Plans submitted for 100 rental homes and workspace in Devonshire Gardens
Developer First Base and RPMI Railpen have submitted plans for the Devonshire Gardens development in Cambridge for 100 build-to-rent homes and 120,000 sq ft of wellbeing-focused work space.
The proposals will transform the three-acre site, currently a Travis Perkins depot, and will include a park, creche, pavilion, artists’ studios, 120 trees, and walkways and cycle paths to supporting the ambition for a sustainable car-free neighbourhood.
The apartments will be available to rent at market or discounted rates. They are designed to meet the city’s net-zero carbon ambitions, powered by electricity from renewable sources and will have solar panels, rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and optimised natural light.
Olaide Oboh, director of partnerships at First Base, said: “In city centres we have got to diversify the uses to make more compelling spaces. City centres can be dominated by retail – with mixed use, you can have homes and workspace within a walkable distance. When we were in lockdown, we realised just how important that was – being able to live close to work, to walk and cycle.
“As a developer, we believe in creating sustainable places. Bringing a mix of uses enables that to happen – that is what we are doing in Brighton, Bristol and Milton Keynes, and now Cambridge. We want to create places where people want to be.”
She said a community consultation process had help to shape the proposals. “We had a unique consultation engagement because of Covid and we took a very digital approach. We got a really great response with about 3,000 people from right across the demographic,” said Olaide.
“We don’t have all the answers, and we got to understand what people like and dislike.
“We are delivering a creche, artists’ studios, a park, green space that attracts wildlife – that is in response to the feedback we have received to complement what’s available locally.”
And she said green space was central to the plans: “We want to bring more greenery into the city for people to enjoy.
“The community around the scheme is very residential and we want to attract them to come in, chill out, read a book, and we want to encourage more wildlife back with a wide variety of ornamental and edible plants.”
Unusually for a new development in the city, there are no homes for sale.
“This is 100 per cent rental and will be managed by one landlord,” said Olaide. “We are conscious that major towns and cities are out of reach for many local people, so why not have the opportunity to live in central Cambridge at a more accessible entry level? Rental is a viable option.
“We have one, two and three-bedroom homes so people can scale up when their circumstances change or down as their circumstances change. You can live there for as long as you want.”
On the likely timescale, Olaide said: “The application has gone in and we anticipate a decision by the end of the year. It will take a couple of years to build, so we are talking about 2024.”
Doug Higgins, project director, First Base, said: “Over half of the total site area is being opened up as new public open space and at the heart of this will be a community pavilion for everyone to enjoy, which we are asking local people to design.
“I would like to extend my thanks to local residents, businesses, councillors, officers and stakeholders who have taken the time time to meet with us and comment on our proposals. This valuable feedback has truly helped to shape our plans.”
Richard van Lente, senior development manger at Railpen, said: “Railpen already holds significant investments in Cambridge and will continue to look for opportunities to invest in economically, socially and physically relevant opportunities in places where people want to live, work and play.”