easy to identify what Mr McNab took away from the discussion although at one stage he asked whether he was right in assuming that the community was not interested in the physical style of the built environment but in how space was used. Several participants contested this, and stressed that physicality was important to the community and the use of traditional building materials is valued.

Click the image to visit our earlier post Devonshire Gardens, Cambridge

Participants also stressed that there was a strong sense that creating an ecologically rich environment is important to our community and this should extend beyond allocating open space for grass and providing play equipment for infants. Flower gardens with seating were identified as important, tree planting and possibly roof gardens were mentioned. A participant from Marmalade Lane co-housing community made two valuable observations.

  1. Tarmac is an important material for infants, how else can children learn to skate or ride bikes?
  2. Community gardens and food gardens would fit in well with Mill Road as the road is all about good food!

Thursday’s meeting concentrated on landscape design and the need for open space to provide benefit to a wide range of demographics. The discussion started from the agreed premise that open space is important for physical health and mental well-being; in addition there was a strong lobby who consider that the opportunity to cultivate is a basic human urge and the presence of plants mitigates the ill-effects of pollution.

Community participants stressed that teenagers often used open space more than other groups and that they often felt vulnerable in places where there are dead ends. There was almost a consensus that wild open space worked well on many levels, particularly if tree planting was accompanied by planted undergrowth which encourages bio-diversity.

There was strong support for providing moving water in public landscapes. Inclusivity was considered a priority which led the discussion on to management structures for community organised facilities such as cafés and gardens. A participant argued that 2 seater side-by-side benches where not good for social interaction and that movable seating should be provided. Other suggestions were mazes bordered by hedges which a) provide long runs and a sense of travelling in a really small area and b) satisfy or stimulate a sense of curiosity and adventure in all age groups. 

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