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What are all the big changes coming to Newmarket Road?

You could be forgiven for thinking this major city route has, for a while, felt a little unloved. Bu..

By admin , in Cambridge , at February 24, 2018

You could be forgiven for thinking this major city route has, for a while, felt a little unloved. But Newmarket Road is the centre of some major changes. Could this be the start of a new era for this up-and-coming part of town?

Stretching from the city centre out towards Fen Ditton, Newmarket Road has seen major changes in the last few years, with giant blocks of student accommodation and chain hotels springing up.

There are signs some of the more neglected corners of this part of town could soon be in for a sprucing up.

So, what is going on in Newmarket Road?

City's first ever gaming bar

The derelict Five Bells pub in Newmarket Road has been a boarded-up eyesore and has been shut since 2003. But now, the pub is set to become the city’s first ever games bar as Cambridge-based video games developer Ninja Theory Limited had their plans approved by the city council on November 1.

View looking west on Newmarket Road – a CGI image of what the new development at the former Five Bells pub may look like (May 2017). As well as a pub, the development will house an office headquarters for Cambridge games company Nina Theory Limited

Punters will be able to pull up a pew and indulge in a few rounds of their favourite video game with friends while enjoying a beer or two.

The pub, which will be called the "Bird or Worm", will be housed on the ground floor of a new building which will be used for the headquarters of Ninja Theory.

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While discussing the plans, councillors on the city council’s planning committee welcomed the addition of the gaming bar, saying it would help “rejuvenate” the street scene in the area.

Cambridge-based game developer Ninja Theory are behind the plans to build new offices and and a gaming bar at the site of Five Bells public house. Credit: CMP Architects

An underground café and outdoor art

One of the most down-at-heel parts of Cambridge is the underground roundabout joining Newmarket Road with East Road. But this dingy underpass could soon be home to Cambridge’s first underground café, or subterranean community gardens.

Newmarket Road / East Road roundabout underpasses. Picture: Warren Gunn

These are just two of the suggestions made by residents to transform the roundabout, which is covered in graffiti and is a hotspot for anti-social behaviour.

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There have also been calls to open up the walls for local artists to paint murals to spruce the area up and turn it into an “open air art gallery”.

Newmarket Road / East Road roundabout underpasses. Picture: Warren Gunn

A new, underground bus station or a metro stop?

A giant underground bus station under the city centre is among the ideas floated in a bid to tackle Cambridge’s congested streets and improve public transport, and it could be located just off Newmarket Road.

The huge underground station could accommodate 24 buses at once

The idea for a massive interchange was initially put forward in this report from the Greater Cambridge Partnership, Cambridge Ahead, Smart Cambridge and Cambridge University.

It could be located underground in a city centre location, possibly off Newmarket Road or near Parker’s Piece.

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It could also be the site of a new station on the proposed city metro, which will bring passengers, through underground tunnels, into the city centre. Could a stop in Newmarket Road help to rejuvenate this part of Cambridge and encourage more people to treat it as a destination itself?

What about the Seven Stars?

The formerly closed Seven Stars pub in Newmarket Road was redeveloped in 2016 as part of a larger site including student accommodation – but the pub still remains closed, with “no sign of activity” inside.

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Cllr Richard Johnson, who represents the Abbey Ward in Cambridge, said: “I think the community should know what is happening as one of the reasons why councillors were supportive of the proposals back in 2014 was the promise of a revived public house following the closure of several pubs in the Abbey area over recent years.”

One resident said: “I walk past it quite often now, and while it’s looked completely finished for a while, there’s no sign of activity on the inside.”

Another watering hole, the Seven Stars, shown here in September 1987

Efforts have been made to contact the owners of the site to find out what is happening.

Cambridge's ice rink due soon

Builders are currently working to complete Cambridge’s new 340-seat ice rink. It marks the culmination of a 20-year quest to find suitable land for the rink to be built on.

The potential façade at the proposed new Cambridge Ice Arena

The 340-seat arena will provide schools, university teams and members of the public access to figure skating, ice hockey, ice dancing, speed skating and ice discos.

Cambridge Leisure and Ice Centre (CLIC) and development partner Cool Venues say the rink will be completed by autumn 2018.

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The 56 metre by 26 metre ice pad will meet international standards, while the venue will be "one of the most energy efficient ice rinks in the UK".

Chisholm trail is coming

The Chisholm Trail, a major segregated cycle “superhighway” that will take bike commuters between the city’s two railway stations, and major employment sites, is set to cross under Newmarket Road near the historic Leper Church.

Transport campaigner Jim Chisholm

There’s an ambitious plan to install an underpass near Cambridge’s historic Leper Chapel.

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“The intention is to try to do the Newmarket Road underpass in one weekend to minimise the disruption,” said Jim Chisholm, the transport campaigner after whom the trail is named.

“The idea is to build a big box-culvert on the other side and dig it out over a long weekend and push it in, as has been done with railway bridges and some other structures. It’s a technique that’s quite well tried and tested.”

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