The Romsey Local Plan 1986 and a proposal for a station at Addenbrooke’s in the 1990s

I start off this blogpost with a video from the Cambridgeshire Collection which starts with an appeal for residents in and around Cambridge to find out more about the consultation on the Greater Cambridge Plan for 2030-41.

The video also ends with my appeal for support for my research via

With the permission of archivists Will (who has since departed) and Mary, I’ve started making short video clips featuring different publications relating to Cambridge’s past – and in particular to do with transport, housing, and planning. This is because as the above-video mentions, there are two very significant statutory documents (i.e. required by law) that local councils and local government organisations are producing – ones which involve several rounds of public consultation.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogposts throughout September 2021, and October 2021, on The Cambridge Town Owl, I believe it is very important that residents have the opportunity to examine previous local plans and question why some things came to fruition and others did not. These also explain why some things are they way they are today, and also show how previous generations dealt with very similar issues – such as safer cycling and safe walking.

The People’s Republic of Romsey

Get yer t-shirts here! – which reminds me, I’d love to see Cambridge’s heritage organisations running competitions for schools and colleges to design some heritage-based designs for clothing and accessories to raise the profile of local history, encourage young people to learn about our local history, and raise some much-needed funds for this cash-starved sector.

To get the Romsey Local Plan documents you will need to visit the Cambridgeshire Collection (details here) and ask for the item as below which I’ve screengrabbed from the online library catalogue here.

Romsey Local Plan 1986. Dewey Class C.49.5: Romsey.

So if you are a resident of Romsey and are interested in some of the longer term roots of the issues you face today, this is the document for you! (They have other reports too, which you can find in the catalogue).

I have asked for this and similar plans to be digitised by our councils at the Full Council of Cambridge City Council on 21 October 2021. You can watch the video of the question and also to the response from Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning. Video by Cambridge City Council – note the sound quality has significantly improved with the installation of a new AV system. (The public can table questions for councillors to answer – see the city council’s guidance here).

Inside the report is this wonderful map of the proposals from Cambridge City Council in 1986.

Map of Romsey Town, Cambridge circa 1986

Above – proposals for Romsey ward, Cambridge, July 1986. Cambridge City Council / OS.

Cambridge in 1986 was a strikingly different place to today if you were a local resident – especially in the south of the city as I was, and still am. For a start, the footprints of a number of industries both deceased and dying are clearly visible – whether it is the railway sidings south/west of Hills Road Bridge that are now offices, to the old PYE works off Coldham’s Lane – once a major employer, that is now a housing estate. You can also see the clear large circles of the old gasometer that stood as a landmark monument for me as a child. I think it was a big error taking the large one down – it should have been preserved as a piece of industrial heritage, or renovated for a more imaginative use.

Livestock industry still visible

In these pro-vegan times (and I don’t use that pejoratively), it’s striking to see the remnants of Cambridge’s past as an agricultural trading centre. The Cambridge Cattle Market was established at the end of the 19th Century and was on its last legs in the 1980s. Throughout the whole of the 1990s the entire site was left derelict. It did not make for a pleasant place to walk past at night to get to The Junction, and looking back it is scandalous that such a state of affairs was allowed to exist for so long.

Map detail of Cambridge Railway Station 1986

Above – a detail from the Romsey Local Plan map of the Cambridge Station Area.

In 1986 there was no cycle bridge. Therefore cyclists heading up Cherry Hinton Road would have to cross Hills Road Bridge and the treacherous road junction. Note just above that junction (after which The Junction was in part named – the other being the railway junction that the station formed) the Sheep Pens and the Cattle Pens are marked on the map. There are a number of depots and works, and the building marked P19 was the headquarters of the Cambridge Water Company.

Detail of the Cement Works on the Romsey Local Plan Map

Above – where an abattoir and slaughter house used to be on Coldham’s Lane.

Turns out that there were three separate abattoirs on that site according to the Victoria County History of Cherry Hinton, which dates much more recently than the one for Cambridge. It can’t have been the most pleasant place to have been around – with a cement works, quarry, and municipal dump on one side, and slaughter houses plus an airport on the other. A very different future awaits this part of East Cambridge if we look at the various plans for the area.

Romsey town as a low traffic neighbourhood

The concept is one being supported by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and also Living Streets – the campaign for pedestrians and walkers. You can get involved with the Cambridge Living Streets branch here.

Street map showing proposals for road closures in Romsey, Cambridge, 1986

Above – proposals for road closures throughout Romsey in 1986

We take for granted now the barriers that make driving through that part of town particularly unpleasant with all of the chicanes and narrow gates. It even forces cyclists to slow down. But it is a residential area with densely-packed terraced housing built for railway and industrial workers before local and then national building regulations led to lower density housing after the First World War. Since then we’ve gone full circle – almost, with the new housing developments on Cromwell Road and the Mill Road depot being built as medium/medium-high density housing in the face of sky-high land and property prices, and huge demand for social housing.

How do you solve the problems of transport?

It’s work in progress, but this is a caption of what they had to say about cycling.

Proposed policies to improve cycle routes through Romsey

Above – two policies for cycling.

I assumed that planners would leave motor traffic on Mill Road as it was in the long term until national policy did something with cars. Hence my initial surprise when proposals for the closure of Mill Road Bridge to Through-traffic was proposed and then brought in by the pandemic – splitting the road in more ways than one. But this document contains a very detailed analysis of traffic – one that really should be compared with traffic today and in the intervening period where studies were done, to get a sense of changing trends.

You can’t always get what you want

As the Stones sang.

But the list of proposed policies and their prioritisation is something that features in other neighbourhood planning reports of the time.

List of policies for Romsey, Cambridge, 1986

Above – local residents will be able to compare what was proposed in 1986 to what was finally delivered. Are they any that stand out?

Addenbrooke’s Station 1998

This was mentioned in the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Structure Plan 1998.

Addenbrooke's Railway Station proposal dated 17 Dec 1998

Above – confirmation that the former Government Office for the Eastern Region (GOER) – later GO-East (where I started by civil service career in 2004)

If anything, this report needs its own blogpost-or-three to cover the main elements of it because it is so dense at over 300 pages. I’ve mentioned the headline issues in the video so for now the most important question to ask is:

“Why are we still waiting for construction to start?”

If a full business plan was submitted to central government in 1997, then next year will be a quarter of a century since that submission. Why so long? Why so many delays? Here’s the latest from Cllr Sam Davies MBE (Ind – Queen Edith’s) which she published in August 2021, some 24 years later. It remains to be seen whether we end up with an integrated transport interchange or the bare minimum of “two Hs” – a letter H as viewed from the air with two platforms and a bridge crossing, and then the same as viewed from the ground with an H representing staircases & lift shafts and a crossing bridge.

In the meantime, the public inquiry into the proposed station – Cambridge South, is due to commence on 22 November 2021.

Supporting my future research on the story of Cambridge the town

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in the history of Cambridge the town and the people who made our modern city, please support my research in bringing their records of achievement to wider audiences. Click here if you would like to make a donation or take out a small subscription to support my ongoing work.

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