North East Cambridge Area Action Plan Issues and Options 2019
Representation ID: 32585
Respondent: Mr Andrew Milbourn
I think we have apprehensions about high buildings. One can point to areas of Europe, where buildings of 5 stories combine good communities, independent shops, decent parks and play areas. Unfortunately, CB1 has not delivered the advertised quality of life for many. This is prevalent nationally, e.g Limehouse Marina which is like a ghost town. It would be good to have some examples where this has worked for new build in this country and why.
High developments seemingly attract transient populations which are not conductive to new communities or long term families.
Consider that once you have the required space between buildings, the overall density is not as much more than medium densities. Microclimate affects to consider include shading and cold winds being dragged down to street level.
I haven't managed to find the Consultation Strategy Document but I am making some comments based on your email. Firstly, I would like to say that we welcome the initiative that you are taking to consult with local residents.
I don't think it is anyone's fault but I don't think that the project has really been noticed much by local residents despite several articles in local newspapers. It is a bit like IT projects where given a blank piece of paper people don't know what they want, but faced with the actual system can definitely say they don't like it. I think what is happening needs to be articulated in the way of more concrete examples, although I appreciate this is difficult.
I don't think the scale of the project has been really expressed. The number of homes represents a development the size of Ely, but this is not the impression that really comes across. The consultation needs to address the issues which are likely to be of most interest to residents such as:
* Impact on traffic congestion and transport. This is going to be a big worry.
* Impact on services, such as medical services and local schools.
* Quality of architecture, is this going to anonymous architecture that could be anywhere in the world. Will it just be very high flats?
* Quality of life for the inhabitants and community.
* Sense of identity and place.
* Provision of genuinely affordable housing, not based on the official definition.
Residents will be as interested in how the objectives of the development will be attained as much as what they are. Developers wriggling out of undertakings to provide good communal space, quality of build and basic infrastructure have been the norm rather than the exception. Issues around The Station Square, The Marque and Cambourne Secondary School are just the tip of the iceberg. There needs to be detail on how these kinds of problems can be prevented.
Related to this, objectives need to have metrics which can be measured and enforced. A developer in Cambridge considered that having a shed in the garden was sustainable housing and this kind of rhetoric is very cheap. It needs to be things like, say, "Heating needs to be reduced by 75% compared to existing standards".
There is a concern that, for instance, it is assumed that traffic on the development will be low because owners cannot have cars. However, this may not work if other people in the houses have cars and owners use cars registered to family members who live elsewhere. There needs to be explanation of how critical measures are really going to work. Not allowing off street parking may not mean fewer cars. Unless there is a completely watertight ban on cars then having no off road parking will just lead to displaced parking problems elsewhere.
[REDACTED] has suggested the following in terms of communications., A leaflet drop advertising the exhibitions and giving information to residents. Leaflets and posters at local Libraries, community centres, doctors' /dentists' surgeries. The political parties should advertise the dates too but unfortunately residents in King's Hedges (which involves half of Milton Road) don't seem to get these -No problem West Chesterton where the voting is tighter. I don't know the situation in East Chesterton. Posters at bus stops.
Distributing leaflets to houses is the obvious way to distribute. Anything else is going to be problematical.
There are lessons to be learnt from the Milton Road Project. This started off fairly disastrously but there is now a good relationship between residents associations and the project. [REDACTED] deserves a lot of credit for building good relationships in an [REDACTED] role and the project has actually take on board with what residents have suggested. There has been a cost to the project to do this but I think that the benefits in terms of quality of outcome have been immeasurable. Having someone as a residents contact is essential. Although I am kind of reporting back it maybe useful to have a presentations to residents association members and other key stakeholders. The Milton Road project has had various Local Liaison Forums and this could be a model to use.
In terms of area I think what you suggest is about right although I think that Hurst Park Estate would also like to be included. I might include West Chesterton and an exhibition at Chesterton Community College.
In terms of electronic communication I would add that I am struggling to find documents amongst council papers and we need a webpage with links to the documents of interest to residents. The residents associations do have some social media, but many residents don't really engage with this, although if you can provide content it can be distributed. I assume you could use things like Facebook advertising to send information by location, but I don't imagine it would be cheap.
