Shared Facilities Hub

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What is it?

Some kind of community centre with food and study areas, among other things. Supposed to serve what is currently a major missing piece of West Cambridge site: a social hub, a pub, convenience shop, lounge, etc.


Response Ideas


Presently the plans call for the main arterial cycle route for the site (that connects to Clerk Maxwell Road and runs through the middle of the site) to run between the main catering facility (the SFH) and its outside seating. They are thinking about how to discourage cyclists from cycling at speed along this section, which is the wrong discussion to be having. An alternative proposal of running a dedicated cycle path along the north of the garden right next to Cavendish III seems possible and would avoid decades of conflict so I think we want to push for that.

Presently they are planning on having 280 cycle parking spaces with a maximum building capacity of 900 people. They are not sure whether this will be enough as modelling is difficult since some people are expected to walk from nearby departments rather than cycle to the building. Their transport consultant is still modelling this. I think we should push for space and funding to be pre-allocated for additional good quality cycle parking to be installed if the proposed parking turns out to be inadequate. Some of the proposed parking will be double stacking and I think we want to minimise the amount of that as double stackers are hard for some people to use and can be discriminatory, they can also be poorly made. Another thing to bear in mind for detailed is planning is to ensure that cycle parking is covered by CCTV so that the cycle theft issues that cause problems elsewhere on the site don't get repeated.

Caroline Stewart, Computer Lab Dept Secretary:

We are worried about the current proposal for the proposed Shared Facilities Hub building in West Cambridge.

The Council's Report in this week's Reporter at and the detailed plans at . There are more details at .

These appear to be the same plans that were presented at the 'consultation' on 6 April, when they were roundly criticised by representatives of all the departments on the West Cambridge site.

The building combines a large cafeteria with seating for about 230 people, which would be run by the University Centre, various seminar rooms and study areas, and a new shared library for the departments in West Cambridge. The design may have been influenced by the "representative user group". This group was Chaired by the University's Catering Advisor and also included the Head of the Student Registry and the Librarian from Engineering, but there was no representatives from the Cavendish, the Vet School or the Computer Laboratory.

In particular, suggestions of a virtual college and a variety of independent food outlets in the style of a motorway service station have been ignored.

The Report will be on the agenda at the Discussion at 14:00 on Tuesday 11 July. Guidance about University Discussions can be found at s/proceedings.aspx ng2-16 is an interesting example of a recent Discussion. The last Report, on the abolition of class lists, was followed by a vote that stopped the proposal.

Please do attend the Discussion next Tuesday if you would like to contribute to it.

Daniel's proposed Discussion remarks

Deputy Vice-chancellor,

I am Daniel Thomas and I am a member of the Computer Laboratory, Peterhouse, and the West Cambridge Active Travel Group. The Shared Facilities Hub is much anticipated and has the potential to finally deliver on promised improvements to the West Cambridge Site that have been sought by site users for many years. It could have a transformative impact on the site and build a real community there. The proposals for an independently operated cafe/bar/pub that is open into the evening and an independently operated shop, in addition to the main catering facility, are particularly welcome. However, there are substantial problems with the present plans. I will focus on problems with transport and human architecture.

Presently the plans call for the arterial cycle route for the West Cambridge Site to run from Clerk Maxwell Road, through the middle of the site and between the sites' main catering facility (the Shared Facilities Hub) and its outside seating. This is a change from the site master plan and will cause substantial conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. No pedestrians want to dodge 15mph cycles while carrying their lunch to the table, no cyclists want to dodge pedestrains. Instead a separate dedicated cycle path running along the north of JJ Thomson Gardens would avoid all this conflict. At the Hauser Forum designers mixed a major cycle route with a pedestrianised plaza, and then when this caused conflict tried to ban cyclists from using the best link from the Coton Path to JJ Thomson Avenue. Let us not repeat this mistake.

The plans call for 280 cycle parking spaces and for the building to have a capacity for 900 people. They also call for some of the cycle parking to be double stacking. Both of these are concerning as double stacking cycle parking can be discriminatory and having over one third of building users arrive by cycle is not implausible. Space and funding for additional cycle parking should be pre-allocated and pre-approved in case the planned parking proves insufficient. The cycle parking should also be covered by CCTV to help prevent the theft of cycles and cycle components (including brake cables) that have plagued other parts of the West Cambridge Site.

