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. 

Devonshire Gardens, Cambridge

Digital consultation

Douglas Higgins, Project Director at First Base, writes

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to introduce First Base and our emerging proposals for a new mixed-use neighbourhood in Cambridge.

We would like to invite you to our planned public consultation and associated workshops to help inform our plans.

The site, currently a Travis Perkins depot, is located on Devonshire Road, close to Mill Road bridge and is five minutes’ walk from Cambridge station. Travis Perkins will be relocating to a new state-of-the-art branch in Cambridge, providing an enhanced offering to its customers.

First Base – with RPMI Railpen (the investment manager for the railways pension scheme) – acquired the site earlier this year. We have already started discussions with local stakeholders to help guide our plans for a modern mixed-use quarter, comprising homes, workspace, leisure, and community spaces, arranged around new public gardens. The development – which aspires to be largely car free – will include a dedicated cycle hub and will create new pedestrian and cycle routes linking it to the station.

Click the image to read more on the dedicated Devonshire Gardens website. Image courtesy of First Base.

As part of our wider discussions with stakeholders and other interested groups, we are launching a digital public consultation on these proposals running from 09.00 on Monday 30 November until 21.00 on Sunday 13 December 2020, providing the local community with an opportunity to view our initial ideas for the site and share any comments and feedback.

This information is available here, on the dedicated Devonshire Gardens website. In addition, the consultation is being promoted across social media and in the local press, with newsletters posted to residents in the surrounding area and a freephone telephone number provided for questions and queries 0800 130 31 31.

We will be hosting a series of public webinars during this period, which will include a live, online presentation by – and Q&A with – members of the project team.

The first workshop was:

Topic: Character and Sense of Place
Date: Wednesday 2nd December 2020 (12.30-13.30)
Location: Zoom Meeting Platform (Online)

Read Charlotte de Blois’ review of the first two Zoom meetings here.

We are also running workshops on Walking, Cycling and Active Travel and Liveability, Health and Open Spaces. Please do let us know if you would also like to attend either of these.

These workshops will provide us with a deeper understanding about issues and opportunities relating to the site itself and how it relates to the wider neighbourhood and beyond. As such, we would greatly appreciate your insights. All workshops will be recorded and uploaded to our website if you are unable to participate in the live session.

If you would like to attend any of the above sessions, please RSVP to info@devonshiregardenscambridge.com and we will send you a welcome pack with more details. Alternatively, if you would prefer to discuss the scope of these sessions over the phone, we would be happy to arrange a convenient time to speak with you.

In addition, if you would like to be put in touch with a particular member of the project team regarding our proposals for the site, please mention your interest within your RSVP and we will contact you to arrange a conversation.

In the meantime, if you have any questions specifically relating to our upcoming consultation, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,

Douglas Higgins, Project Director at First Base


Liam Ronan‑Chlond​, Stakeholder & External Relations at First Base adds:

In addition, you may be interested to know that we are also researching the current Mill Road offer to better understand the local character, in a short exploratory survey here.


Further indicative sketches and details of First Base’s aspirations for the Development can be found here, on the First Base website.


Whilst this blogpost is open for (polite) comments, please note that these will not form part of First Base’s consultation, nor will the Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire Joint Planning Service be able to take into account any views expressed here, when a planning application is, eventually, submitted.

AirBnB on Mill Road

Has this affected our sense of place?

We have been approached, indirectly, by a local A-Level Geography student who is doing a project on the impact of Airbnb on Mill Road.

I am an A level student completing my NEA (coursework) by studying how the prevalence of AirBnBs has affected the sense of place along Mill Road. This is a very short survey , but will be invaluable for my coursework. Thank you for your time.

A-Level Geography student

If you do have the time, both the student and their teacher would be really grateful if you could fill in the short survey through this link.


Further comments may also be left at the foot of this post.