There doesn't seem to be much recognition of noise as a problem. As the development is right next to the A14 this is something that needs to be addressed. It is something people living at Orchard Park often comment on. The only solution I can see is having noise barriers which really work, but the last I heard the about the barriers for Milton Country Park was that they did not look like materialising. The danger is that this is a downshift on quality of life before we have even started.
It is difficult to see how there can be other than a minimal bus service unless local government has some control over the service, as in London. There is often talk of the Mayoralty having powers in this respect, but unless it can be sorted out properly beforehand, when there is some leverage, then this aspect of the project is probably doomed.
One would hope that cycling provision is designed into the plans coherently in all respects from the outset. Even on completely new developments it seems that the cycling facilities are fitted around everything else, as an afterthought, so are not properly linked together. The lack of proper bike routes to The Triangle and Station bike parks would be an example.
Assuming that this can be sorted out then you need to think about improvements to cycle provision across the board so that people can make entire trips across Cambridge with ease. Although improvements are being made it is generally where it is easy, such as Arbury Road, rather than where it is necessary, e.g. East Road roundabout.
Another problem is lack of decent lighting on cycle routes, even when they are new and purpose built. The cycle track next to the guided bus on Kings Hedges Road is treacherous at night as it is pitch black. The Arbury Park cycle path is currently being built but The County are refusing to provide decent lighting on it.
Height of Development
I think we have apprehensions about high buildings and we will need some convincing. Certainly, one can point to areas of say, Berlin and Paris, where buildings of 5 stories combine good communities, independent shops, decent parks and play areas. Unfortunately, CB1 has not delivered the advertised quality of life for many people and it seems that this country, for whatever reasons, is very poor at achieving what is desired. I was at Limehouse Marina this week and it was a like a ghost town. It would be good to have some examples where this has worked for new build in this country and why.
The danger is that high developments attract transient populations which are not conductive to new communities or long term families.
Something to consider is that once you have the required space between buildings etc. the overall density is not as much more than medium densities. There are also micro climate affects to consider such as shading and cold winds being dragged down to street level.
I think most would agree that decent independent shops would be part of the mix. However, expensive new shops will likely just be small clone towns. Leases need to be cheap and controlled by the council as this is the only way you will get independent shops.
I would be apprehensive about having hotels as the architectural quality of new hotels in Cambridge has been dreadful. If it is easy to rectify this one would ask why is the proposed hotel by the Grafton Centre as dreadful as all the others?
No doubt there will be a lot of debate about this but, as I mentioned in my previous email, we need to avoid management by wishful thinking. The Centre Parcs approach of having cars stored on the periphery of the development directed away from the city centre may be worth considering, but it is always tricky doing things with concrete which haven't been tried before. We must be wary of things being superficially sugar coated, such as calling a multi-storey car park a car barn, although I see that it is for residents to keep cars in and there is a distinction there.
If people are going to walk then the environment must not only be safe but be perceived by them to be so by the inhabitants. We assume that there is a body of knowledge that can be used to implement this. There is an issue locally that the council have significantly cut the level of street lighting to save money and most people think that it is now completely inadequate. There will need to be a level of lighting that people are genuinely happy with which will need to be much more than the current council "standard".
Milton Road Project
There has been a Cost Benefit Analysis of the Milton Road Project. How does this fit in with the Northern Fringe? As the latter is not yet certain it is not clear why there have not been 2 variations of the CBA for with and without The Fringe. It is not clear why the extra traffic from the Fringe does not undermine the case for faster buses. Equally, the volume of cyclists, (operating at a suspiciously fast speed), may be dependent on The Fringe. It is not clear if the volume of buses required can be accommodated or how the whole Milton Road Project fits in with The Fringe as it pre-dates it.
These are, hopefully, a given and the new community centre at Eddington is impressive. We would hope this is the kind of thing which is possible and that it can be done without University involvement.
I think a carbon reduction of 19% on current regulations is too lacking in ambition and too open to being gamed. I think we should be aiming at the Passivhaus standards of being almost completely insulated. After all these houses will, hopefully, still be standing in 2050 when the aspiration is for zero emissions.