All change at Cambridge

Mat Owens 30 October 2008

Cambridge railway station is to undergo a multi-million pound redevelopment.

The CB1 project, which covers the station and 25 acres of the surrounding area, has been given initial approval by Cambridge County Council.

The redevelopment will cost a total of £850 million.

Described as “Cambridge’s first ever mixed use development”, the CB1 development is being directed by the property and investment business Ashwell.

Although the project focuses on the redevelopment of the station, Ashwell also plans to build 331 houses and 1,250 flats for Anglia Ruskin students, as well as a multi-storey cark park, office space and a hotel.

After nine hours of debate, which was concentrated on the lack of open space within the development, councillors approved the plan. Ashwell has offered £1.2million to create new open spaces elsewhere. The company had been told to amend their original plans, after a similar proposal was rejected in April 2006. Ashwell says that, following discussions with key groups including the public and Network Rail, they made important modifications to the scheme:

“We have incorporated as many of these changes as we can.”

Councillor Alan Baker, chairman of the Cambridge City Council’s planning committee, had blocked Ashwell’s previous proposal but said that the new plans “were considerably different” and had been approved as a result.

The amendments include opening up the vista of the station, a confirmed 40% affordable housing, increased pedestrian and cycle-only areas and a significant 23% reduction in overall size.

Yet there are still opponents to the proposal. Shawn Noble, campaigns’ officer for the Bateman Street and Bateman Mews Residents’ Association, told The Cambridge Evening News:

“The planning committee didn’t listen to the voice of residents.”

Rosie Coombs, a second-year classicist from Girton, also questioned the decision to invest in new facilities for Anglia Ruskin students but not for students at the University of Cambridge: “I do think it’s unfair. If it was the other way round, there would have been a massive fuss about unequal treatment of the two unis, but because it’s all going to ARU no one’s going to say anything.”

The worries of the residents, unhappy at the council’s approval of the plans, were echoed by John Hipkin, one of the two councillors who voted against the plan.

He expressed concern that the development would “usher in a version of the city I can best describe as a cluttered and frantic metropolis.” Despite these criticisms, the changes to the station are not expected to affect Cambridge students.

Mat Owens