You may be aware that Murdoch House, on the corner of Cambridge’s Station Square, is set to be replaced, but did you know that more buildings are planned to go up on the car park? Initial designs (currently being reconsidered) showed one about the size of the Ibis hotel/cycle park, containing a multi-deck car park and flats, and a second, also about 20m high, containing a mix of offices and flats.
Not only would these buildings be hugely out-of-scale with neighbouring houses, they would funnel a large number of cars, cycles and pedestrians into a narrow corridor between Devonshire Rd and Station Square. Conflicts and congestion are inevitable. There is also concern about how the cycle park would expand, as inevitably it will need to (an equivalent station in the Netherlands provides almost twice as much cycle parking as we have now).
The problem is that Network Rail requires car parking capacity to be maintained. The developer, Brookgate, therefore has to incorporate an expensive multi-deck car park, paid for out of sales of commercial and residential property within the scheme.
But Cambridge needs an inspiring mixed-use development more than car parking spaces. So, what if Brookgate didn’t have to build a replacement car park? It could then scale the buildings down, incorporate expansion space for the cycle park and include more ground-floor retail and office space, rent from which would replace lost parking income for Greater Anglia.
It would mean halving car park capacity from about 430. But let’s not forget that Cambridge North station has 450 parking spaces, and Trumpington P&R offers a cheaper alternative to parking at the station: £18/week, including a return ride on the ‘R’ bus (or just £5 if you bike it), compared with £43.70/week for parking at the station.
It would also strengthen the case for providing more parking at stations outside Cambridge: Foxton, Waterbeach and a new parkway at Six Mile Bottom.
If the councils are serious about reducing congestion and building more housing, the station is the best place to start demonstrating how to reduce car dependency.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 24 May 2017.