How welcome is Wellcome’s monster campus proposal at Hinxton?

That depends on how much they invest in local and regional infrastructure as part of their proposals.

You may have read the headline here. Initial proposals go to South Cambridgeshire District Council councillors on Friday. <<– The link has a further link to the livestream – starts at 11am.

“Hang on – I thought Astra Zeneca said we had an infrastructure gap?!?”

Dr Andy Williams, formerly of them said words to that effect – that Cambridge & District (Greater Cambridge if you will) did not have a whole host of things needed to handle the investment boom happening in and around our city.

You can watch the videos all about similar challenges at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus which is just up the A1301 – the road from Trumpington through Shelford onto Sawston & beyond.

“Yeah – where’s all the water going to come from?”

I hope they have some idea only the Chatteris Reservoir is not due to be on stream until 2037 at the earliest and the new emerging local plan for Greater Cambridge 2031-40 states that our existing supplies are already beyond capacity. Given Anglian Water’s record on river pollution, some ‘robust exchanges’ are looming in order to stop the taps from running dry. Or to ensure that summer tourists are not punting in a stream of raw sewage previously known as the River Cam. Only local residents have undertaken high protests about this before and will do it again. Unless some bright spark in Conservative Central Office can explain how their present policies ensures A ‘real life Victorian Cambridge period experience of punting on the River Cam!” When the river was more sewage outflow than river. And that was in the 1850s – it taking the borough council and friends the rest of Queen Victoria’s reign to try and come up with something that would deal with the sewage problem. And even that only lasted just over half a century before that one needed overhauling.

Below – the 1965 report for Cambridge City Council on the need for a new sewage works – work on which had been commissioned several years earlier.

…only to find out fifty years later both new supplies and new sewage works are looming! Time stands still for no one!

“So, what are Wellcome going to give us to make us welcome them then?”

Hopefully something more than a community hole made out of a scrap-metal shipping container and a ‘pocket park’ at the back end of nowhere given the amount of money being quoted.

“Wellcome’s £1bn expansion of the Genome Campus will help to ease Cambridge’s acute shortage of lab space”

The FT, 05 May 2023

“The thing is, Brookgate’s Cambridge Station development involved similar figures and they somehow managed to get out of more than a few of their community commitments such as the promised county archive centre.

“Initially planned by Richard Rogers, CB1 was to be a world-class arrival point, with park, piazza, heritage centre and affordable homes. Instead, it’s ‘a future slum’ plagued by antisocial behaviour and sex-trafficking”

The Guardian 13 June 2017

Above – as things stood in summer 2017 – much to the fury of local residents, and an example of how not to do things. Hence a fair amount of work had to be put in to try and turn things around – but it could never undo the failures that had been unfortunately designed in at the start. Such as the traffic fumes in the northern access road.

“Hang on a minute – aren’t the same company going to the Planning Inspector over North Cambridge Station?”

“The [local planning] authority said the developer chose to submit the appeal against non-determination two days after a consultation period ended on a “large amount of new information”. The statement said that in doing so the developer “lost the opportunity to work constructively” with the council to address the issues raised.

Cambridge News: 12 May 2023

“Why would a developer choose to behave that way?”

I would like to comment but I don’t want to get sued. But if people want to research into the decision makers and the organisations involved in the developments on the other side of the river, they are more than welcome to. As a useful reminder to Wellcome of how not to do things – given that they will be the ones occupying what they build rather than looking to sell off the final product and banking any profit. Which in principle should make a difference – but then I had higher expectations of RailPEN the railway workers pension fund (new owners of The Beehive Centre) until I found out about their cladding issues.

“What’s already scoped in?”

“It will add 180,000 sq ft of research space, as well as 400 new homes, a gym, swimming pool, shops, transport infrastructure and cafés for people working on the campus.”

The FT – 05 May 2023

Question is whether it is a proper municipal / open to the public swimming pool that South Cambridgeshire District Council does not have, or whether it is a private swimming pool that only Wellcome staff and guests can use.

On what facilities are genuinely accessible to the public? That depends on whether Wellcome wants to be an inclusive or an exclusive neighbour. And that depends on its corporate values.

