"The Quills", Girton, Cambridgeshire
"The Quills" is a new housing development on the edge of
village near Cambridge.
Like many such developments of new houses, this is being
marketed as if it's
in the city itself, though it's actually in a noisy spot next to a
small industrial estate in Girton and right next to the A14.
The development has not yet been finished, and not all the
houses have been built. However, you can already get a glimpse
of the future problems caused by such
a dense development. There are very small gardens, a lack of
space for storing bikes, cars, wheelie bins etc. While it makes life
bad for drivers it also fails to offer any help at all for anyone
tempted to do anything but drive. In particular, no attempt is made to
provide a shorter way Eastwards out of the development for cyclists and
pedestrians heading towards the city or the Science Park. Any such
cyclists and pedestrians will have to travel along with the drivers on
the long drag-strip road to the West which provides the sole entrance
to the estate. This won't be either pleasant or convenient and as a
result, it is likely that this estate will not have a high rate of
cycling or walking associated with it.
This development looks almost exactly like a exact prototype
Park on the North of Cambridge, and no doubt a similar type of
construction is to be expected in
the other new necklace developments around the city. There is one
difference, though. Despite the apparent lack of room, probably due to
government guidelines hat 30-50 homes should be built in each hectare,
estate appears to provide somewhat more space for cars than
Arbury Park does. Most houses do at least have driveways in "The
Quills". So, we
can probably expect rather more chaotic road conditions in Arbury Park.
These cramped conditions will surely lead to disputes between
The photos were taken in May 2007 when just some of the homes
occupied. The conditions here can only get worse as it fills up.
The view from Girton Road. It's a long way down this narrow bumpy road
to the part of the new estate which has been completed. The
arrow points to where the next photo was taken. This road has the
potential to be a great dragstrip with all the traffic coming out in
dominate the landscape. The pavements especially suffer, even around
More cars everywhere. You don't want to be a pedestrian here. Pavements
like this, which are virtually always sloped in order to make car
parking on them easy, can be very painful to walk on for elderly people
or those with a bad back. Children trying to cross the road will be
easy to miss behind all those cars, and are unlikely to be able to walk
far on the pavement anyway.
Turn left into a side street. Cars parked in the way of other cars.
Left again. We're going around the block. Not much room for cars here
either. Expensive houses sold as if they
are luxurious and detached
actually are so cramped that they have cars parked within inches of
their front doors. The A14 is to the right, a short distance past the
Left again. It's a bit chaotic here too.
Back where we started, but from another angle.
The odd thing is that there is no reason to live here at all. There are
houses for sale just around the corner in Thornton Road which are in a
much more spacious and attractive setting with pavements you can
actually walk on. They're also no more expensive, and somewhat more
convenient for the city (about a mile closer). Cambridge has quite a
few streets like this which provide detached or semi-detached
accomodation in large older style houses with garages, driveways and
big gardens. Ideal family accomodation.
Or look at Kings Hedges. This 1970s development was at least designed to encourage walking and cycling. It's flawed, but it was an attempt. The developers of The Quills and other new housing developments around Cambridge have not tried to do this.
The developer's website described "The Quills" as a "wonderful
collection of individual character homes."
Read The Truth about Cambridge which I wrote after four years living in the Netherlands and reflecting on how Cambridge had not changed at all when we visited the city.
We organize cycling infrastructure study tours for people who have an interest in how the Netherlands achieved its world leading level of cycling.