Trinity Investment Management (not connected to Trinity College) acquired the Grafton Centre in 2022, and are now consulting on changes to the centre that keeps a smaller number of shops, retains the gym and cinema, but converts much of the building into laboratories for science research.
The proposals include:
Reducing the number of shops to reflect the growing number of empty units at the centre – but retaining some retail and leisure, including the cinema and gym, alongside improved public spaces around the centre
Improving the connectivity for cyclists and pedestrians, restoring some of the historic connections that were blocked when the Grafton Centre was built
Repurposing as much of the existing structure as possible – to limit disruption to neighbours and minimise the amount of carbon-intensive demolition and construction
Delivering much-needed research space for promising science start-ups – a sector which is growing and needs more lab space across the city
Whilst this post is open for comments, and readers are welcome to debate the issues around the proposed development, this does not guarantee thatTrinity Investment Management will be able to engage with them on this platform.
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
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.
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: https://qrcodes.pro/nPGeLI.
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.
Put the date Saturday 3rd December 2022 in your diary.
Mill Road Winter Fair is run entirely by volunteers. Could you become one of the fabulous team of people who give just two hours of their time to help steward on the day of the Fair, Saturday 3rd December 2022?
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Can the Mill Road community put together a sustainable plan for the old library?
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.
It is worthwhile noting that Mill Road Fringe – an offshoot of Mill Road Winter Fair – will be showing three films soon. However, as these are free, they wouldn’t pay the bills!
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.”
It’s down to all of you, in the Mill Road community: 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 info@PACTcambridge.org.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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 info@PACTcambridge.org.
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.
Pavement clutter might seem trivial, but it is a serious problem.
It can make getting around hazardous, especially for disabled people, older people and those with young children. If we really want our streets to be safer and easier for walking, it’s time to tackle this.
The Living Streets Cambridge group are campaigning at a local level. Blogger, vlogger, local historian, community reporter and all-round good egg, Antony Carpen, has filmed this short video highlighting some of the issues. Mill Road Bridges is happy to support this week of action.
Antony produced this video without charge for Living Streets Cambridge. (Maybe we should say ‘pro bono’, this being Cambridge). If you would like to support his work please consider visiting Antony’s Ko-fi crowd-funding page and making a donation.
In an earlier blogpost – Pavements for Pedestrians – we have highlighted the hazard posed by the misuse of Mill Road’s pavement by vehicles parking, loading and unloading, together with the failure of Cambridgeshire County Council to exercise their powers to prevent this, at no additional cost to council tax payers. (And it’s not just a problem for Mill Road.)
Living Streets (nationally) is calling for local authorities to prioritise clearing footways and pavements through measures including (but not limited to):
Banning all A-board advertising on the pavement
Putting in place plans and budget to remove excess or unused street furniture (eg signs and poles, guard rail and utility boxes or phone boxes)
Providing guidance to businesses using pavement space for outdoor entertainment that they must maintain a 1.5m pavement width
Ensuring maintenance of trees and hedges that encroach on pavements
Making a commitment that EV charging points and cycle storage will only be placed on pavements where 1.5m clearance width for pedestrians can be maintained; where there is insufficient space on the footway road space should be reallocated eg through the use of well-designed build outs.
Ensuring that rental e-scooter parking is placed on the carriageway, and not on pavements – there is no need to sacrifice pedestrian space in order to support micromobility.
Some poor (and good) practice along Mill Road
Traditional street furniture
A Rogues Gallery of vehicles along Mill Road’s pavements
The display-boards seen behind the cycle stands are on shop forecourts, but how many pedestrians know the difference?
The cycle stands in the slideshow below, however, are much better sited, being off the footway and well to the side of any pedestrian desire-lines.
A guest post from Valerie Neal, a Friend of St Matthew’s Piece
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.
Trees in Petersfield
Consider how poor is the tree cover generally in the surrounding area. Our little St Matthew’s Piece is Petersfield’s only official park (versus the 56 parks in the other 13 Cambridge wards; see the 2018 Cambridge Local Plan’s Appendix C). Petersfield is poorly provided for not only with regard to Public Open Space but also when it comes to tree canopy, number of trees, and tree coverage. All of this while Petersfield has the most densely housed population in Cambridge, living in properties that are predominantly very small houses or flats (with little or no private gardens; see p24 of the most recent Friends of St Matthew’s Piece submission to the Planning Portal).
