Residents opposing demolition of their Montreal Square homes in Cambridge plead to be left in peace
Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner says he can't support redevelopment plans from CHS Group if community opposes them
Residents fighting plans to bulldoze their homes to make way for a new development say they “will not be broken”.
More than 1,300 have signed a petition on change.org calling for a halt to proposals to demolish Montreal Square in Cambridge.
The residents, some of whom have lived in the square for more than 40 years, say they will continue to fight the plans being consulted on by charitable housing association CHS Group. They have now gathered the support of Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, who says he cannot support a plan opposed by the community.
A spokesman for the Montreal Square Residents’ Association told the Cambridge Independent yesterday (Tuesday): “Residents, including the elderly and vulnerable, feel it’s time to end this and allow us to live in peace. Maybe CHS’ enthusiasm would be better directed at maintaining the site as very little has been done in the past 10 years to this site.”
Residents first heard in January about the possibility of 18 homes being demolished to make way for the new development, which would bring more affordable homes to the area by reducing the size of the gardens.
CHS Group told them that if the plan proceeded, they would be moved into temporary accommodation, and could move back into new homes.
One resident said: “We won’t be broken. We won’t give up.”
Among those affected are people who have lived in the square for more than 40 years. Many others have lived there for two decades. Some residents are elderly and have concerns about moving from their homes, while others have been in ill health.
A number are concerned that they will be moved to areas that are further away from their places of work.
“They don’t want to move. They’ve put so much into their homes,” said the resident.
The families are considering legal advice from charities like Age UK.
Dave Baignent, the Labour city councillor for Romsey, said: “I think it would be a tragedy if they changed Montreal Square. The disruption it would cause would damage that community. There is nothing left to recommend this process.”
A spokesman for the Romsey Liberal Democrats said: “We are backing Montreal Square residents because mini-communities that make up Romsey are important and one with green space and mature trees doubly so.”
Nigel Howlett, chief executive at CHS Group, said support would be offered to residents if the demolitions went ahead.
“CHS is exploring the possibility of redeveloping the land at Montreal Square to increase the number of affordable homes, but no decision has yet been made,” he said.
“Consultation with residents is taking place, both individually and with a specially formed residents’ committee. As a charity, CHS has a duty and a desire to provide as much affordable housing in Cambridge as we can. We understand that redevelopment would be very disruptive for residents; we have to balance that against the benefit of providing new affordable homes.”
Mr Howlett said support would include “guaranteeing that everyone can return to a brand new home in Montreal Square with similar rents and lower running costs”.
In the meantime, everyone would be found “alternative temporary accommodation” in Cambridge at a rent no higher than they currently pay.
He said residents would also be given the chance to get involved in the “design and specification” of the homes.
CHS will offer to split the redevelopment into two phases and will commit to making sure the new development would have a “generous” amount of green space. It will pay a “home loss payment” of around £6,100 per household, and pay for moving costs.
But Mr Zeichner said: “I quite understand the very strong feelings expressed by residents of Montreal Square, as there were when this idea was previously considered six or seven years ago.
“CHS are in a difficult position – they have to balance the interests of current tenants alongside people who desperately want housing in Cambridge. I believe that they have to persuade a majority of current tenants that a redevelopment will work for them, preserving the green space which is so important in Romsey and improving current homes. Despite their reservations, I would encourage tenants to take part in developing potential plans and then make a decision, which should be respected.
“I cannot support any proposals that do not have the backing of the residents and local community.”