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Sketching out a future vision for Cambridge market

By Ben Comber

Market Fountain proposal - Jerry Lander, Freeland Rees Roberts
Market Fountain proposal - Jerry Lander, Freeland Rees Roberts

How can Cambridge's market square be improved for residents, traders and shoppers?

Market wishlist

■ Fountain restored as gathering place with seats and drinking water

■ Temporary artworks

■ Performance space in front of the Guildhall

■ New level surface retaining historical context

■ Bus stop north of Great St Mary’s Church

■ New benches, lighting and toilets

■ Underground bike park

■ Underground waste storage

A Cambridge architect is working with heritage charity Cambridge Past, Present and Future to put forward a new vision for the city’s market square – and they are asking residents to get involved in the conversation.

Calls for a facelift of the market area were made in the run-up to the city council’s budget allocation in February, but councillors did not set aside any funding for a redevelopment project.

Despite this, the long-running project seeks to generate discussion about the potential focal point that the market could become.

14.015 Market Square Option 2 Fountain near Guildhall
14.015 Market Square Option 2 Fountain near Guildhall

A key link between Rose Crescent and Petty Cury, which have some of the highest retail rents in the city, Cambridge PPF says the square could better connect the spaces, keeping shoppers in the city and allowing the market to flourish.

Freeland Rees Roberts architect Melanie Hey said: “People like the market and don’t want that to change, but on the other hand they would like it to be multi-use and would like more places to sit and enjoy the square.”

She said the existing layout of the market makes it hard to cross the square, and it is not an ideal space to stage performances and protests.

201770307 Market Square Fountain Option 3 View from the north
201770307 Market Square Fountain Option 3 View from the north

She also said the Guildhall could be made more inviting and accessible, with internal space in the foyer that could house art or the city’s historical documents and archives.

Three options are being presented, with a new fountain as a focal point. The current fountain, which is said to be in need of repair, has changed location multiple times in the history of the square and the idea of moving it again is being floated.

Beyond a minimal approach to revamp the square, which would see space around the fountain cleared and the rubbish compactors moved, the fountain could be placed in an open space in front of the Guildhall, or on the far side of the square where it would act as a sun-trap, encouraging people to stay in the area.

“Although people like the square and like the market they just don’t feel that it’s the right place for the centre of Cambridge,” said Helen Bradbury, who is leading the project for Cambridge Past, Present and Future. “A lot of the issues are basic – it shuts down after dark, it becomes anti-social, it has one purpose.

“People said they thought the fountain was dilapidated, that they would like water running again and there shouldn’t be a rubbish compactor in the middle of our city. It doesn’t feel salubrious and it doesn’t fit the city as it is today. And it’s particularly noticeable given that it sits alongside Senate House, which has beautiful stones, benches and tiles.

“We ought to have a centre of our city that’s a nice place to linger and not just a very shabby, dilapidated cousin of the university spaces.”

Market Square - Option 1 - Freeland Rees Roberts

Click to view

Market Square - Option 1 - Freeland Rees Roberts Market Square - Option 2 - Freeland Rees Roberts Market Square - Option 3 - Freeland Rees Roberts

And the benefits could go beyond aesthetics. A study by the Judge Business School has shown that regenerating the market square could bring 10 per cent more footfall to the centre of the city. As a connection between Rose Crescent and Petty Cury the area has also been designated as an important link that could make shoppers want to stay in the city centre.

Professor Peter Landshoff, Cambridge PPF, said: “It would also be a benefit to the market traders. There would be a better layout and better conditions so people would be more willing to go in wet weather, bringing higher footfall.”

“Lots of people would linger and then they would shop,” Ms Bradbury added. “There would be a knock-on effect around the centre of Cambridge.”

There is a list of possible upgrades to be considered, and residents can contribute their thoughts to the discussion by emailing letters@iliffemedia.co.uk.


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