CB1 development throws open its doors


Meeting our neighbourhood’s new neighbours – and popping into the newly re-opened Kettle’s Yard following their £11m+ makeover

About 10 months ago I blogged about a local council meeting where the police raised issues of rising crime and disorder on the CB1 estate. A couple of months later, The Guardian’s architecture correspondent Olly Wainwright wrote this article slamming the development. It clearly touched a nerve with 1,400 comments posted in response on their website alone. Tom Pilgrim of the Cambridge News visited shortly after, the paper having followed up The Guardian’s report finding that their readers broadly agreed with The Guardian’s post. The ‘controversial’ developer Brookgate responded here.

The lesson Labour learnt in 2008.

In the dark gloomy depths of Gordon Brown’s premiership (remember him?), Cambridge Conservatives snatched one of the Coleridge seats from Labour in the Cambridge City Council elections, with Chris Howell being elected. One of the reasons why Cambridge Labour failed in that election was because a new development had just been completed and many new arrivals had just moved in. Yet the party’s campaign message was still focused on some of the controversial elements of the development. Quite understandably – and especially with the background mood musing in the media being hostile to Labour in Government, people voted with their feet having read about their new homes being criticised.

“Puffles – come to our open day!”

So off I went

The simple reason being that the developers will soon be gone, and the residents are now here and quite understandably want to make the best of things. This is where for me, anyone who is or claims to be a community activist, has a moral duty to help our new neighbours settle in and integrate into the life of the wider city. And vice-versa with the longer-time residents (my family has lived in Cambridge for over half a century – the last two generations born & brought up here) to get to know our new neighbours and the wider neighbourhood.

At an institutional level, there is much to be said for formal reviews and evaluations of new large developments in any village, town and city. I don’t blame the people who bought properties in the five developments listed here and have made them their homes. What struck me listening to the residents who turned up yesterday was how the issues that they were listing to the estate management staff was actually really useful for local councillors and politicians to be aware of, and incorporate into future guidance in planning, development and building control. A case of ‘Let’s not repeat the mistakes and errors of the development at [insert name of development].’

Going in with two ears and a closed mouth

You don’t go into these events with a big open mouth saying how ‘orrible everything is and how everything would have been better if you had been in charge. (Chances are if I had been in charge things would have been even worse! I’ve learnt my limitations the hard way!)


So I went in there and listened.

We were blessed with spectacularly bad weather – cold windy rain. Hence not nearly as many people came along as we’d hoped, despite the presence of the Cambridge food park vans and the discounts. But what interested me were the post-it notes that people had put up on the right of the photo above.


Looking at the second photo, there are some things that the wider community can help influence, other things that are for residents only, and other things that we’re all just stuck with for now.

The issue of the Great Northern Road for example is something that has been featured in the Cambridge News following injuries to local residents. The Cambridge Cycling Campaign in April 2017 invited its members to suggest design improvements to that road.

The state of the flats and residences in the grand scheme of things is one for residents and their landlords/estate managers. Such is the way that the ownership of the site has become fragmented that the CB1 Community has developed this interactive map to show who is responsible for what. <<– Something for other developers to follow, or even the city council to make such a map for the whole city regarding freeholders of blocks of flats?

The CB1 Community had to have a comprehensive response to dealing with anti-social behaviour following the police’s criticism last year. Part of their response is this web page. Cambridge City Council also have their noise & environmental issues pages here.

Volunteering, local societies and civic life

Despite the big banner in the room, one group of people that were not mentioned were local councillors. The map below from Cambridge City Council here shows that the railway station area sits at the meeting point five different council wards – each with three city and one county councillor – and two Members of Parliament! You can find out who represents you by typing in your postcode into https://www.writetothem.com/ or come along to South Area Committee on 23 April if you’re on the CB1 estate/ in Trumpington or Queen Edith’s wards. For Coleridge, Petersfield & Romsey it’s East Area Committee on 05 April. Turn up and question your councillors – and have free tea & cake too.

