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St Matthew’s Centre plans: Student accommodation in Cambridge compared to a spaceship

Residents are up in arms about plans for a new student accommodation block that they say is a “monstrosity” and “looks like a spaceship”.

The proposed new St Matthew’s Centre in Sturton Street
The proposed new St Matthew’s Centre in Sturton Street

The proposed St Matthew’s Centre is next to the St Matthew’s Pieces park and would be built on the site of the former Howard Mallett community building, which is currently being used as a dance studio.

The site, which previously belonged to Cambridgeshire County Council, is now owned by Federated Hermes which wants to build student homes that could serve university students in the city.

But nearby resident Janet Wright complains the proposed building is a “monstrosity”, adding: “I often enjoy this pretty little park, one of the very few public green spaces in our densely populated neighbourhood.

“The huge building – 19.7 metres above ground level at its highest point – is totally out of keeping with its surroundings. It would visually dominate the area, which is surrounded by small two-storey terraces and single-storey buildings.”

Petersfield ward councillor Richard Robertson said: “There’s been a long history of people trying to impose development on St Matthew’s Pieces which was originally an open space for local residents and it is under threat yet again. Somebody has likened it to a spaceship, other people have said it’s an architect on steroids. Local people have so far expressed real concern at the size and the design of the proposal.”

An ouline of the proposal for the St Matthew's Centre
An ouline of the proposal for the St Matthew's Centre

He urged residents to copy councillors in to any responses they send to the developer’s consultation.

A spokesperson for the developers said the redevelopment “will generate additional funds to invest in St Matthew’s Piece and help meet the challenge of accommodating Cambridge’s student population”.

The spokesperson added: “The building has been designed by RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect, aLL Design. It will be a highly sustainable building, achieving a Breeam ‘excellent’ rating, a sustainability credential attained only by the top 10 per cent of new developments.

The current site in Sturton Street
The current site in Sturton Street

“A new café will be opened within the rear of the existing building, with a large area of outdoor seating opening on to St Matthew’s Piece to create an ideal spot to relax for regular and first-time visitors to the park. The new student accommodation will be professionally managed and help ease the pressure on existing housing stock.”

Visit stmatthewscentreproposals.co.uk.

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