A PLANNING application has been submitted for the redevelopment of Silver Street toilets in Cambridge.
Major improvements are proposed to the Cambridge City Council-run public conveniences which have become outdated, costly to maintain and less able to cope with high demand, particularly from the daily volumes of coach tour visitors to the city centre.
The toilets are situated close to the Queen’s Road drop-off point for coaches carrying visitors to Cambridge, so are one of the first impressions many people have of the city.
Being located below the street at river level, the toilets have also been susceptible to flooding, leading to some temporary closures of the facilities.
The planning application proposes a new lightweight structure on Silver Street bridge which will replace the existing disabled toilet with a new facility consisting of a disabled toilet, baby changing table, and a kiosk - as a concession or information point.
A rainwater harvesting collector also represents a distinctive feature of the roof while invertebrate habitats, house sparrow and bat boxes will be incorporated into the exterior wall.
The application proposes upgrading the existing facility to provide for 15 users in total (current provision is 14).
Utilising the limited space available, the new basement arrangement can offer three male cubicles and up to seven female cubicles, two of which are centrally located and can be used as gender neutral cubicles. There will also be space for four male urinals. Three squat toilet cubicles which are commonly used in far eastern countries – where many coach tour visitors to Cambridge originate – have also been included.
Providing for disabled people, gender-neutral people, preserving the integrity and character of the historic location and being sensitive to the need to protect the local environment are all priorities for the redevelopment. Other important considerations are social inclusion, the use of sustainable building materials, layout and minimal water use.
A few proposed design options were submitted by competing architect practices for the redevelopment following an open selection process. The independent Cambridge Design and Conservation Panel reviewed the submitted designs options which were also consulted upon by Historic England.
Gort Scott’s minimal design to the above ground streetscape was selected as the basis of the planning application that has been submitted. The firm has a previous award-winning scheme recently completed in Cambridge at 51 Hills Rd and has built a landmark public toilet facility outside Wembley Stadium.
Subject to the planning application being approved and a successful procurement process, construction is expected to start in autumn 2020. The existing toilets will then close for approximately four months while the works are under way.
Cllr Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment and City Centre, said: “The toilets at Silver Street are situated at the heart of one of Cambridge’s most visited areas.
“It is therefore essential that they meet the requirements of the thousands of people using them each year.
“The planning application puts forward some innovative proposals that will meet the needs of visitors and residents while remaining sensitive to the historic location.”
Silver Street bridge was designed by renowned architect Edward Lutyens in the 1930s and built in the 1950s, is Grade II listed. The existing toilets were built in 1985.