New life for Lion Yard, but has it had its nine already?
One of the largest shopping centres in Cambridge could be getting a facelift that would drastically change a busy area of the city centre.
A hotel, relocated nightclub and new shop facades are part of plans for the Lion Yard. Developer Aberdeen Standard Investments says the proposals would “sit with the architecture of [St Andrew’s the Great] church” and give it “more breathing space”.
But local historian Allan Brigham wants the area returned to the public space present in the 1970s.
He says the plans overshadow the church, which “with its churchyard is the historic gem framing the mall”.
Mr Brigham said: “The latest plans seem to add yet more coffee shops to a Cambridge already full of coffee shops, while crowding in the church which is one of the only surviving historic buildings in this area – and cutting down the only surviving tree.
“With the need for retail spaces declining do we need these plans? Isn’t The Grafton centre expanding already? The Grand Arcade thrives. Shouldn’t we be focusing on improving the market area? Or on bringing the neglected Regent Street into the city centre?
“How many times does this failed shopping mall need a new lease of life?
“And wouldn’t the lost street pattern and historic buildings have provided the sort of townscape visitors expect to find when they visit Cambridge?”
He said the Sports Direct extension should be reversed to make space for a public square that used to exist, which was “crowned by a public garden in the sky, proudly named after Heidelberg, our twin city”.
Henry Webber, associate asset manager at Aberdeen Standard investments, which is proposing the changes, said: “What we are proposing falls into three broad projects.
“The first of which is the piece round St Andrew’s Church. At the moment, there are rather small retail units that have been consistently challenging. They are a bit dated, and there are some structural issues.
“We are looking at taking these down and, in their place, we will be putting in more units which will sit with the architecture of the church. There will be the same stonework and themes. It will give the church more breathing space. We want it to be a space where people can meet and linger.”
Mr Webber said they were hoping to get a larger space with restaurants and cafes, and planned to attract “smaller, independent artisan brands” rather than large chains.