If the Shared Facilities Hub is to be a success then the human architecture also needs to be planned before construction is completed. To build a community it should be overseen by the community including both site residents and staff. To be successful the Shared Facilities Hub must be welcoming and rooms must be easy to book. There have been failures in the management of existing facilities on the site. Units for shops have been constructed in the past and then not let out, apparently because the rent charged by the University was too high. The cafe at the new Sports Centre stands derelict as the rent charged by the University made it unviable. These mistakes should not be repeated and the community management of the Shared Facilities Hub should be able to set rents that are attractive to tenants so that we do not end up with another derelict facility.

The Shared Facilities Hub is desperately needed but there are substantial problems with the current plans including poor transport planning and the lack of a community engagement plan that may mean that it fails to deliver. Better consultation might help avoid problems, please consult with members of the community who have already indicated their interest by joining together in West Cambridge Active Travel group.

Matthew's discussion remarks

Dear Deputy Vice-Chancellor,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

The Shared Facilities Hub could be a great addition to the West Cambridge site, offering some much needed amenities to that bare campus.

I will jump straight into my major concern with its operation: the University has signed exclusive agreements with dining providers in the past that make it nearly impossible for us to have diversity or variety in dining options on the West Cambridge site. The hub has promised some independent operators, but I fear that this will all fall apart so long as the university continues to sign monopolistic contracts for dining services.

What makes the city centre attractive is the variety and diversity of people and correspondingly the shops and market stalls that are available. It is very difficult to bring that kind of diversity into a sterile environment. It takes time, patience, a willingness to tolerate failure, and an openness to new ideas. This is usually accomplished by having a district composed of many different people, many different uses, many different owners, and a strong public realm with streets designed at human scale. We don't have those advantages on West Cambridge site so we will have to do our best without them.

On that cue I would like to touch upon some of the aspects of the public realm being designed for this site. The outline planning application 16/1134/OUT calls the space in front of the Shared Facilites Hub a segment of "The Green", which a corridor that prioritises walking and cycling in a verdant environment through the centre of the site. The design guidelines contain some quotes that I would like to read:

``* An uninterrupted cycle/pedestrian route must be provided between Clerk Maxwell Road and High Cross. This route forms part of the continuous pedestrian/cycle connection through The Green.

  • Design [of the Green] must accommodate the main pedestrian path and cycle route.
  • The Green, being a space where multiple routes

converge, must be carefully designed to ensure that routes and desire lines are maintained and conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians are minimised.

These are all quite sensible statements. I have some print-outs of these quotes from planning application as well, so you can come up and see the wonderful renderings that they have made.

File:16 1134 OUT-DESIGN GUIDELINES PART1-1963098.pdf

I went to the poster session about the Shared Facilities Hub last week. I looked at the renderings of the Shared Facilities Hub and the section of The Green adjacent to it. I cannot find any trace or evidence that there is an uninterrupted walking or cycling route in these new renderings. It has simply disappeared.

File:University of Cambridge Shared Facilities Hub Cavendish III Exhibition.pdf

The people, the staff, the students, who will need to use this walking and cycling route aren't going to disappear. It will just be a disorganised mess that suits nobody. This is our opportunity to fix the problem before it strikes.

The trouble is that we have learned the hard way that it is not enough to be satisfied with pretty statements in planning applications. The details must be checked, and monitored.

We know this from recent history. The Hauser Forum was constructed with a similar type of pedestrianised plaza, one connecting the busy Coton Path with JJ Thomson Ave. Naturally, this is a very busy walking and cycling route, and it was forced to go into a narrow section between two buildings by the architects who designed it. Without any consultation, one day the University decided to put up "Cyclists Dismount" signs. Of course they were completely ignored by everyone because they made no sense. Why would you put "Cyclists Dismount" signs on the major cycling route from the city centre to West Cambridge? My friend and former colleague Ollie Chick led the campaign to have them removed, which happened about a year ago.

But this whole drama could have been avoided with proper design up-front. It should have been obvious that this would be a very busy cycling route and that it needed proper provision with a separated and attractive pathway for cycling, rather than a "shared-use muddle". It seems that we are headed for another "shared-use muddle" with the Shared Facilities Hub, and years of unnecessary conflict, if we don't act now.

