(Updated 21 March 2019)
The city has just received government funding to move the sewage works from the ‘North East Cambridge Area’, now designated for development. However, the design process is already underway and an online consultation is running until 25 March.
The site, situated north of Cambridge North station, comprises the sewage works, Cambridge Science Park and the business and industrial parks in between. The two halves are divided by Milton Road, a particular challenge for people walking and cycling. Some 7,600 new homes and 7,000 new jobs imply a highly urban development, one nearly the size of Ely, so clearly it has the potential to support more than modest local amenities. Indeed, its size suggests that the site could provide a secondary town centre within the limited confines of Cambridge. A new urban hub would alleviate pressure within the existing medieval centre, and offer alternative spaces to independent retailers, start-ups, or a major public building.
The capability of the site to deliver something different to Cambridge will only be inhibited by a lack of imagination, enquiry, and perhaps connectivity to Cambridge North, Milton Road, and Cambridge Station. Milton Road will be the primary route between the city centre and this North Eastern Quarter. The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is spending £23million on cycle and bus lane improvements, but will these now be enough to support this new development?
The council have professed an aspiration that the site will not contribute to peak time commuting, in or out of the city. An admirable goal, but why not push it further? By improving all cycle, pedestrian and bus routes, increasing the proximity of amenities and maximising access to Cambridge North, is it possible that the development could contribute to GCP’s commitment to reduce vehicular traffic by 10-15% from 2011 levels?
The inclusion of the Science Park within the area action plan gives real prospect to improving the connectivity of existing Milton Rd neighbourhoods with the new development and Cambridge North station. If a radical attitude emerges, the area could also incorporate other business or civic functions, realising a contemporary model of science park as seen elsewhere in Europe.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 13 March 2019.