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£100m investment in Cambridge’s Abbey ward to be discussed at public meeting





A public meeting will be held to discuss the future of Abbey ward in Cambridge, where up to £100million in investment is proposed for the coming years.

Residents, community groups and business representatives will be given updates on a series of projects - some of which have already provoked strong debate - at the initial meeting on Wednesday, 13 March.

Plans for the redevelopment of the East Barnwell local centre site Picture: BPTW
Plans for the redevelopment of the East Barnwell local centre site Picture: BPTW

Cambridge City Council says it wants those attending to contribute to how the ward develops and envisages an ongoing conversation.

Lying to the east of the city centre, Abbey has the unenviable title of Cambridge’s most deprived ward - and was the only one to become more deprived between 2015 and 2019.

But new homes, jobs and support for the local economy are envisaged via a number of projects under discussion, including work in East Barnwell and on the Ekin Road estate and another funded by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Cllr Mike Davey, Labour leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “There are some really exciting changes in the pipeline for the Abbey area over the coming months and years. Our aim is to ensure that everyone in the community benefits from them, and that no one is left behind.

“Abbey is a vibrant part of our city, with a real sense of community. Along with our many partners, who are involved in a huge range of projects focused on Abbey ward, we share a vision for it becoming an even better, fairer, healthier place to live in the years ahead.

What a new community centre and library could look like at the redeveloped East Barnwell local centre site. Picture: BPTW
What a new community centre and library could look like at the redeveloped East Barnwell local centre site. Picture: BPTW

“To do that we need to have regular, meaningful dialogue with the many different groups – residents, sports and leisure clubs, faith groups, businesses, schools and more – who make up the community here.

“We think that a more frequent way of engaging with everyone will be a great way to keep those conversations going and to help Abbey residents have a real say in the future of the place they call home. So, we’re inviting everyone to attend the first public meeting on 13 March and look forward to seeing people there.”

Nicky Shepherd, CEO of the community charity Abbey People, told the Cambridge Independent: “It is no secret that Abbey is a part of the city that has struggled with deprivation and under-investment compared with the rest of the city.

“At Abbey People, we are pleased that work is now being done to start to tackle this inequality in a more coordinated way.

“Any level of change can be scary for people, especially when their homes and jobs are affected. There is a large amount of development planned for the area over the next five years, and it is really important that the community is involved in decision-making about things which will affect their lives.

Cambridge City Council is exploring options to redevelop homes in Ekin Road
Cambridge City Council is exploring options to redevelop homes in Ekin Road

“Abbey is an area with a vibrant community of people who feel strongly about the place where we live. Abbey People welcome the opportunity for residents and businesses to be involved in the conversation with the city council and urge people to come along to the meeting to start co-creating a better future for the area.”

The public meeting will be held from 5.45-7.30pm on Wednesday, 13 March at Christ The Redeemer Church in Newmarket Road.

East Barnwell

Work is due to begin this year on transforming East Barnwell, creating what the council describes as a “vibrant new centre” at the heart of the ward.

Barnwell shops would be affected by the proposed redevelopment. Picture: Keith Heppell
Barnwell shops would be affected by the proposed redevelopment. Picture: Keith Heppell

This will begin with two sites either side of Barnwell Road, where the landowners - the city council and county council - plan:

- 120 sustainable council homes built to rigorous energy-efficient Passivhaus standards so that they maintain an almost constant temperature, are gas-free and feature water-saving measures;

- new community facilities, including a community centre and library, pre-school and public open spaces;

- modern commercial units to replace the Barnwell Road shops – an idea that has prompted some concern, with a petition launched to save the family-run Spar on site that has served the community for more than 30 years. The council says it is “working with commercial tenants to ensure continuity of services during development”;

- new green spaces, landscaping and planting, while existing trees and hedgerows will be retained “wherever possible” and an aim of increasing biodiversity by 20 per cent; and

- new sports and play facilities nearby to replace the existing Abbey Bowls Club and public tennis court.

Plans for the redevelopment of the East Barnwell local centre site Picture: BPTW
Plans for the redevelopment of the East Barnwell local centre site Picture: BPTW

The £54m plans have come under fire, however, with concerns voiced that the changes will represent over-development, cause traffic issues and damage the character of the area.

The first planning application for the scheme was submitted in January by Cambridge Investment Partnership, a joint venture between the city council and builder Hill.

Ekin Road estate

As the Cambridge Independent has reported, the city council appointed independent consultant JLL to review options on the potential refurbishment or redevelopment of the Ekin Road estate and it has now published its recommendations ahead of consultation in March.

Ekin Road residents outside The Guildhall before the councillors meet. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ekin Road residents outside The Guildhall before the councillors meet. Picture: Keith Heppell

Work here is part of a wider process of assessing older council homes in need of repair across Cambridge, with the city council saying it must balance financial viability with the benefits of refurbishment or redevelopment.

Three options have been under consideration include the partial redevelopment of the site, with 20 houses to the south and east retained, a full redevelopment or a partial one, with the retention of existing buildings, with essential repairs and retrofitting undertaken. JLL says the biggest benefits would come from a full redevelopment.

But the Save Ekin Road campaign group is calling for only the flats to be demolished and replaced and the houses on the estate to be retained.

Some residents in Ekin Road are upset about redevelopment plans that could mean they lose their homes. Picture: Keith Heppell
Some residents in Ekin Road are upset about redevelopment plans that could mean they lose their homes. Picture: Keith Heppell

The group has said that a “vast majority” of people living in the flats on the estate want them taken down and warned the conditions in some of the flats was “dire”.

However, the group has argued that the 32 semi-detached houses on the estate are still in a good condition and that there is no need to demolish any of them.

The estate has more than 120 homes in total, including flats, bungalows, maisonettes and houses, some of which are council-owned.

Focus on Abbey and grants

Some £282,000 has been allocated to the ward via the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund for a project called Focus on Abbey, which is bringing together people from the community, voluntary, charitable, public and private sectors to support community-led projects.

These are aimed at empowering local people to improve the quality of life in the area, including providing additional support for Abbey residents unable to work due to long-term health conditions.

Other community-led projects developed by the city council with partners include one for local parents to help ensure their children get a fair chance in their education and future careers, and another that is building a business model to support efforts to give people better access to healthy, affordable food that is sustainably produced.

Meanwhile, the city council’s own Community Grants Fund is continuing to fund projects including a food hub, a junior youth club for 8 to 13-year-olds, networking events and farming sessions for members of the community at the nearby Cambridge CoFarm.

£1.75m for Abbey Leisure Complex

About £700,000 of government money has been awarded for decarbonisation projects at the Abbey Leisure Complex pool, along with investment of S106 developer contributions totalling £265,000, which have paid for a new water slide and outdoor fitness equipment.

Later this year, a joint partnership with the Football Foundation will bring an £800,000 investment for the redevelopment of the artificial pitch at Abbey Leisure to a new 3G rubber crumb pitch.

It means the total investment in sports and leisure in Abbey ward is more than £1.75m.



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