Mill Road Depot

The planning permission application for the Mill Road Depot site is open to comment now – until Feb 2nd – and although there are bound to be complications, sooner is better. Probably the best overview is to read section 4 of the design & access statement, which I’m republishing here.


For the full documents, search for “Mill Road Depot” on the planning portal –
Click on the “184 dwellings…” application.


Depot Update – Good News!

PACT has had some really promising discussions with the city council (councillors, officers and the CIP) and the YMCA. We’re delighted to say that it looks increasingly certain that we will be offered a proper community facility based around the existing Gatehouse building, plus some extra space, which would be the existing link house (that’s the building between the Gatehouse and the library), or a similar new building but on the east side of the gatehouse instead of the south side.

The intent is to create a viable, independent community space under community lease or ownership, independent of the YMCA building but run in collabration with them (realistically, the YMCA have great experience in this and compatible aims, so we’d love to use that for the day to day running of the site).

This building is sadly at the Mill Road end of the site, when our priority is the lack of facilities at the north “St Matthew’s” end. However the CIP (Cambridge Investment Partnership, who are developing the site under 50% council ownership) have also worked to improve the access to the site from the north end, adjusting some house placement to make a more inviting entrance to Hooper Street, leading onto the green space and playground areas, and from there down to the Gatehouse.

Discussions with architects are going on, and hopefully soon we’ll have some kind of outline of the proposals to share and start to seek feedback and ideas to develop.

If you would like to get involved or you have an activity that Petersfield can’t accommodate – due to the kind of space you need or charges or accessibility or anything else, do drop a mail to . We will work to open up this process as things get more certain, including launching a major survey to help us find uses for the building whch don’t compete with other local facilities. In the mean time, we would love to hear from you – do come along too on Sunday to our Christmas Party on the Piece, on St Matthew’s Piece from 2-4pm.

Are the Mill Road Depot plans turning into another Cambridge disaster?

There’s real concern that the new plans for the Mill Road Depot are losing sight of the vision and ideas that were so well captured in the SPD.

Just compare the images below.

  • “Integration with existing communities” was important. But now, from the North end, access is no longer a generous green entry from Ainsworth St, with a view through the site. Instead, it’s a tucked away footpath with a view onto tall buildings. From the South end, the YMCA building sits on the previous position of paths, forcing pedestrian access to the site onto the narrow road past the gatehouse.
  • Both rectangular open spaces are lost and fragmented. These parcels of usable green area looked really valuable since we lack them in Petersfield. Now, the YMCA building sits on one, reducing the trees in the south east corner to simple screening of its large accommodation block instead of public space. The northern other appears fragmented, more overlooked and swallowed up to provide larger houses.
  • Community facilities – at least any decent hall space – seems set to be owned by the YMCA and so would be legally owned for their charitable purposes – setting Petersfield up to lose them if the YMCA decide a different building would better serve their purposes, like the Methodist Church did and the County Council did… We’ve also lost the dedicated community building, of course – an acknowledgement in the SPD that the issue locally is the lack of community-focused, inclusive, welcoming space and not rented rooms – there are plenty of those already on Mill Road.
  • Parking is set at 0.65 cars per dwelling, plus visitors. This is the average of the 2011 census for Petersfield and Romsey we’re told. On a site that has to be accessed from Mill Road, and is so perfectly positioned for trains, bikes and buses, owned by the city council, why such a backward looking target? Besides, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign reckons the actual surrounding streets are more like 0.5 or under today.
  • The YMCA also blocks future visions to incorporate the former Mill Road Library into a viable community space, by sitting so close to it, well beyond the scale of the buildings intended for that area in the SPD. We’re losing the former “gatehouse green” and so damaging potential use of both of those buildings.

It was all going so well… we understand there is a rush to help secure government support for social housing, but can’t we do better?

You can still respond to the latest plans at


The Mill Road Depot Opportunity

There is going to be substantial community space on the Mill Road Depot site. Please go to the consultation on Thursday. We have had discussions with the city council and CIP.
PACT wants to see a true Community Centre. However, we keep seeing the role of a “community centre” reduced to rented space and deals and conditions. We do need better rented space – the borrowed spaces locally lack things like storage and access to open space and so we miss out. But that is only part of the story – Petersfield is isolated, surrounded by the railway and the city centre, inside the river; it’s under pressure constantly, at the geographic centre of Cambridge but a conservation area of housing; much of the housing stock is officially deprived – small, dense, old – as well as having economic “pockets of deprivation”; its population is incredibly diverse; and it’s now had a baby boom and the children are staying put, not moving out of the area as before. We need a Community Centre – with those capital letters. We need a common space that is everyone’s. We need the silly teenage youth clubs that I look back on with embarassment; we need the toddler groups open to anyone; we need robust rooms that can be freely used and can be a hub for this community.
We can’t gamble again on another organization providing this. We need a true Community Centre which can’t be lost due to another organization having different long term priorities – as keeps happening, because of the nature and position of Petersfield.
Please go to the Mill Road Depot consultation at 3-8pm on Thursday at Bharat Bhavan, the old Mill Road Library, and tell them so.
John, Chair, PACT.

