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