Another example is the Ridgeway, which was supposed to be a premier cycling route for Northwest Cambridge. And yet, now that it has been constructed, we can see that it has several completely avoidable flaws. For example, the pathway loses priority to a minor car park. There is loose gravel on its surface. And at the Storey's Way end is a set of strange chicanes & gates that will clearly cause problems for people using family sized cycles, trailers, or for people with disabilities. I have brought a photo of it with me. None of this would have been built this way if the University truly wanted to prioritise cycling as a mode of transportation. I have learned that the chicanes were not part of the original planning application, they were tucked into last minute changes buried in a pile of documents presented to a harried Joint Development Control Committee.

Ridgeway 2017-04-05.jpeg

We shouldn't have to spend all our free time digging through planning applications, attending every meeting, and following every committee hearing to ensure that the university builds decent infrastructure for people walking and cycling.

It should be obvious that the University of Cambridge would be providing world-class cycling provision on all of their sites. And yet, for some reason, it is a constant struggle to get the University to recognise and respect cycling as a legitimate and critically important mode of transportation when the shovels go in the ground. I would like to know why this is happening, and what we can do to fix this.

For future reference, you may find this text and its accompanying images at under the Shared Facilities Hub page.

Thank you.

Objection from West Cambridge Active Travel

West Cambridge Active Travel (WCAT) is a grassroots organisation for the promotion of active travel on and around the West Cambridge Site. While the proposed development provides much needed facilities for the site, we object to the proposed designs in 17/1896/FUL for the new Shared Facilities Hub as the proposed cycle parking provision is inadequate. Drawing EM00041-PLI-ZZ-00-DR-L-00-11 shows only 44 visitor cycle parking spaces, of which 18 are of inferior double stacking design and 26 are uncovered. The Travel Plan section 3.3.3 indicates a total of 78 cycle parking spaces will be provided. At least 200 cycle parking spaces will be required just for the use of the lecture theatres alone and a total of 300 might be required for all uses of the building. While the design and access statement does include provisions for extensions to the cycle parking up to 176 and then up to 320 spaces it does not mention these consistently and the proposed initial condition is so under-provisioned that it will overflow on the first day the lecture theatres are used. We have discussed these concerns with the University over a number of months and are pleased that the plans now include proposals to extend the cycle parking to sufficient capacity. However, the initial provision is still inadequate. In particular it does not provide sufficient provision for the use of the lecture theatres as exam halls. We request that the first extension to the cycle parking be included in the initial development and the provision of a clear description of the process for determining when additional cycle parking is required.

Detailed comments on the submitted documents follow:

Shared Facilities Hub Draft Transport Assessment

General: Use the term "cycle" not "bicycle" as not all cycles have two wheels.

p13 3.5.2 5km is too short a distance to use as a basis for cycle planning. 9km is a better range, and reflects a realistic distance people can be expected to cycle (it takes only about half an hour, even for a fairly slow cyclist). Some staff cycle 24km to work. p15 3.7.1 We note the following additional deficiencies:

  • There are chicanes impeding the cycle route onto Clerk Maxwell Road from JJ Thomson Avenue.
  • The bridge and junction connecting Clerk Maxwell Road with the Coton Path is narrow, has poor visibility and is of poor quality.
  • The bridge and access across the M11 on the Coton Path is of poor quality, being too narrow and having multiple tight corners at the bottom of slopes. It is also poorly maintained in autumn and winter, when leaves and ice cause a slip hazard.
  • The path through to Storey's Way is obstructed by chicanes.
  • The path through to Horse Chestnut Avenue by CASP is of poor-quality and obstructed by a gate.
  • The junction of the Coton Path with Adams Road is of poor quality and obstructed by a low wall; there is a new design in the Master Plan which addresses this (mentioned elsewhere in the document).
  • The Ridgeway connecting through to Eddington is obstructed by gates.
  • Wayfinding is unclear from Storey's Way through to the WCS.
  • Cycling provision on the south side of Madingley Road is poor along almost its entire length, particularly so on the section that runs along the edge of the WCS.
  • Capacity and quality issues on Burrell's Walk, including a very narrow bridge at the west end (addressed by Master Plan).

