YMCA pulls out of Mill Road depot move - but Cambridge City Council says it leaves room for more council homes
PUBLISHED: 11:12 17 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:31 17 August 2018
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Liberal Democrats question why deal has collapsed so late in the day
Plans for the YMCA to move to a new development at the former Mill Road depot have “fallen apart” – but the city council says it will now deliver more council homes on the site.
The regeneration of Mill Road depot is being led by Cambridge Investment Partnership (CIP), a joint venture between Cambridge City Council and Hill Investment Partnerships.
Planning permission was granted for more than 180 homes on the larger part of the site was granted in March, with the city council pledging an extra £5.76 million to the project (which had previously been budgeted at £70 million) to ensure 50 per cent of the houses would be affordable.
Now another 40-50 homes are envisaged at the Mill Road end of the site, with half of the extra homes being owned by Cambridge City Council, and let through the council’s housing service to local people in need, and the rest available on the open market.
The extra homes were planned after it was revealed that the YMCA group, a youth charity which works in the community, would not be relocating from their premises in Gonville Place in the city centre to the new development, saying the move would not be “financially viable”.
A community building that was envisaged under the original plans will still be built by CIP.
Jonathan Martin, chief executive of YMCA Trinity Group, said: “We have worked very closely with CIP to see whether relocation could work but unfortunately it was not financially viable for us.
“While we understand this will be a source of disappointment, our primary focus is on providing the best possible service to young people in our local community and this had to be kept in mind when exploring all of the options available to us.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Rod Cantrill said he was worried about YMCA pulling out “so late in the day”, and questioned whether the city council would be able to meet its aspirations for providing housing. He said not being able to build on the site which would have been vacated by the YMCA in Gonville Place was a blow to further plans for building in the city.
“That opportunity has been lost,” said Cllr Cantrill. “This deal has collapsed in effect. It has fallen apart very late in the day. I have to question whether they can deliver these homes within the timeline.”
But Cllr Richard Johnson, newly installed as the city council’s executive councillor for housing, said Mill Road depot remained a major focus for the council. He said YMCA’s absence from the site would leave more space for “affordable and council houses”.
Cllr Johnson said: “We continue to be committed to regenerating the Mill Road depot site; it is key to our commitment to boost the number of affordable and council houses which is desperately needed.
“With the YMCA no longer planning to relocate, we will be looking now to increase the number of homes on the site to ensure it is used to its maximum potential. The CIP will be moving forward with the planned community facility as well.”
Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council, echoed these feelings, saying the council remained on track to delivering its full target of new homes. Cllr Herbert pointed to the city council’s recent purchase of the Ridgeons site in Cromwell Road, which he said would be used to help provide even more homes for the area.
Fiona Bryant, strategic director at Cambridge City Council, said: “The regeneration of Mill Road depot and provision of new homes will help to meet the desperate housing shortage in Cambridge.
“We are working to develop homes that are designed and built to high standards and a community facility that will serve people in the area for many years to come.
“We will now be focussing on increasing the numbers of homes to ensure that we are making the best use of every part of the site.”
The council intends to retain 20 homes on the site for rental at sub-market rents to tenants who do not qualify for social housing.
The Chisholm Trail cross-city cycle trail, being led by Greater Cambridge Partnership, will be integrated on the site.