I wrote in March about the proposal to redevelop the Meadows Centre to build a significant number of (City) council dwellings, replace the community centre and redevelop the St Albans Recreation Ground upon which it stands. The development spans both City and South Cambs land. Cambridge City Council ran a public consultation from 25th February to 25th March which garnered a large number of responses, although at time of writing they have not been made available to inspect.
You can follow the latest news on the City Council’s website. The most recent update is from July when they state they are:
“… working on changes to the design to take into account these comments, allowing it to refine and improve the scheme. In particular, we are looking again at how the new centre and housing will relate to the open space at St Albans recreation ground, and enhance the relationship between the centre and the open space. We recognise the importance of open space for a variety of reasons, including formal and informal sports and play opportunities, but also to provide spaces for biodiversity. To enable this review, time frames have changed and the planning application will not now be submitted in July. It is anticipated that there will be a further public consultation after the summer holidays where the revised proposals will be shared with the public. “
As that alludes, a great deal of the feedback from local residents focuses on the impact on the Rec. The community has formed an organisation called “Friends of St Albans Rec” to defend it, and on Thursday they held an all-day drop-in event to raise funds with a cake sale and second-hand book stall. I was very pleased to be invited along to hear residents’ views and enjoy a slice of home-made cake.
What struck me as I spoke to people was that there is a lot of concern to preserve the general nature and functionality of the Rec. It’s basically a field, albeit one with some limited hardscaping and equipment (play equipment, courts, skate ramps etc) and people value this characteristic. A significant concern is that the proposals to revamp the rec will make it more structured but less versatile. People want to be able to run their dog, fly a kite, kick a ball about and do informal sporting and leisure activities. We also discussed the importance of keeping the whole area fully accessible to wheelchair users.
Another concern that was voiced repeatedly was losing the open aspect of the Rec. The proposed new buildings will be much taller than the existing community centre, and this will obviously reduce the feeling of being in a wide, open space.
It’s encouraging to note that the update from the City Council, quoted above, acknowledges these concerns and states that they are going to do a further consultation after giving more thought to these aspects. We’ll be monitoring the application with interest and will continue to meet with community representatives. Very happy to receive any feedback you may have.
Note: I sit on the Cambridge Fringes Joint Development Control Committee, and will participate in formal planning decisions that affect the outcome of the application. I am, therefore, careful not to be pre-determined on any aspect of the development.