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Plans for redevelopment of Westbrook Centre in Cambridge into life science buildings ‘imminent’





Developers hope to submit plans to redevelop the 1980s office blocks at the Westbrook Centre in Cambridge into new laboratory space “as soon as next month”.

Representatives of the Reef Group told Cambridge City Council they plan to create “world class” research facilities by demolishing four blocks in Westbrook Drive, off Milton Road, and creating three new life science buildings.

How the Westbrook Centre could look under proposals from Forge_Kn powered by Reef Group
How the Westbrook Centre could look under proposals from Forge_Kn powered by Reef Group

The new buildings, ranging from three to five storeys, would comprise 60 per cent laboratory space and 40 per cent office space and the developers estimate they could be home to 1,075 full-time jobs.

A cafe is also proposed, as well as a linear park around the new buildings, and a playground near the Lilywhite development to the rear of the existing offices.

Sam Potter, design director at Reef Group, told councillors at a pre-application briefing last Thursday (January 25), that the company was “excited” by the opportunity to revamp the site, with its partly vacant and “tired” buildings.

The large amount of car parking and road around the perimeter of the site would be reduced and more garden areas created under the plans.

The existing Westbrook Centre in Cambridge. Picture: Google
The existing Westbrook Centre in Cambridge. Picture: Google

He said: “Our vision is to create world-class facilities as part of our wider platform. We want to create a life sciences research facility that Cambridge can be proud of.

“It is also very planning conscious and is looking to have a very long life cycle. We are making sure the buildings are adaptable should life sciences pass by and are looking at a 120-year life cycle for the buildings.

“We are very much focused on the community and making sure the scheme is led by their aspirations.

“We want to make something that will provide benefits to nearby residents as well as to the wider city.”

How the Westbrook Centre could look under proposals from Forge_Kn powered by Reef Group
How the Westbrook Centre could look under proposals from Forge_Kn powered by Reef Group

The carbon impact of the redevelopment was being taken into account, with the developers exploring what could be reused from the existing buildings.

Basements will be kept and no further digging will be required, said Mr Potter, but the existing offices cannot be converted into laboratories due to the shape and low ceilings making them unsuitable.

The number of parking spaces will be cut from 287 to 192, including 88 electric vehicle charging spaces, some of which would be available for members of the public. There will be 852 cycle parking spaces.

The Westbrook Centre . Picture: Keith Heppell
The Westbrook Centre . Picture: Keith Heppell

Water usage will be minimised and solar panels on the roof will provide power for the lighting.

Mr Potter said the public cafe would be near the entrance, close to a rainwater garden, at a focal point of the development around which the buildings would “pivot”.

Cllr Katie Thornburrow (Lab, Petersfield) said the focus on walking and cycling was “great”, but felt there “still seems to be a lot of cars”.

Tim Price, from the development team, said they had worked hard to reduce the amount of car parking proposed and highlighted that the planned cycle parking would provide for 75 per cent of staff.

However, he said people currently drive to the site and did not want to see a displacement of people parking on surrounding streets.

A CGI of the proposed Westbrook Centre redevelopment
A CGI of the proposed Westbrook Centre redevelopment

Cllr Katie Porrer (Lib Dem, Market) felt the reduction in the road space on site and the aim for low water usage was positive.

A couple of councillors asked questions about whether new access points would be created to neighbouring streets, in order to allow people to walk through the site, creating quicker routes to school, for example, as some residents had requested.

Mr Price said conversations were ongoing and there was a need to balance differing views, with some people in favour, but others voicing security concerns, as the Cambridge Independent has reported.

The development team said an application could be submitted “iimminently”, after some “finessing” and could come “as soon as next month”.



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