AGM Tuesday 28th November

PACT’s AGM will be on Tuesday 28th November, at 7:30pm in the Alex Wood Hall on Norfolk Street (generously made available by our local councillors). Motions by email to chair at . Our main focus of discussion will be the Mill Road Depot area, particularly community provision on and around the site.

HistoryWorks, who you might have seen at our Party on the Piece, are running a ‘Singing History’ project over the next couple of weeks. It’s free to take part and sounds like a lot of interesting fun! Flyer: Railway Singers pdf flyer

Dear Singers & those who’ve not sung for ages! Come & join a ‘scratch’ choir!

Please do join us for a series of FREE railway-themed singing sessions!

To celebrate our voices and our community Helen Weinstein and the team sourcing the stories and songs at Historyworks, (Mario Satchwell and Tizzy Faller, Bethany Kirby and Jon Calver), invite everyone to help us mark the contribution of the Railways coming to Cambridge in 1845, a transformative historical moment which saw opportunities for travels, cultures, connections. Many of the songs are inspired by local history research and have details taken from the fantastic Mill Road History Society’s “Capturing Cambridge” reports.


Lyrics inspired by Cambridge’s past have been especially composed by the poet Michael Rosen and CBBC’s Horrible-Histories songwriter, Dave Cohen. The lyrics have been arranged for our ‘Railway Singers’ by the Music Director, Mario Satchwell, and by the Music Arranger for the project, Bethany Kirby.  Movement sessions will be led by Rebecca Powell with support from Angharad Walter, Performing Art Instructors at Cambridge Stagecoach.

SESSIONS ARE FREE! You are welcome to attend ONE or A FEW or ALL

There will be gospel and soul numbers, folk songs and much more! The Railway Singers will meet this Autumn and perform at the Mill Road Winter Fair from 11am to 12 noon on Saturday 2nd December, starting with a concert in St Philip’s Church and if weather permits parading four blocks to sing by the railway-inspired sculpture of the ‘Romsey R’ when it is unveiled by the artists, Harry Gray and Will Hill on the corner of Mill Road and Cavendish Road.


Thursday 21st September 7.30pm to 8.30pm at St Philip’s Church Centre, 185 Mill Road, CB1 3AN; and afterwards there will be a social from 8.30pm-9.30pm or so when we will walk around the corner to view the art studio of Harry Gray, the sculptor of the ‘Romsey R’ where Historyworks will provide free refreshments for the social, including beer from the local Calverley’s Brewery, apple juices from the Cambridge Organic Food Company, cakes from Fen Ditton, crisps from Corkers of Ely!


Please note most of the singing and movement sessions are on Thursday nights from 7.30pm to 9pm but there are a few Sunday afternoon sessions for recording soundscapes and songs, learning movements to accompany the gospel numbers, and these are programmed for 2pm to 4pm so that singers can easily bring along friends and family to join in!  All the dates and venues are printed overleaf on the flyer.  Celebratory Sing-Along will be Saturday December 2nd inside St Philip’s Church with a Rehearsal at 10am and Performance at 11am!

Professor Helen Weinstein

Director of Historyworks

twitter: @historyworkstv


Mill Road Depot Consultation

So the consultation yesterday was buzzing with local interest, protest and opinions. The Cambridge Investment Partnership has uploaded all their presentations to their website. You can provide feedback there too (at the bottom).

You can comment to us on our facebook page or privately to our trustees by email to

Thoughts and observations –

  • We heard it whispered that 1 car per dwelling underground parking might be proposed though the typical modern ratio is around 0.4 so not sure yet. This is clearly a fantastic area for public transport, walking and cycling, but at the same time we need to avoid overspill onto crowded residential streets nearby. it’s likely a residents’ parking scheme will be in force on all nearby streets before completion, though, and Depot residents would be unlikely to qualify (normal for new developments, I believe).  What is needed? What can Mill Road take?
  • The Argyle Street Housing Co-op were around and keen to see cooperative housing on site. This is one way to ensure that the site is not all sold to commuters, and can control car ownership.
  • There was protest outside for a full site of council housing. We’re hearing “40% affordable” officially and “50% social housing” less officially but openly from councillors. I’d also like to see any housing that is sold, to be sold in a way that allows people to buy it to live in it – i.e. not a huge up-front deposit two years in advance (which only works for investors).
  • The community building is looking a bit small and near the busy entrance. We’d rather see if up near Ainsworth St, on balance, with easier access from it to a large area of open space – that is key for some users and would enable it to host events. The only thing which might work against that is wider community use possibilities for the old library building (Bharat Bhavan) or gatehouse.
  • The odd wall of buildings facing Ainsworth St on Hooper St is there apparently on conservation officer advice, instead of a green space view from Ainsworth St. I know which I prefer – that seems a bad move that has nothing really to do with the history of the area.
  • Green, open space is looking a bit squeezed but still largely the same.
  • Building heights look similar to SPD.
  • The Ainsworth-Hooper-Depot Chisholm trail still has those two very tight turns for cyclists.
  • They’re seeking ideas for the gatehouse building.