Friends of St Matthew’s Piece are not the only ones to have noticed. A recent (late 2021) pan-European study included Cambridge in its review of 1000 cities – Green space and mortality in European cities: a health impact assessment study [The Lancet, VOLUME 5, ISSUE 10, E718-E730, OCTOBER 01, 2021]. This revealed that 68% of Cambridge residents do not have the WHO-recommended access to green space.
These 68% are, naturally, not evenly distributed across Cambridge. The Environment ‘Domain’ of the latest iteration of the Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation reveals that the area around St Matthew’s Piece falls into the 2nd most deprived of 10 decilesnationally, with regard to this parameter.
All of the splendid mature trees around the (now, tragically, privatised – in 2018) northern half of St Matthew’s Piece have continued to thrive, thanks to the twin protections of Tree Preservation Order No 4/2005 and their location within the Mill Road Conservation Area (1993). The benefits are mutual: these trees are themselves vital to the Mill Road Conservation Area. Check Tree Preservation Orders on the Cambridge City Council website here.
But that does not mean these precious trees are safe.
A New Threat
On 15th March, a scant week before the 22nd March deadline set by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning for the submission of comments, Friends of St Matthew’s Piece learned by chance of the ‘tree application’
22/0271/TTPO | T1, T2 & T3: London Plane – Reduce height by ~5m and spread by ~4m balancing crown of all three trees. Prune on a triennial cycle to maintain broadly at reduced dimensions. | St Matthews Centre And St Matthews Piece Sturton Street Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB1 2QF
This proposed a brutal cutting back of three of the original 1898 trees along Sturton Street: each by 5 m in height and 4 m in spread. Why? To address problems detected in a 25-year-old property at 193 Sturton Street – a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). The papers on the planning portal concerning 22/0271/TTPO are viewed by Friends of St Matthew’s Piece and other Objectors as scanty, flawed and contradictory, building a very weak case for any cutting back any of the trees – never mind all three trees.
The trees are still at risk. The local community responded magnificently to an appeal from Friends of St Matthew’s Piece to defend them. Within five days, no fewer than 43 local Objections to the planning application were submitted. 28 have been uploaded under the ‘Documents’ tab of the Planning Portal for 22/0271/TTPO; as well as 15 Comments (all objections) under the ‘Public Comments’ tab. The objections are thoughtful, well-informed and effective – worth reading.
If you wish to add your voice to these Public Comments, you can register and submit your views right until the application goes to a meeting of the City Council Planning Committee.
City Councillor for Petersfield Ward, Richard Robertson, has ‘called in’ the application, which means it can no longer be decided by a Planning Officer but must go before the Planning Committee to be determined. We don’t yet know when this will happen (the next meetings are 14th June and 6th July 2022).
The insurance company could spend upwards of £80,000 to underpin 193 Sturton Street, to address the subsidence they have found there since the summer of 2019. The alternative they propose instead is to severely cut back our three protected trees and spend around £8,000 to repair the cracks and redecorate. They argue that the damage to the house is due to the trees taking up too much water, and have tried to prove this by measuring the movement of the house at 8 different points over the course of 1 year, running May-to-May. Here is their graph:
But are our trees the true cause of this subsidence?
The lower curves on the insurance company’s graph, the ones showing the most movement, all echo precisely that seen – on a matching May-to-May horizontal axis – in the annual variation in soil moisture deficit (SMD). This 2nd graph is from the Environment Agency, based on more than 60 years of data. This shows a predictable and well established regional seasonal pattern in soil moisture deficit:
Parts of 193 Sturton St have therefore been recorded as moving entirely in synchrony with the:
firmly established, and
annual cycle of soil drying under the property. This occurs over the entire East Anglian region – irrespective of any effect of trees on St Matthew’s Piece. It is the view of Friends of St Matthew’s Piece that no evidence is produced in planning application 22/0271/TTPO that crown reduction and spread reduction of our three trees would have any significant or sustained protective impact at 193 Sturton Street – in the inescapablecontext of this annual hydrogeological cycle.
Furthermore: many houses are just as close to St Matthew’s Piece trees but it is only this one that has cracks – the problem seems to be with this new house, not with these old trees.
How many more Cambridge trees will face similar threats, when the fundamental problem is unlikely to be the trees themselves but over-abstraction of water associated with over-development and its impact on the local water table?
If you would like to join Friends of St Matthew’s Piece or assist in any of the issues raised in this blogpost, kindly hosted by Mill Road Bridges, please email Friends of St Matthew’s Piece.