Hobson Street Cinema – New Consultation April – May 2021

The site owners launched a quick three week consultation today (26 April) asking for your views on what the historic town buildings could be used for. To have your say, see https://www.camcitycentreopportunity.com/

From their website, as you can see it’s not just the Hobson Street Cinema at the back that is part of this proposal, rather it is the two buildings on the other side on St Andrew’s Street as well.

If you are not familiar with the area, it’s this bit:

Above – from Cambridge City Council’s Core Appraisal of Hobson Street.

Cambridge is full of conservation areas, which means developers in principle have to take special care when making planning proposals and carrying out work in this area. You can read the appraisals listed here.

In the town centre, there is the Historic Core Appraisal which is inevitably broken down into separate reports – all PDF documents. These include reports for places like King’s Parade.

The post-Lockdown fallout:
  • “73% of their combined floorspace vacant and is therefore doing nothing for the town centre
  • Even if they were fully occupied the sites would still be under-utilised – they could provide approximately 25% more floor space than they currently do”

Above – from their key issues here.

In a nutshell this is not going to be turned around anytime soon. Given the issues that all the buildings have in their brief, now is the time to look at significant alternative options. Scroll down and you will find the heading on The Future of City Centres and Traditional City Centre Uses. That provides some of the public policy context on the future of our high streets – recognising that even in a place like Cambridge, the growth in online shopping means that traditional retail with higher rental rates in the city centre can no longer compete on price with large multinational warehouse-based operations able to manipulate taxation systems to reduce their costs. This won’t change unless governments co-operate with each other to take on the multinationals – and that does not look like happening soon.

Options – the categories

These are just a handful of themes. Some will bring their own questions in a post-Lockdown world – such as whether Cambridge needs new office space given the growing trend for working at home or reducing long commutes.

Residential use – such as turning them into college accommodation for the nearby colleges (Christ’s, Sidney Sussex, or even for the private colleges & language schools) effectively privatises buildings built for public use. As does R&D.

What you said on Twitter to the initial news

You can read the responses here.

I’ve written enough about the Hobson Street Cinema (my latest blogpost is here – with embedded videos from the past six or so years) so I don’t need to repeat what I’ve put there. The most important thing you can do is:

  1. Read the consultation at https://www.camcitycentreopportunity.com/ and respond to it.
  2. Get in touch with the candidates standing for election to Cambridge City Council via https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ and ask them for their views/give them your opinions. If the election has already happened then you can get in touch with the newly elected councillors via https://www.writetothem.com/

And hopefully Cambridge will get something splendid from this. But we cannot sit back and wait for it to happen. It requires co-operation from people and organisations across the city to ensure we get the best out of these buildings – not just for us but for future generations too.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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