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£54m East Barnwell redevelopment ‘over the top and out of keeping’





A £54million redevelopment project planned for one of Cambridge’s most deprived areas has come under fire, with residents arguing it includes “too many homes”.

But it is not just residents who are unhappy with the plans for East Barnwell, with Camcycle opposing the “excessive land allocation to cars”, the local highways authority objecting over access, and businesses worrying for their future.

An illustrative image of the public plaza and shopsArtist’s impressions: CIP
An illustrative image of the public plaza and shopsArtist’s impressions: CIP

A planning application has been submitted for 120 homes, along with a new library and pre-school facilities as well as commercial premises, across two sites near the Newmarket Road and Barnwell Road roundabout.

Residents have said the design of the development would overshadow homes in Rawlyn Close, with those behind the plans accused of focusing on getting the “biggest bang for their buck”.

The scheme is being developed by the landowners, Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge City Council. It will be delivered by the Cambridge Investment Partnership (CIP), the joint venture between the city council and housebuilder Hill.

Site one is currently home to Abbey Bowls Club and tennis club, which are both proposed to be relocated to the Abbey Leisure Complex.

The second site is made up of the parade of shops and the flats above (1-23 Barnwell Road), the library and flats at 634-656 Newmarket Road.

The proposals for the two sites include 120 affordable homes, which will be a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom flats and maisonettes.

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

Among those impacted by the plans are local businesses, who say there has been “no effort” put into temporary premises for them during the development.

“This has been managed at other sites but was deemed as difficult or too complex to factor in here. However, McDonald’s, for example, will remain entirely unaffected. But our businesses, who provide services as a community asset, will be put out of business,” said a statement from the Spar supermarket.

The statement continued: “The need for cramming in extra housing has clearly overtaken the very needs and best interests of the community around it who will be impacted in so many ways by these very ambitious and over-the-top plans which are simply just not in keeping with refreshing a sustainable and well thought-out residential/ community. It will ultimately end up looking like all of the other block buildings going up around Cambridge that hold no spirit or character.”

The Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service has received 16 comments on the plans, with 14 objections and two pledges of support submitted.

“This feels like an over-development in a small area with the only access to this new development being through Rawlyn Close. Rawlyn Close is a small cul-de-sac with access to parking along the close very limited.

“The additional flow of traffic through the close will be too much of an overload, the road is way too narrow to take even more than usual,” said one respondent.

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

Another added: “It doesn’t blend in with the local community and neighbouring properties and the possible loss of local businesses such as Spar, chip shop, barbers and chemist. People rely on these businesses daily, especially the old and vulnerable living nearby in the residential housing. Sometimes knocking things down and rebuilding isn’t the best option.”

One Rawlyn Close resident wrote: “The proposed development will destroy the character of the close, with significantly increased traffic flows from over a hundred homes, a pre-school, commercial premises and much more which the local road infrastructure was never designed to carry. This will have a knock-on effect, worsening traffic noise, congestion, sound and air pollution for the local community.”

Another added: “The proposed development of buildings up to six storeys high is not sympathetic to the local character and look of the area; there are currently no buildings of over three storeys high or of similar architectural design in the near vicinity. The parcels of land of site 1 and 2 are too small for the commercial, communal, residential and open space proposal of this size to be fully supported and sustainable within the local area.”

The redevelopment is proposed to include 50 car parking spaces for people living there, and 16 car parking spaces for users of the community centre and shops. Secure cycle parking is planned to be provided within the new flat blocks.

Illustrative image of the redeveloped East Barnwell sites Picture: Cambridge Investment Partnership
Illustrative image of the redeveloped East Barnwell sites Picture: Cambridge Investment Partnership

Josh Grantham, Camcycle’s infrastructure campaigner, said the plans provide an opportunity to create a new high-quality neighbourhood and a community hub for the local area.

“However, we are concerned to see how much of the site area is dominated by car parking,” he writes.

“The proposals dedicate significant amounts of the developed area to facilitating car use, whilst doing only the policy minimum to support sustainable forms of transport; it should be the other way around.

“We believe that this development could be almost entirely car-free, with the exception of a number of disabled and car-club spaces.”

Josh said CIP should strike to set an example of how development in Cambridge should progress, especially in terms of sustainability.

“We feel this proposal falls significantly short of the mark,” he wrote.

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 lead local flood authority has also raised an objection to the proposals over drainage. The council says the new housing will aim to deliver sustainability levels as close as possible to Passivhaus standards, and the whole development will be gas-free with all flat roofs being green roofs.

The new community centre and library on the western corner of Barnwell Road and Newmarket Road will feature new public open space on what is currently private land, and one commercial unit that could become a café. Over the road, there will be new commercial facilities alongside green spaces.

However, one respondent to the plans noted: “Much is made in the planning application about the new green space and play area which is being allocated on site 1. As a father of three children, I can’t say I would feel comfortable for my children to use this space, being so close to such a busy road. I’m sure other parents will feel the same way.”

A third site, which includes land occupied by the current community centre, associated facilities and the multi-use games area will be decided at a later date.

The redevelopment is estimated to cost more than £54.5million, with the city council hoping to receive a £9.1million grant from Homes England. The council has held consultations on the plans in 2022 and earlier this year, with 55 per cent of those completing a survey strongly agreeing or agreeing with the plans. However, this survey was only completed by 77 people.

Cllr Gerri Bird, executive councillor for housing and homelessness, said: “We’re really excited about the potential at East Barnwell to build 120 new much-needed affordable homes for local people. We’ll be replacing 18 aging flats with 48 new ‘social rent’ homes, as well as 72 ‘affordable rent’ homes for people who are unable to afford the high market rents in Cambridge. All the new homes will be modern, sustainable and gas-free.

“The new development will also have enhanced pedestrian and cycle routes to encourage sustainable commuting, and all flat roofs will feature green roofs for effective rainwater management. Our plans also include new community, library and preschool facilities, open spaces, and new commercial premises. We’ve consulted with affected residents and businesses and will continue to communicate and take people’s concerns into account in the coming months. We’re really proud of our good track record of supporting those who are impacted by regeneration schemes like this.”

Comments can be made on the planning application by visiting the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning website and searching for 23/04687/FUL.



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