Two years ago, Savills produced a report highlighting that there was almost no available commercial laboratory space in Cambridge. Their report generated something akin to a goldrush and developers have been falling over themselves to build lab space because they believe they have a guaranteed market and profits. Since then, we have seen a rash of proposals to build labs – 13 so far.

The problem for developers is that the land that has been earmarked for labs is on research parks like the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and Wellcome Campus – and the developers don’t have access to that land. As a result, they are bringing forward speculative developments wherever they are able to, mainly on land that has other uses: The Grafton shopping centre, the Beehive shopping centre, former offices, etc.

In order make these expensive redevelopments financially successful they need to be very large and that means massive buildings – both very high and very wide, basically giant boxes. That might be OK on a research park, where it has been planned, but not in the Cambridge suburbs where they are often close to low-rise residential buildings and Conservation Areas and where inward transportation of thousands of workers is problematic.

Each of the large lab developments will change the Cambridge skyline because they will be seen in views over the city from high points like Castle Mound and Red Meadow Hill as well as from our greenspaces such as Midsummer’s Common and Coldham’s Common. Cambridge has a distinctive skyline that combines towers, turrets and spires with large trees; think of King’s College chapel and the Church of Our Lady or even the industrial chimney that is now part of the Museum of Technology. If all of the lab developments go ahead, they will transform the Cambridge skyline into one that is characterised by giant blocks. Is that what we want our beautiful city to look like?

CambridgePPF has already objected to a lab scheme proposed for northeast Cambridge (we are waiting for the Secretary of State to decide whether to approve it or not). We have also objected to plans for the Grafton Shopping Centre and Beehive Shopping Centre and we have been appealing to our local politicians to work with developers to bring forward plans that are appropriate in scale and designed with respect for our historic city.

The latest lab proposal is at Coldham’s Lane and we will be objecting to that too. You can give your views on this application by clicking here.

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