West Cambridge Active Travel (WCAT)

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 http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2016-17/weekly/6471/section7.shtml#heading2-19 and the detailed plans at http://www.prao.admin.cam.ac.uk/files/shared_facilities_hub_1st_report_plans.pdf . There are more details at http://www.westcambridge-sfh.co.uk/ .

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 https://www.governance.cam.ac.uk/governance/decision-making/discussions/Page s/proceedings.aspx

http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2015-16/weekly/6430/section9.shtml#headi 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 wiki.cam.ac.uk/wcs-active-travel under the Shared Facilities Hub page.

Thank you.