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Concern that University of Cambridge's riverfront regeneration would affect beauty spot


By Josh Thomas | Local Democracy Reporter


The Old Press / Mill Pond area would be transformed by the plans
The Old Press / Mill Pond area would be transformed by the plans

Scheme poses 'serious risk' to Coe Fen, warns former conservation manager

An “ambitious” scheme to regenerate a section of Cambridge’s waterfront with shops and restaurants poses “a serious risk” to the character of a neighbouring beauty spot.

There are big plans for the redevelopment of the area around Mill Lane and Silver Street in Cambridge, with proposals to demolish some buildings, including the warehouse opposite The Mill pub. The plans will make way for a large riverfront area with shops, restaurants, and open public spaces in the popular city location near Coe Fen and Laundress Green.

Since 2014, the University of Cambridge has been working with Darwin, Pembroke and Queens’ colleges to develop a masterplan to regenerate this quarter of the city.

Dr Jason Matthews, director of estates strategy at the university, said the new riverfront would provide “a vibrant place for people to meet and exchange, with hand-picked restaurants and cafes set against the backdrop of the Cam”.

However, some have expressed worries about the plans for the area, with fears significantly more people could arrive.

John Preston, a Cambridge resident and former historic environment and conservation manager at Cambridge City Council, said the plans could have a negative effect on the character of the area.

“I think there is an awful lot that is unresolved,” said Mr Preston. “There are questions on cycle access.

“What we have at the moment is a real pinch point and, at the moment, the GCP (Greater Cambridge Partnership) is proposing for two greenway routes to come through Coe Fen and into the area.

“I think there is a serious risk to the character of Coe Fen. It is very much a rural space in the centre of the city. It is a difficult balance at the moment with people who use the space.”

Mr Preston also said it was “a shame” to lose some of the buildings, including the large warehouse building next to the Anchor pub, which he said made up part of the character of the area and contributed to the street scene. He said it would be preferable to find better ways to use the buildings rather than demolish them.

Newnham councillor Lucy Nethsingha said she was worried about the implications of more transport accessing the area.

“It is an astonishingly ambitious plan,” said Cllr Nethsingha. “There is a lot to look at, particularly on some of the frontages in Silver Street. There are some buildings they are suggesting may be demolished that are very sensitive. It is a gateway into Cambridge, and I have some reservations about that.

“My main problem is with transport. They are talking about a significant increase in people going there and it is already very crowded.

“We would expect Cambridge University to be very ambitious in their plans, they are an ambitious institution. But, from a council perspective, we would have to be careful about whether that part of the city can cope with that scale of development.”

The university says it hopes the plans will improve the area and that they will work to improve the transport infrastructure alongside new developments.

Senior pro-vice chancellor Duncan Maskell said: “As a leading employer and presence in the greater Cambridge region, the university recognises its responsibility to the community as well as its own staff and students.

“It is therefore a key partner with local authorities in the City Deal that will deliver improvements in transport infrastructure and housing.”

Cllr Nethsingha said cycle capacity was an important factor to consider and noted that it could be dangerous to exceed that. She said extra accommodation was a good idea, but questioned whether this was the right location for it.

The plans have not yet come before Cambridge City Council’s planning committee for scrutiny.



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