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£100m schemes for Ekin Road and East Barnwell provoke debate at Abbey ward meeting in Cambridge

Residents heard about £100million redevelopment projects at the heart of Abbey ward at a public meeting organised by Cambridge City Council.

The schemes include a £54m transformation project at East Barnwell, where 120 new homes, a new parade of shops, new community centre and library, a pre-school and public open spaces are proposed. New sports and play facilities nearby would replace the existing Abbey Bowls Club and public tennis court.

Rachel and Maurice Chiodo, left, at table with council representative
Rachel and Maurice Chiodo, left, at table with council representative

Meanwhile, the future of the Ekin Road estate was also under discussion at the meeting held at Christ the Redeemer Church.

The council is considering its options after a report from its independent consultant, JLL, explored the benefits and drawbacks of refurbishment, partial redevelopment or full redevelopment of the homes in Ekin Road, which include 32 houses and 72 flats, plus 10 bungalows and eight maisonettes.

Residents expressed concern about the Ekin Road plans and, on East Barnwell, asked questions about whether the existing shops - especially the Spar and the pharmacy, but also the barber and the chip shop - would continue in new premises. The city council, however, has stressed that it has not yet finalised its plans and the meeting was an opportunity to hold a public discussion on the projects.

Residents at the public meeting at where redevelopment plans were debated. Below, council leader Cllr Mike Davey speaks Pictures: Mike Scialom
Residents at the public meeting at where redevelopment plans were debated. Below, council leader Cllr Mike Davey speaks Pictures: Mike Scialom

Opening the event, the council’s Labour leader Cllr Mike Davey said: “We’re here to introduce an ongoing consultation. We’ve got a £100m investment plan into just this bit of the ward, but to get it right we have to hear from you - this is not about us imposing on you, it’s about working with you, starting with the two sites on either side of Barnwell Road.”

Mike handed the microphone over to Sam Scharf, director of the council’s communities group, who rehearsed all the plans that are currently in the mix in Abbey ward, where the Marleigh estate is under construction, the Chisholm Trail has been developed and more housing could arrive on Marshall’s land.

Sam handed over to Ben Binns, who leads the city council’s development team and housebuilding programme. Ben outlined the East Barnwell plans and told the audience of about 150 people that comments were invited until 3 May.

Ben wanted to hear comments from people at the meeting, so the audience was divided into 11 groups, each seated at a table. The groups discussed their concerns for 10 minutes, and one member of each group was asked to give a two-minute summary of their group’s discussion.

Mike Davey, Cambridge City Council leader, addresses the public at Christ the Redeemer Church on Newmarket Road. Picture: Mike Scialom
Mike Davey, Cambridge City Council leader, addresses the public at Christ the Redeemer Church on Newmarket Road. Picture: Mike Scialom

The representative for table 1 said: “We had a good debate around East Barnwell. Our concerns are about parking, especially near community facilities, about buses, especially in the evening, and real concerns about what’s happening, the information available, and how the conclusions are reached - especially for Ekin Road.”

One member on table 2 reported: “We discussed the impact on local services, concerns around flooding in East Barnwell, the density of development, the needs of current residents.” A second added: “The computer-generated images of what East Barnwell might look like King Charles would call ‘a monstrous carbuncle’ and the area is in danger of becoming a sink estate in the long run.”

Table 3’s representative noted there were “some pressing questions” in Ekin Road and East Barnwell. “What are the chances for residents who won’t be able to move back in? How affordable will the rent be for shop owners who want to move back in? And will services be growing as the population grows?”

Table 4’s representative said: “We’re excited about the regeneration and the development, especially the shops area. Our concerns are Ekin Road, the size of the flats and access to services, especially GPs, plus concerns over the shops, especially the Spar and the pharmacy, which a lot of people currently use.”

Save Ekin Road protest outside the meeting
Save Ekin Road protest outside the meeting

Table 5’s spokesperson said: “We share that sense of optimism, but we are a little bit worried about residents being listened to, and the travel speeds of traffic through this area - and there’s a lot of talk about a community-run pub!”

Table 6’s representative asked: “How about a co-design instead of a consultation? That would get people engaged. We wonder about who the community spaces service, and are those the right spaces? Also everybody loves CoFarm - so how does this community sit with other developments in Barnwell?”

Table 7’s spokesperson said: “We’re positive that this is going to happen but overwhelmingly concerned about people and keeping people together.” A second speaker from the table added: “I’ve been reflecting on the 20 years since I’ve lived in Abbey and all that’s new has been a playground and a McDonald’s. We’ve waited so long, so can we be listened to? I see Clay Farm and The Meadows, and other community centres, and the Abbey community centre is poor related to them. Can we please get something decent?”

Table 8’s speaker said: “All our questions have been raised, except for whether the schoolchildren in local schools will be relocated - and concern about the number of lorries that are going to be turning up.”

Table 9’s spokesperson reported: “Our members are concerned about the timeline and the delays. They’re wondering where they’re going to move to, and when - six months becomes 12, then 18, and we don’t know where we are all going to go. Also we’re being forcibly relocated - we don’t want to go. There’s no reason to take these homes from us: the council sees us as collateral damage, individually and collectively. The council isn’t listening and it is telling us what they want us to do. They’re strong-arming us and bullying us, saying they can take our homes, but it’ll get stuck in the courts. The option to take down the flats and keep the houses has been rejected by the council for reasons we don’t understand.”

Table 10’s speaker said: “There is provision for community spaces but we would like outdoors space for events such as food trucks, and a performing area.”

And table 11’s representative added: “There was some opposition. Some people haven’t been reached out to, but having these meetings like today helps - it helps keep people in the loop.”

Future of Ekin Road.
Future of Ekin Road.

In response, Ben said that “there isn’t a definitive plan yet” around the continuity of service for the shops, and pleaded for the residents “to be a little bit patient because some things are out of our hands”.

“We’re expecting planning permission for Barnwell in June,” he said. “If we got the go-ahead we’d start work in the autumn of this year, and it would most likely be a two-year project overall. Hopefully by the next meeting you’ll see at least the start of a plan.”

Moving on to Ekin Road, a Cambridge City Council spokesperson stated: “No decision has been made. We are currently consulting, and will consider the feedback received during the consultation, before making a recommendation for councillors to consider at a future housing scrutiny committee.

“However, it is correct that the current consultation focuses on emerging designs for a full redevelopment option, in direct response to the report provided by JLL, who were appointed to provide an independent assessment of the options for the Ekin Road estate.”

The consultation runs until 3 May. Have your say here.

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