Because for me it would be absolutely sickening if South Cambridge and the new South Cambridgeshire Constituency ended up with three large private swimming pools that people on low incomes were excluded from. (i.e. The Perse’s approved pool, The Frank Lee which is for Addenbrooke’s staff, family and eligible workers, and possibly the Wellcome Pool assuming it’s not a ‘pocket pool’ that gyms tend to have).

“Which reminds me – how is The Perse getting on with its community access?”

Have a browse of 22/00922/FUL at scroll down to the documents list to 16 Sept 2022. “Email with site plan public use”

Their indicative timings are as follows:

For term time (outside of school hours) it is as follows:

“This programme would see 9 hours per week of pay and play use of the pool, 16 hours of club swim, and 20 hours of learn to swim. The aggregate amount of community use would be 45 hours per week.”

File dated 16 Sept 2022. “Email with site plan public use”

The argument of having evening club swims every night of the week on weekdays is that it would free up much-needed capacity to the general public at Parkside – which I hope it does and enables all lanes on weeknights to be open to the public.

For summer holidays, it is as follows:

“This would deliver the following overall hours of use – clubs 16 hours, pay and play 9 hours, learn to swim 35 hours, camps 33 hours. A total of 93 hours of community use”

File dated 16 Sept 2022. “Email with site plan public use”

Now, what they define as ‘community use’ may not be the same as what your randomly picked resident of Queen Edith’s ward/division would define as ‘community use.’ For me, community use would be something that maximises accessibility for those with the least ability (but a very strong desire) to use the facilities concerned – whether it be finances or public transport or something else.

“Back to Hinxton – it’s all very well building a big public pool on site, but how will people get there given the lack of railway station?”

A railway / light rail line is doable in principle. For a start the existing Wellcome Genome Campus is not far from Great Chesterford Station. The proposals for development are in the fields north of it between the Hinxton in the west and the A11 in the east.

Above – from G-Maps.

Zoom out a bit and you can see the opportunity for a Haverhill-Saffron Waldon – Hinxton – Duxford – Addenbrooke’s light rail or suburban rail loop.

Above – from G-Maps here which I’ve plotted out as a walking route to try and get the most direct route from Haverhill to Saffron Walden, then back up to incorporate the Wellcome site, the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, Sawston’s industrial parks, and ultimately back onto the existing railway line at Great Shelford and onto the Cambridge South Station.

Recalling Cambridge Connect Light Rail’s proposals

…which you can read at and which which I both concur and support – in particular getting the most difficult bit done first: The tunnelled section.

If costs were not an issue, I’d select a dual tunnel like with London Underground and have the underground section at somewhere between Hardwick and Eddington north-west of Cambridge, with the tunnels emerging somewhere around Addenbrooke’s. Once the tunnels are in place, the biggest problem in principle is negotiating to buy/lease the land for the full routes.

“Would a loop mean no Isaac Newton line?”

Not at all. If anything, a loop back from Haverhill to Saffron Walden and the Wellcome Campus would simply be an additional phase after the first phase – that being the Isaac Newton Line. It simply creates a very big incentive for the Wellcome Trust to put some serious money behind the concept so their campus can be served by a rail-based public transport system directly rather than shuttle-buses from Great Chesterford. Anyone in the area who wants this option, join Rail Future East, and get involved in local and regional rail campaigning.

Note the other benefits too – leisure and non-work travel

These include linking Cambridge up to Saffron Walden and its splendid concert hall. Ditto the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, which would take a fair amount of motor traffic off the roads. And after all, isn’t everyone supposed to be ‘thinking strategically’ these days? Especially with a climate emergency here and now.

The problem is persuading more otherwise reluctant politicians to put their doubts behind them – especially after what the local electorate told them over the past couple of months (and given recent events), sit down with ministers and the sci/tech companies and see how much they are prepared to put on the table to make a rail/light rail vision a reality.

We’ve lost far too much time – and money – on the GCP’s big schemes. At some stage someone in a position of political authority has to cut the losses and put the whole sorry saga to an end, and start afresh. And it cannot be me because I don’t have a political mandate for starters! (Not that I actually asked for one – I just wanted to get a conversation going, and 261 people in Queen Edith’s ward agreed!)

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:

%d bloggers like this: