Planning Application – Former Sally Ann’s

Caro Wilson writes:

Please do take the time to study the details of the planning application and add your comments.

A recent view of the former Sally Ann’s shop, Caro Wilson

Readers may not be aware that before 44a Mill Road was the Sally Ann’s shop it was Fine Fare, Cambridge’s first self-service supermarket.

Fine Fare, Mill Road, courtesy of the Cambridgeshire Collection, from the Capturing Cambridge website

Before that it was The Playhouse, Cambridge’s first purpose-built cinema.

Playhouse c1936, from the Capturing Cambridge website

Do take note of its pedimented roof line and do go and take a look at the side wall where generations of children waiting for the Saturday film show carved their initials and made holes in the brick work with their copper pennies.

Side wall August 2015, photo by Simon Middleton, from the Capturing Cambridge website

Read all about the history of this important building 44a Mill Road on the Capturing Cambridge website, compiled by members of the Mill Road History Society

Your comments on the planning application on the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning portal could help to persuade the owners of this site to preserve as much as possible of its important heritage.


See also Redeveloping the Mill Road Playhouse Cinema, 26th September 2020, on the Lost Cambridge blog.


Whilst you may add comments below, these will not be seen by officers of the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning partnership, nor be taken into consideration by the Cambridge City Council Planning Committee.

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