Controversial consultancy firm takes charge in redesign of Cambridge’s New Museums Site

Ashley Chhibber 7 November 2013

A consultancy firm recently embroiled in controversy over a proposed wind farm project in Lincolnshire has been appointed to redevelop the University of Cambridge’s New Museums Site.

As the new West Cambridge site grows, key services such as the University Computing Service (UCS) are moving away from their New Museums offices. New Museums, which is in Cambridge’s core Conservation Area and contains many historic buildings (including the listed Cavendish Laboratory), is therefore due to be upgraded by Cambridge City Council. LDA Design has been appointed as lead consultants.

The decision to employ LDA Design is problematic, as it has recently been involved in a controversial scheme to install wind turbines at Gayton Le Marsh, Lincolnshire. Although the vast majority of criticism in this case was directed at developers Energiekontor, LDA Design was also attacked for a seemingly heavy-handed approach to local residents’ views.

According to Saltfleetby Parish Council(SPC), LDA Design stated that “guidance… does not have to be adhered to at all times or in all situations”. This allegedly allowed LDA Design to ignore the criticisms and objections put forward by local residents.

LDA Design was also criticised for its comments on issues ranging from visual and light pollution to the impact on local wildlife. The SPC claimed that LDA Design underestimated the negative impact of the project on residents.

As the New Museums Site is used by both members of the university and local residents, the redesign is likely to involve a long process of consultation. Physical changes to the site are unlikely to take place before 2016.

Nevertheless, Alister Kratt of LDA Design described the project as “a significant opportunity to establish a coordinated ands ustainable plan for the New Museums Site based on a vision that will provide a fresh identity for this part of the city”.

Regulations and public interest will demand care and sustainability in this redevelopment.