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Homes in Cambridge's Montreal Square saved from demolition after protests





Campaigners are celebrating the news that a housing association is no longer planning to demolish homes around a square in Cambridge.

Residents first heard in 2018 that charitable housing association Cambridge Housing Society (CHS) Group was considering demolishing 18 homes at Montreal Square to make way for a new development.

Current residents were set to be relocated elsewhere while the new development was built, which would have put 42 homes on the square by reducing the size of the gardens.

Montreal Square Residents Association complaining about the proposed development of the square. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59102630)
Montreal Square Residents Association complaining about the proposed development of the square. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59102630)

But following a huge campaign, including months of weekend protests outside the Co-op on Mill Road, the demolition plan has been scrapped.

Last week, residents received notification from CHS Group that homes were now set to be refurbished instead of being pulled down.

Long-time resident Marti King, who led the campaign, was delighted.

She said: “I’m very grateful that they’re not going to demolish Montreal Square because I had no intention of leaving here unless it was in my box!”

Residents and supporters protest against the redevelopment of Montreal Square..Picture - Richard Marsham. (59102570)
Residents and supporters protest against the redevelopment of Montreal Square..Picture - Richard Marsham. (59102570)

Meanwhile, Cllr Dave Baigent (Romsey, Lab), who supported residents and campaigned with them to save their homes, said: “It is fantastic news that the square has been saved. We met with them (CHS Group) just before Covid and made the argument very strongly that they had a responsibility to the tenants and that they couldn’t just carry on and make a decision like this. We got there in the end.

“I think that this is the way forward on such an unpopular idea and it’s such a very special place in the minds of many people.”

A petition to save the square received more than 4,000 signatures. Some of the residents have lived in the square for more than 40 years, while others have been there for at least two decades. Many residents were elderly and had concerns about moving from their homes and some have been in ill health.

Save from demolition protest at Montreal Square, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59102606)
Save from demolition protest at Montreal Square, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59102606)

Now, Andrew Osborne, a Unite the union representative who lives nearby and helped with the campaign, said a weight had been lifted from people’s shoulders.

He said: “Everyone is absolutely over the moon. It’s a great result for the residents who will now finally get the repairs they need to their homes. We think that our campaigns forced CHS Group to stop in their tracks back in 2019, before the pandemic hit.

“I think they finally got the message that we would not let them get away with knocking down our friends’ houses.”

A spokesperson for CHS Group said: “After careful consideration of the views of the Montreal Square residents, alongside all other contributing factors, including the Tree Preservation Orders, the outlook for government funding of new-build homes and the need for more affordable homes in Cambridge, and the direction of government policy regarding improvements to energy efficiency and carbon emissions reduction, CHS Group has decided not to progress with plans to redevelop Montreal Square.

“While the originally proposed redevelopment of Montreal Square will not progress, CHS Group plans to carry out work to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and ensure the homes meet the Decent Homes Standard. To fund this work, it is likely that CHS will have to sell some houses at Montreal Square when they become empty.

“Each property at Montreal Square will be surveyed individually to assess what improvements need to be made. CHS Group will be meeting with tenants individually in the coming weeks to discuss the planned work and answer any questions or concerns they may have.”



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