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Garage on Newmarket Road, Cambridge earmarked for conversion to student accommodation

John Banks (left) at the Honda showroom
John Banks (left) at the Honda showroom

The John Banks Honda dealership in Cambridge’s Newmarket Road could become 200 student rooms under new proposals – but a councillor says the site would be better used for affordable homes.

Formal plans will be submitted to Cambridge City Council later this year, but leaflets promoting a public exhibition of the plans have been distributed to homes in the area.

Scheduled to take place on Tuesday, September 4, at 3.30-7.30pm, at the City Church in Cheddars Lane, the exhibition will offer residents a chance to give feedback.

London-based developer Future Generation is behind the scheme and is promoting it as the ‘Barnwell Gate’ development on its website, saying: “Barnwell Gate will deliver high-quality rooms, across a mixture of cluster en-suite flats and studios, and outstanding amenity spaces.

“This gateway development will be within an ideal location to host students enrolled across all of the city’s universities and colleges.”

But Cllr Richard Johnson, ward councillor and executive member for housing at Cambridge City Council, told the Cambridge Independent: “Abbey residents will be concerned to learn that, once again, a site on Newmarket Road has been identified for student accommodation, when a better use of the site would be to provide badly-needed affordable and social housing for families and individuals who live and work in our city.

“The developers have made assumptions on their website – for example, showing indicative prices for the rooms and so forth – that indicate they fully expect this to be waved through.

“If Future Generation did their homework, they would be aware that several developments over the last few years on Newmarket Road have been opposed by residents and tirelessly fought against.

“It is important that proposals for future development of Newmarket Road are shown to be sustainable and in the best interests of the area. From first glance, it appears that ‘Barnwell Gate’ does not meet those criteria.”

Mark Banks is the managing director of the John Banks Group, which owns garages and dealerships across Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Bedfordshire.

He said that the Honda showroom would move under the plans, potentially to Cheddars Lane, where it already has an MoT test station and workshop.

“Five or six years ago, we got planning permission to build our new Honda showroom at Cheddars Lane,” he added, “which was always the plan because Newmarket Road is a bit small for us.

“We’ve been struggling for space at Newmarket Road for Honda, so the plan has always been to move the showroom to another site.”

Mr Banks said that a government study showed that thousands more student homes were needed, adding: “The whole thing with student accommodation is the more students who get put into proper accommodation, the more houses will become available and people will be able to live back in the houses – instead of people buying houses and renting out six or eight rooms.”

John Banks launched its new Renault dealership in Swanns Lane last Thursday.


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