The 80,500m² scheme for developer Pioneer Group will include 47,300m² of life sciences space with labs and workspaces spread across five floors and a basement as well as a new public square and a 4,600m² hotel. The amount of retail space will be reduced to 10,400m² – a quarter of its current size.
A 1,640m² gym and leisure area, 3,390m² cinema, and 1,720m² residential space will replace the centre’s existing facilities of the same size. Overall, the scheme will increase the centre’s existing GIA by 15,900m² .
During a planning committee meeting this week (7 February), Cambridge councillors voted to approve the application subject to conditions including a management plan for antisocial behaviour, with four in favour, one against and one abstention.
Corstorphine & Wright’s scheme will involve the part-demolition of the existing Grafton Centre and demolition of buildings at 11-12 Burleigh Street, including retail and housing, and Abbeygate House, a retail and office building.
The centre’s existing façades will be removed and replaced with new façades and shopfronts with a ‘contemporary appearance’ incorporating bronze aluminium cladding, stone cladding and double-height windows, while new floorspace will be built for life science use, and fourth-floor terraces added.
An existing bus turning head and service area in the complex will be redeveloped to create a hotel and leisure quarter, and cycle parking, a cycle route, bus stops and pedestrians routes will be added.
Prior to the committee meeting, the scheme received 54 objections, including over its alleged ‘oversupply’ of hotel and lab space in an ‘inappropriate’ location, lack of housing, loss of city centre car parking, and ‘bland design … completely out of scale and character’ with the area.
Residents also had a number of environmental concerns, including the impact on air quality and other environmental risks from lab buildings being so close to existing housing, the possible urban heat island effect of the development, and its impact on local trees and ecosystems.
One objector speaking in the committee meeting called for the application to be deferred over its lack of clarity on a possible heat island effect, adding ‘there’s not really much to scrutinise here’ for councillors to give ‘due diligence’ to the application.
Cambridge council planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval, insisting the proposals ‘uplift the architectural quality and public realm of this part of the city’.
The officers said the scheme would bring other public benefits, including around 2,650 new jobs (1,870 more than on the existing site), the new leisure quarter, and the retrofitting of part of the existing building to be more energy and water-efficient.
Their report concluded that the application ‘facilitates the ongoing viable use of the Grafton Centre which is declining as a retail destination’, and is ‘uniquely placed to help meet the high demand of lab and life sciences uses’ emerging in Cambridge.
Pioneer Group said the development would create a ‘comprehensive revitalisation’ of ‘a central shopping location which has been in decline over recent years’, and make ‘a major contribution towards addressing an acute demand and short supply of laboratories within Cambridge’.
Corstorphine & Wright group director Michael Walters said the firm was ‘delighted’ by the approval of the Grafton Centre’s redevelopment.
He added: ‘This project represents a significant investment in the future of Cambridge, and we are eager to bring our extensive town centre regeneration experience providing a sustainable future to current distressed assets.’
Local authority Cambridge City Council
Type of project Mixed-use redevelopment of Grafton Centre
Client Pioneer Group/Angelo Gordon
Architect Corstorphine & Wright
Landscape architect Macgregor Smith
Planning consultant Bidwell
Structural engineer Mosaic
M&E consultant KJ Tait
Quantity surveyor Gardiner & Theobald