Is the Milton Road Garage site in North East Cambridge suitable for a new municipal swimming pool?

Only Cambridge University are taking ages with the one they are supposed to be building, the city is already at capacity, and further growth in North East Cambridge will only put further pressure on existing swimming pools.

[Updated to add:]

It’s worth noting the both Cambridge City & South Cambs District Councils have committed to producing a Swimming Pools Strategy separate to the N.E. Cambridge Area Action Plan See below.

Councillors on Planning & Transport Scrutiny Committee are meeting on Tues 11 Jan at The Guildhall to discuss the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan. See item 8 of the papers here, along with all of the appendices listed. As Chris Rand wrote into the Cambridge Independent last week, we need more time to study the proposals – and those proposals also need show how they link with the new transport plans.

The bit that Cllr Sam Davies (Ind – Queen Edith’s) who is on the committee has pointed out is that Cambridge is not planning for enough district-level community facilities or expansive green open spaces.

It’s something I asked a public question about at the end of 2021.

So one of my queries about a proposed additional swimming pool is the pent up demand that already exists from the residents of Chesterton and King’s Hedges.

Paragraph 176 of Appendix H4 – Open Space & Recreation Topic Paper

This is important: (Click on the link and then click on the paper H4)

“NEC is not expected to generate sufficient demand for a swimming pool and therefore is not expected to deliver a pool on-site. Following the completion of the Chisholm Trail, future residents at NEC will be able to cycle to Abbey Pools and Parkside in approximately 10 and 12 mins, respectively. However, both swimming pools are extremely busy and therefore not in a position to absorb the additional demand generated by NEC. It therefore follows that NEC should collect S106 contributions towards alternative off-site provision.”

Paragraph 176 of Appendix H4 – Open Space & Recreation Topic Paper

Again, my issue is that the papers in the plan don’t appear to have accounted for *existing demand* – therefore I ask councillors on the Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee to address this. Or at least instruct officers to direct their consultants to address this. What is that alternative off-site provision? It’s the Cambridge University’s proposed pool.

But as was pointed out by several of you, that is ***ages away*** in terms of completion, as well as geographically from the residents of North East Cambridge.

North East Cambridge is currently the Sewage Works (just below where it says Milton Country Park on the top right of the above image) – due to make a controversial move out to east of Fen Ditton. The Cambridge University pool as proposed is where the red balloon icon is at the bottom left. I can’t think of any existing bus services that link the two, or any public transport system proposed by the Greater Cambridge Partnership that will make it easy for anyone to get from King’s Hedges to the pool and back.

“Where would you build a new swimming pool on an already cramped site?”

I’m looking at that grey block right in the middle of the image below showing proposed & existing land uses.

Zooming in, you can see that the grey block – currently a car sales garage (which already raises questions about the long term sustainability of selling petrol/diesel fuelled cars) is close to North Cambridge Academy, and borders on King’s Hedges, one of the most economically deprived council wards in our city. If there was any ward that deserved its own large swimming pool – one that could make a huge impact on the health of an area, it’s here. You also have a regional further education college in the dark blue block – Cambridge Regional College, which is over 3,000 16-19 year olds on vocational courses. Again the statistics show that the students here are generally from less financially affluent backgrounds compared to their counterparts say at The Perse, or Hills Road Sixth Form College in South Cambridge. Finally, you have the guided busway and Cambridge North Station providing further public transport links – and not forgetting the recently-completed northern section of the Chisholm Trail.

“Is that site big enough for a swimming pool?”

First, let’s look at what is currently proposed for it.

From p156 of Item 8), App 1. The area of land in orange labelled “D”. That’s the same as the grey block in previous images.

The proposal is for 75 new homes. Laudable but not without its problems. The main ones are noise and traffic. There is Milton Road – the A1309 which will have regular bus services going past north-south, alongside the guided busway buses going east to west. The Green End Road / King’s Hedges Road / Milton Road junction is a very busy one, and you have to combine that with the traffic going into and out of the Science Park. Therefore the mitigation for noise and pollution will have to be significant. Given the relatively few number of houses compared to the rest of the development, far better to have that site being used for something that can take advantage of the public transport and active travel links, and provide a much-needed facility for a part of Cambridge that actually has very few district-level facilities and amenities.

“Is the site big enough?”

Let’s do a front-of-a-laptop area comparison on G-Maps.

Above – a side-by-side comparison of Parkside Pool (L – red balloon icon) in Cambridge with the motor garage firms on the existing Milton Road site – note the amount of car parking space with the latter. Note as well the 50m scale at the bottom.

“If there is enough space, could they squeeze in an arts centre?”

A similar combination has been done successfully at the St Ivo Centre in St Ives, Cambs – give or take public transport accessibility issues!

Above – The St Ivo Centre from G-Maps here – to a similar scale as Parkside in the image earlier.

If such a site can hold a venue similar to the wonderful Burgess Hall (with its sprung dance floor in its large hall – making it suitable for ballroom / Latin / Rock’n’roll dancing) – if not larger, then there’s an opportunity to co-locate a North Cambridge Arts venue that could come close to matching the size of The Junction in Cambridge at the other end of the Chisholm Trail.

“Would there be space for car parking?”

Only for disabled parking, access and deliveries. Given that (assuming existing working patterns) much of the parking is likely to be evenings and weekends up until petrol and diesel-powered motor vehicles are phased out, there’s nothing to stop existing science park tenants from sub-letting their existing generous car parking provision which date from a different age and different attitudes towards motor cars. The most important things as far as transport is concerned is that the cycle parking is much more secure than anything we’ve seen at Cambridge’s railway stations, and that the bus services are frequent enough to ensure that the public does not have to worry about bus timetables because the next one will always be along in a few minutes.

Food for thought?

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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