p17 3.11.3 Most of the provided footways and cycleways on the WCS are of poor quality, either being shared, or poorly segregated and lacking priority at junctions. p22 4.2.3 The lecture theatres have been missed off the list of services provided (this might explain why they are not considered within the transport assessment). p23 4.2.7 While examinations might not be a typical use as they only happen sometimes, it is no good if your transport system completely fails during exams. We don't want stressed students finding there is nowhere to park their cycle. p23 4.4.3 Only 78 cycle parking spaces provided. p24 4.5.4 Only 56 cycle parking spaces for visitors, of which only 18 covered. Less spaces than this are shown in Drawing EM00041-PLI-ZZ-00-DR-L-00-11. p37 6.2.14 Linked trips have not been accounted for, but linked trips will result in cycle parking usage and so not taking them into account will underestimate demand. In particular, anyone cycling to the SFH first or last will end up leaving their cycle there. Cycles will only be left at other buildings if the user is coming from that building and returning to that building after their trip to the SFH, and if the distance is short. This may apply to people coming for lunch or to visit the shop during the day, but will not apply to many of the library users, those visiting the bar in the evening, and those attending lectures. p38 6.2.16 This assumes that secure cycle parking is hard to use and so they are less likely to use their bikes during the day? This does not apply for people coming to the SFH first or last. p29 5.3 Trips generated by the teaching spaces are entirely missed in this section which may explain the extremely unrealistic low estimates for trips. p29 5.3.8 The cafeteria and cafe bar are now proposed to open before 09:00, so this is false; these facilities will contribute to peak-hour demand. p60 11.3.4 1 It is not "ancillary": the teaching, meeting rooms, and library spaces are new facilities and will all draw some new people to the site. In particular the teaching spaces will draw whole classes to the site who might not otherwise visit at all.

Since the transport assessment lacks any trips for the use of the lecture theatres, we provide a rough calculation here. There are two 100-seat, one 50-seat and one 30-seat lecture theatres, giving a total of 280 seats. All teaching rooms might be used concurrently. If we assume 90% utilisation that gives us 252 users. The student survey indicates 65% of students arrive by cycle and there is a target of 2.5% increase which gives 67.5%. However, the student survey will be greatly underestimating the number of students travelling by cycle to the WCS, as it includes students currently living and working in town who would currently have no need of travelling by cycle. A more realistic estimate is 75 or 80% (it could easily be higher). All users of teaching spaces could be students. If 80% of teaching-space users cycle, that gives 202 cyclists arriving at the SFH and wanting to park their cycles for lectures. Students arriving for lectures will want to park their cycles at the SFH building, since they are unlikely to have already been to another building on the site or to be proceeding to another later. The present allocation of 56 visitor spaces is thus clearly inadequate. At least 258 cycle parking spaces are required. We also think that the 56 visitor spaces allocated for non-teaching space uses is likely to be an underestimate, as it relies on the assumption that almost all visitors will be coming from another building on the WCS to which they will later return. We can't easily re-run the transport engineer's calculation for that, but we suspect it would push the requirement up to at least 300 visitor spaces.

Design and access statement

Numerous issues with the extracts from the West Cambridge Site Masterplan are detailed elsewhere in our objection to the outline planning application 16/1134/OUT:

p67 section 5.2 refers to a "A shared cycle and pedestrian path that will, in later phases, connect JJ Thomson Avenue with High Cross". A shared-use path will be inadequate for this route when it becomes a through route, as a shared-use path is only adequate when peak usage is below 25 users per metre of width per hour (CROW 2006). For a 6m-wide path, this gives a maximum capacity of 150 users per hour. With bursty undergraduate travel through the Green, peak rates exceeding 1,000 users per hour are expected for The Green (i.e. hundreds of users within a five- to ten-minute interval). Therefore, this will need to be a segregated route.

p73 section 5.2 Tar Spray & Chip provides a poor-quality surface for cycling and should not be used.

p76 and 77 section 5.2 should mention "cycle parking" not "cycle storage", as "storage" implies low usage and/or low turnover.

p78 section 5.3 talks about an additional 98 spaces being required in future, bringing total provision up to 176 spaces. This is an improvement, but is not what the transport assessment says, and is still well short of the total requirement for the building of approximately 300 spaces. It does not even meet the needs of the lecture theatres, which need over 200 spaces (as calculated above).

p88 and 89 describe an additional expansion of an additional 144 spaces, which would bring the total spaces provided up to 320. This is likely to be sufficient for the building. Why was this not mentioned earlier, or in the transport assessment? It is not clear how users of the cycle parking that replaces the electrical vehicle parking area will be protected from delivery vehicles.

p97 the number of cycle parking spaces mentioned here (24 staff, 46 visitor) is inconsistent with the numbers elsewhere.