Redeveloping the Beehive Centre – with sci-tech options spun out again

What could – and should become of the graveyard of the once mighty Cambridge & District Co-operative Society?

This was the vision in Autumn 1988.just before the then ‘new’ centre opened – and where I did work experience in summer 1995. (From the British Newspaper Archive here)

I picked this story up from several of you earlier this week, noting the various consultation-type things lined up. But before we think about what should go there, have a read about how the centre named after that symbol of co-operation, the beehive, resulted in the demise of one of Cambridge’s biggest civic societies. 83,000 members in 1990, then it all but disappeared from existence other than as somewhere to buy things from – before declining even further as the co-op closed all of its supermarkets and department stores leaving little left but the convenience shops.

I wrote more about its history here, and have also digitised my copy of Co-operation in a University Town, from 1938 (which have some lovely photos, and illustrations by Ronald Searle.

My thanks once again to my supporters who helped me acquire this in the first place because it’s hard to find, and those that can be found are not cheap.

Please make your views known – especially if you have children at school in Cambridge!

The back of the leaflet people in/around the Beehive Centre received a leaflet – with the essential details below:

The exhibition is at St Barnabas Church on Mill Road at:

  • Thurs 16 June 2022 from 2.30pm-5.30pm
  • Sat 18 June 2022 from 11am-4pm

Note the two digital webinars

An opportunity for Parkside Community College to move?

Yes – I mentioned this back in March this year here (scroll halfway down) – which I’ve C&P’d the essentials from that link.

“The Beehive Centre – identified by Cambridge City Council as a new opportunity area (see below) in the emerging local plan 2030-41.”

Above – from the Greater Cambridge Planning Service

From G-Maps side by side at the same scale, and mindful that Parkside has just under half the numbers of students (just over 700) that The Perse Upper currently has, the site in principle could make for a suitable secondary school site. (Land prices, any decontamination issues from the old PYE works, and making a secure barrier next to the rail line aside!)”

Above – from G-Maps here for The Beehive Centre – have a play with the map in the link to get a feel for just how built up that area is.

Petersfield – one of the most built-up areas in Cambridge that pre-dates Victorian Cambridge

Ask anyone in Petersfield Ward if they’d welcome additional green space and they’d jump at it – if they didn’t ask sceptical questions about what would be demolished to make space for it. The lack of green space is a longstanding issue – just ask

How much money the council would get for the disposal of the existing Parkside site might also come into question – mindful that the height of any new buildings would be limited given the surrounding properties.

I’d like to think that the site could provide enough new open space for local residents, playing field space for students, and less-cramped, more suitable buildings and facilities still within walking or cycling distance for teenagers. Furthermore, the Centre for Computing History is then within walking distance from a school on that site. At which point the challenge is getting the children away from there!

There is not much neighbourhood green space for local children and teenagers

Above – from G-maps here – you can see where the Beehive Centre is compared with the existing Parkside Community College (secondary school).

Furthermore, Parker’s Piece – which the school uses for P.E./sports is also a public open space used by tourists and the wider public. The school does not have its own playing fields. At the same time, the completion of the Chisholm Trail makes the site easier to get to for students living in Abbey Ward – who for some reason still do not have their own secondary school in their ward despite it being one of the most economically deprived in the county, and existing secondary schools being very difficult to get to by any form of transport on a day-to-day basis.

“Where’s the money going to come from?”

For me this could be an acid test for how much our city wants to deal with our chronic inequalities issues. Our new Mayor of Cambridge, Mayor Mark Ashton told us that by the end of his mayoralty he wanted Cambridge to have relinquished its title of the most unequal city in the UK. I agree with him. Furthermore, I think that those who have made their fortunes in our city should seriously consider donating funds to buy up some if not all of the site for Parkside Community College to move – and ideally a further site for a new secondary school in Abbey Ward. Otherwise what’s the point of being told about all this wealth Cambridge supposedly creates if we can’t use any of it to provide for our children, let alone keep the pavements in decent condition?

If Sir David Robinson could find the money for a new NHS maternity hospital in Cambridge in the 1980s, it can’t be beyond the millionaires of the city to find similar from their own wealth for our state secondary schools.

I know – the money should not have to come from ‘charidee’, but look at who we have in Government – and look at the legal and financial restrictions on local government.

It’s not just the buildings and playing fields that are stuck in the last millennium for too many of our country’s children and teenagers. It’s the curricula too. Have a browse through the Times Education Commission report published today (at the time of blogging)

It’s not just the funding gap between state and private that’s the problem – although that’s getting even wider.

Above – from p39 of The Times Report

While we are stuck with a system of government that restricts the ability of local councils to respond to crises in their own area, and prevents them from making the best of opportunities such as this in the interest of their cities, all I can hope for at present is that enough people appeal to the consciences of enough of the affluent to do the right thing for the children of our city – present and future generations. Until a new generation of politicians in Westminster of a much higher calibre than the present collective group (noting the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser resigned just before I started typing this article) have the courage to overhaul the system so that it’s fit to take on the challenges of the 21st Century. Because at present this current one would struggle with those of the 19th.

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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