Railpen has submitted an outline planning application for the Beehive Centre redevelopment, following two years of consultation with Cambridge City Council and the local community.

The proposal, if approved by Cambridge City Council, will transform a car-dominated shopping centre at risk of decline, delivering a mix of new retail, leisure, entertainment and community spaces.

Around 20 new shops and leisure facilities are proposed, including a small supermarket and affordable gym.

Plans also include laboratory and office space for companies in the science and technology industry. The redevelopment will be surrounded by new vibrant streets, green public spaces, a public square and wetlands.

The redevelopment will provide an additional 15 buses per hour with a service extension to the train station, a new service to Milton Park & Ride, as well as new direct services to Cambourne and St Neots, Huntington and St Ives, Ely and Waterbeach. More than 4,200 cycle parking spaces will be created, and 460 car parking spaces – a third of which will provide electric vehicle charging.

The proposals will also bring much-needed social infrastructure to the area, including ‘iGlu’ – a youth facility in partnership with Cambs Youth Panel, as well as a new educational hub and ‘Makers Lab’ with Cambridge Science Centre, new skateboarding and roller skating space with Cam Skate, and a Community Pavilion and events space.

Sixteen-year-old Hollie, who is a member of Cambs Youth Panel, said: “We are so excited to be developing this iGlu as our passion is about supporting and giving opportunities to those in the young community. By creating this space in the Beehive Centre we’ll be showing everyone how essential it is that teenagers feel welcome in open spaces.”   

Once complete, the Beehive Centre will be home to more than 6,000 jobs, with over 2,000 of these requiring no specialist qualifications. A pioneering employment and skills plan is being developed in partnership with a wide network of community organisations to help local residents overcome barriers to employment and gain sustainable, well-paid work.

Explaining the Employment and Skills Strategy, Anne Bailey, co-founder and Chief Executive of Form the Future, said: “This is a unique opportunity to develop new ways of supporting skills and training opportunities for local residents, through work experience, job creation, apprenticeships, careers information and training.”

Cambridge Retail Park will continue to offer large retail space, with the addition of re-located retailers from the Beehive Centre. Discounted rents will be introduced on the Beehive Centre to support smaller retailers and Railpen is working with Indie Cambridge to support local independent businesses.

Anne Beamish, Founder of Indie Cambridge, said: “The transformation of the Beehive Centre presents one of the most exciting and significant opportunities in the city and we are really pleased to be able to showcase the many talented independent businesses from across Cambridge.”

The proposal will target BREEAM “Outstanding”, which is the highest global sustainability rating for commercial buildings.

Head of Property at Railpen, Matthew Howard, said: “The submission of an outline planning application is just the start, with lots of work still to be done to deliver wide ranging benefits for local people – including more jobs in the neighbourhood, new community and leisure facilities, improved public transport connections and most of all a place for everyone, from any background and on any budget.

“We want to provide a development of the highest quality that also delivers on the widest range of priorities for the local community – and we are really excited about what we’re now submitting.”

Quotes from community partners

“The support of Railpen shows how the benefits of investment can be shared throughout our communities. We’ve been inspired by Railpen’s openness to explore innovative new ideas, and their interest and enthusiasm to really get to know the community that they are part of in Abbey. We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact that our partnership will have on the lives of local people.”

Nicky Shepard, CEO, Abbey People

“Working in partnership with Railpen, we have a real opportunity to create a new and engaging STEM educational facility – the Makers’ Space – at the Beehive Centre where children, young people and families can get their hands on science, try stuff out and learn about STEM. This space is so desperately needed in Cambridge to spread opportunity and address inequality – and the support of Railpen will help us reach even more children, families, and communities through our hands-on approach to STEM.”

John Bull, CEO, Cambridge Science Centre

“Railpen understands the benefits of embracing skateboarding as part of the Beehive redevelopment. Skateboarding promotes creativity, perseverance and positive mental health for young people. Skaters bring life to urban environments and make them safer for all users. Cam Skate is excited by Railpen’s approach to working with the local skateboarding community and the possibilities it brings for improving skateboarding facilities in Cambridge.”

Cam Skate

“It is a great honour to work with Railpen to develop their site at the planning stage and to see that they are considering how to make their site as accessible as possible for everyone – discussions from the first focus group included adding a sensory garden in a quiet area of the site, making sure there are accessible public toilets, and how to support the neurodiverse workforce on site in the future.”

Liz Taylor, CEO Red2Green

“We are very excited to be working with Railpen to co-design a space with young women and girls at the Beehive Centre. Traditional approaches to provision for teenagers and young people (fenced pitches and BMX tracks) tend to be dominated by boys and young men. This project isn’t about painting things pink or creating separate spaces for boys and girls. But by working with young women, the Railpen team can co-design a space that is welcoming to young women, nonbinary young people and the boys and young men for whom traditional teen provision doesn’t work.”

Imogen Clark, Co-founder, Make Space for Girls