Cambridge City Council recommends demolishing East Anglia’s WW2 headquarters


How come no one spotted this?

The flats are currently owned by Clare College, Cambridge, and the College has applied to demolish them and replace them with a different set of student flats.

In the council’s briefing pack, it states:

“The existing buildings are prominent in the street scene along Chesterton Road and Hamilton Road by virtue of their scale and massing, however they are not Listed and are not identified as Buildings of Local Interest and are excluded from the conservation area.

The demolition of the buildings is acceptable in principle and they have not been identified by the Urban Design and Conservation team as being of particular architectural merit or cultural importance. Moreover, the buildings could be demolished under permitted development, subject to prior approval as to the method of demolition only.” paragraph 8.6.

Not of cultural importance? ***Really?***

Let’s have a look at the history shall we?

390513 St Regis Flats Advert Air Raid Shelter.jpeg

These were some of the first flats built in Cambridge with air raids in mind. They came purpose built with air raid shelters designed in.

St Regis as East Anglia’s regional headquarters during World War 2.

Local historian Mike Petty MBE writes as follows:

During the Second World War the building became the base for the Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence, Sir Will Spens, the Master of Corpus, from which plans were made on how to cope in the event of invasion. They were responsible for emergency civil defence throughout East Anglia, being particularly active during the extensive bombing of Norwich”

The building was kept on as a regional resilience headquarters. Hilda Reed describes what it was like working in the building here.

“Meh – just a dumb block of flats – let it go”

Could do – nod it through and not make a fuss about it.

I mean, it’s not like they’re demolishing King’s College Chapel or something like that. And think of all of the money that goes on community facilities.

How and why did the conservation officers miss this one out?

Who knows, but it’s something English Heritage may want to take a view on. Either way, I’d be interested to know if there is a method of submitting information to a planning committee prior to its consideration of a matter where key pieces of historic information have not been considered by and/or available to officers when making their recommendations.

Furthermore I’d be interested if councillors are able to consider information on a planning application that is not put in front of them by council officers but where they are aware of other material considerations about a site where they are due to make a decision.

“Should they demolish it or not?”

In this specific case, I’m more annoyed that they have not properly considered the historical aspects rather than on the merits or otherwise of the building as is. I guess my case is that we’ve got to call out the council on the stuff that’s not picture-postcard stuff as well as the things that are, so that due processes catch the really nice things that might otherwise fall through the net.

“Can I do anything?”

You can email your city councillor via or contact any of the city councillors on the planning committee who will ultimately have to decide on the case – see for those councillors. But please ****keep your correspondence polite****.


One thought on “Cambridge City Council recommends demolishing East Anglia’s WW2 headquarters

  1. I really hope you’re not serious! Having lived for over 30 years in the shadow of this monstrosity the sooner it is demolished the better. Incidentally, the air raid shelter was a single one in the basement and not one per flat, though I’m not sure how one knows. The accommodation is old and squalid and really not suitable to be lived in by humans even if they are only students. I understand that students are thought now to have feelings as well though the evidence for this is slight.

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