East Cambridge Romsey Lakes Open Day 11 March 2018


Nearly 1,000 local residents turn up to a trial open day on a site hidden away from public view for decades.

The site concerned is shown below


From G-Maps, the lakes are at the eastern end of Mill Road. (Where few students dare to venture!)

You can see that the lakes are in the neighbourhoods of Cherry Hinton (to the east), Romsey (to the north-west) and Coleridge (to the south-west, where me & Puffles stood for election in 2014).

“Who put those lakes there?”

The lakes are man-made, as this detail from the photograph at Britain From Above, here, shows.

EPW025477 Cement works Coldhams Lane

The building at the bottom is the Atlas Concrete Company – today it’s Sainsbury’s on Coldham’s Lane. 

Just prior to the site’s demolition, Geoff Kitchen went along to the site to take some photographs – digitised here in the Cherry Hinton Community Archive.

The lakes have been maintained by one of the Cambridge angling societies, but over the years (and especially during hot summers), people have broken into the otherwise fenced off site. Since then, one of the landowners, the Anderson Group, has come up with plans to redevelop the site – see here. One of the things to note is that one of the pits was used as a dump/landfill for the town’s waste. Hence redeveloping it isn’t straightforward.

“Redeveloping it will take ages – what’s happening in the meantime?”

Regular open days, of which the one on 11 March 2018 was the first.

And in came the visitors in their hundreds!

Cllr Dave Baigent (Lab – Romsey) and Guy Belcher from Cambridge City Council were the duo behind getting the site opened up for the day.

“So, will there be another one?”

Looks like it – Cllr Baigent said they needed over 100 volunteers to get it open every Sunday on a permanent basis. But given the feedback and the offers from people to get involved (without prompting) it looks like they’ve got the evidence base to make the case for more frequent openings. There was a visitors book where people left comments and contact details.

Diverse Cambridge

One of the other things that struck me is how diverse the backgrounds were of the people coming to visit. There were people who had only recently moved here, along with people who I went to school with who stayed in Cambridge to bring up the next generation of their families. Young and old, long-term resident to contract worker, people from all over the world to those whose families had been here for generations.

The one thing that I also noticed was how all of these people coming along to the open day contrasted with those of us who get involved in local democracy. While we can’t deal with the structural barriers to people getting involved in local democracy, events such as these seem ideal to encourage people to get involved – even if it’s as simple as liking/following a social media page. Because I got the impression that locals were genuinely pleased that councillors and the council had managed to get the site opened up for the day. And when people are in that mood, they are more likely to want to find out more, rather than when they are complaining about something.



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