Cambridge Station Ward Map

Trumpington ward is on the left, Queen Edith’s, in South Cambs constituency (not Cambridge City) is the bottom right with Homerton College in it. Coleridge Ward with Coleridge Rec in it is just above it – and is in Cambridge City. In the top right is Romsey Ward – sometimes called Romsey Town or the People’s Republic of Romsey due to its long history of left wing working class activism. You can get your People’s Republic of Romsey t-shirts here. Trumpington is the title Jean Barker, former Mayor of Cambridge (the 4th woman to hold office) took when raised to the peerage as Baroness Trumpington. The first woman mayor of Cambridge, Eva Hartree also lived in Trumpington ward. Top centre is the ward that the second woman mayor of Cambridge, Florence Ada Keynes lived in. For those of you interested in local history around the station, both the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History and the Mill Road History Society host regular local events, normally on a monthly basis.

Given the number of new homes built in recent years, could The Junction host a community/societies fair similar to what the Freshers have at the universities?

Back in 2012 (Crikey, nearly six years ago!) I suggested the idea of a Cambridge Communities Fair. Essentially it adopts the model that the students have at Anglia and Cambridge Universities, and one that in recent years has been adopted by the local further education colleges. (In the late 1990s when I was doing my A-levels we didn’t have such societies fairs. Had we had them I can imagine it would have had a huge positive impact on a lot of us).

The above for me was the big takeaway point from the event.

Kettles Yard

Given the various articles in the liberal-left media about the lack of diversity in the arts and media industries, there was a bit of me that wanted to break out into this number on arrival.

The thing is, I can’t recall ever having been inside before, and knew nothing about its history until I read Will Gompertz’s review here. What people may not know is that the Castle area of town used to be one of Cambridge’s most notorious slums.

030804 Kettles Yard Castle Hill Slum

From the British Newspaper Archive’s digitised copy of the Cambridge News in 1903.

Hence one of the best features of the revamped Kettles Yard is the basement learning room that has upper windows that spill out onto the street.

CLore Learning Studio.jpg

Clore Learning Studio, Jamie Fobert Architects, Photography (c) Hufton+Crow

Interestingly the Daily Telegraph gave the new collections 4/5 – given their political stance, although the Spectator described the collection “Actions” as underwhelming. Personally I disagree with the Spectator – I thought Melanie Manchot’s photographs were brilliantly provocative.


Melanie Manchot’s “The Ladies” in The Wren Library (via here) I thought was brilliantly provocative. Some Cambridge locals may have spotted Shahida Rahman dressed in the black and gold garment. It was only in 1976 that Trinity College, in whose grounds the Wren Library is in, only started accepting women as students. I’m also mindful of the current struggles women (and Muslim women in particular) face. I can imagine one or two squeals of outrage coming from the ‘Gentlemen’s clubs’ on Pall Mall! (Recall it was only 70 years ago that Cambridge University finally started awarding degrees to women.) Channel 4 highlighted the displays by a renowned London artist Caroline Walker who died at Grenfell Tower, and Syrian artist Issam Kourbaj who included pages from his expired passport. I found that particularly powerful. Both those displays linked art to contemporary news and problems in the world.

Expanding the tourist path up the hill to Castle Hill

The mini-motorway/traffic jam that is the Northampton Street/Magdelene Street junction is something that I’d love to see pedestrianised, with motor traffic directed away. I can’t see that happening until the underground metro is built. In the longer term for other parts of Cambridge to benefit from the ‘walking tourist traffic’, Bridge Street and Madgelene Street need the bus route through town redirected so that road is completely pedestrianised. Crossing Northampton Street/Chesterton Road should be a pleasure than a death trap. Because there are a number of underused/under-patronised attractions in that area.

Above – an exhibition from the treasury of the Church At Castle, Cambridge.

The Church at Castle – covering St Giles amongst five other churches are for me a group of community buildings that would benefit from the pedestrianisation of that junction. Again, I can’t see that happening until we get both an underground metro to take some of the east-west traffic off, and provide an alternative for the north-south buses. But if we can achieve this, then the case for expanding the Museum of Cambridge onto Castle Hill becomes stronger.




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