"The Quills", Girton, Cambridgeshire

"The Quills" is a new housing development on the edge of Girton, a 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 of Arbury 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, this 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 neighbours.

The photos were taken in May 2007 when just some of the homes were 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 the morning.

"The Quills" Girton street scene. Parking problems.
Cars dominate the landscape. The pavements especially suffer, even around corners.

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.

"The Quills" Girton street scene. Parking problems.
Turn left into a side street. Cars parked in the way of other cars.

"The Quills" Girton street scene. Parking problems.
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 hedge.

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.

Thornton Road, Girton, Cambridge

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.

Parts for all types of Dutch bicycles

We organize cycling infrastructure study tours for people who have an interest in how the Netherlands achieved its world leading level of cycling.