Please find below the answers to the most frequently asked questions about our plans for the site.

If you would like additional information, please contact us to find out more.

Why are you proposing the redevelopment?

The St Matthew’s Centre is identified as a potential development site within Cambridge City Council’s ‘Eastern Gate’ area – an area stretching from the Crown Court, past the Elizabeth Way roundabout to the beginning of the Cambridge Retail Park. The Council’s vision for the ‘Eastern Gate’ area is focused on regenerating and transforming a key approach to the city through high-quality development.

If we can carefully make better use of the site, we invest in St Matthew’s Piece and help meet the challenge of accommodating Cambridge’s student population.

Why do we need more student accommodation?

According to a Cambridge City Council report published in 2017* 8,959 purpose-built student rooms need to be built by 2026 to meet current and future accommodation needs. This would accommodate all of the students and would allow the return of all shared houses currently occupied by students to the open market.

Meeting the current student numbers through the provision of purpose-built student accommodation might release into the open market between 1,200 (based on 5 students per shared house) and 1,700 houses (based on 3.5 students per shared house), currently occupied by students sharing.

If purpose-built student accommodation is not available to meet future growth, then by 2026, between 656 (based on 5 students per shared house) and 821 (based on 3.5 students per shared house) additional existing houses would need to be converted into shared student accommodation in order to meet demand.

Because there is not enough purpose-built student accommodation available, many students end up accepting accommodation that is not managed by either a university or a private purpose-built student accommodation provider. In this situation, both the student and the surrounding community have no guarantee that standards and community contact will be maintained.

Who will manage and operate the student accommodation?

The new purpose-built accommodation will be operated and managed by one of Cambridge’s universities or a private provider of purpose-built student accommodation. There will be on call staff, 24-hour security and CCTV.

What steps will be taken to prevent anti-social behaviour?

Students will be expected to act considerately and respectfully to others and the property; to adhere to obligations set out in a Tenancy Agreement and understand the consequences of failing to keep to these terms. Anti-social behaviour, of any kind, is not acceptable and any incidents will be dealt with.

How will you prevent students from owning a car?

A condition within any future planning permission will also prohibit a student A condition within any future planning permission will prohibit a student from applying for an on-street resident parking permit. In general, walking or cycling in Cambridge is a cheaper and often more practical form of transport.

Why have you chosen a contemporary design?

The constraints of this unusual site require a novel approach to retain the existing building, respect the open space, and preserve the mature trees surrounding the site.

The design developed from an original concept by the late Prof. Will Alsop OBE RA, whose core values were innovation, expression, and originality with an emphasis on enjoyment. This led to a design which challenges architectural norms. According to Will, every building contains references, memories and meaning for many people and as such should be loved, reworked, and kept. 

He did not consider this as a heritage mission but a point of humanity. His response was to lift new buildings above existing ones, so both old and new could co-exist in dialogue with each other and preserve the memory of a place. Some of his most acclaimed projects followed this strategy, such as the celebrated Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) and the RIBA Stirling Prize-winning Peckham Library in London. 

What materials are you planning to use?

We will be using a range of materials that have been chosen for their sustainability credentials, robustness, and quality. 

  • The building will be supported by timber thinning columns which are essentially tree trunks stripped of bark. They are a natural by-product of the forestry industry. 
  • The building frame will be cross laminated timber (CLT) which can be manufactured off site and assembled quickly. Using CLT lowers the carbon footprint of the new building, by reducing the need for structural concrete or steel. 
  • The rooftop pods will be clad in zinc cladding in a pale green colour; the flat roof will be a biodiverse green roof.
  • The walls of the building will be clad in horizontal steel panels behind terracotta baguettes fixed in a random pattern to create a ‘nest’ effect.
  • The porter’s lodge on New Street will be clad in brick. 

How high will the new building be?

The building is three storeys with an additional set back roof level storey and is raised off the ground by approximately 6.5 metres. The building height from ground level to the top of the main floors is 16.5 metres and to the top most point of the rooftop pods is 19.7 metres. The trees surrounding the site are 25-28 metres high so the new building will be 5 – 11.5 metres below the height of the trees surrounding the site.

What are your expected timings?

On our current timescales, we are hoping to begin construction in 2021. Construction of the new building will take approximately 14 months.

What will be done to minimise the impacts of construction?

Although there will inevitably be a period of disruption, our team will give careful consideration to how to minimise the impact via a construction management plan which will be agreed with Cambridge City Council as part of the planning submission. Our primary focus is to ensure that disruption and inconvenience for all local residents and visitors to St Matthew’s Piece are kept to a minimum.

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates as the plans progress.

* indicates required