The residential and retail development has been designed to mitigate the risk of flooding

2023 Higher Education Architect of the Year, MCW Architects, has completed a mixed-use scheme at Newnham Mill Pond in Cambridge.

The newly completed scheme, known as Mill House, features a combination of private apartments and retail space, integrating the existing townscape with new homes. The project replaces an Edwardian building that was closed down in 2016 due to fire damage.

The site, occupied for over 300 years, previously housed a public house built in 1903 that later served as an Indian restaurant until its closure. The existing building was identified as a ‘building which detracts’ within the local conservation area appraisal.

Local developer CamProp GCR’s brief called for 1-bed or studio apartments above a ground floor commercial unit. Two upper floors provide seven fully accessible apartments with carefully framed views across the millpond towards the city. The ground floor is occupied by a popular café/deli, also serving as a venue for evening events.

Colin Moses, Director at MCW architects explains: “This has been a special project for us – a remarkable opportunity to tackle placemaking at a small scale on a wonderful site that is a ‘stone’s throw’ from our studio in Cambridge.

“We enjoyed getting to meet members of the community and undertaking a genuinely collaborative process to create what has proved to be an immensely popular addition to this part of the city.

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“It’s great to cycle by in the morning around the early morning coffee drinkers, enjoying views across the millpond and in the evenings to see the patchwork of apartments reflected in the water.”

In consideration of the site’s sensitivity and public interest in its redevelopment, MCW Architects and planning consultants Carter Jonas initiated consultation sessions with local community groups. The sessions, held in MCW’s studios, included representatives from the South Newnham Residents Forum and Newnham Croft Residents Association to discuss design work.

Early sharing of ideas enabled the building of a consensus, leading to amendments in proposals related to scale and material selection. The Planning Committee received a letter of commendation for the scheme and the engagement with the South Newnham Neighbourhood Forum.

The site is within a flood risk area, necessitating careful consideration from concept design to detailed construction. Input from flood risk consultants and understanding typical flood-resistant measures were integral to the design.

Placing all residential units on the first floor and out of the flood risk zone was critical. Additional measures for ground floor areas included in situ concrete up to the first floor and high-level routing of power and data feeds. Temporary flood barriers can be inserted into external door frames.

Addressing the complex hung tile junctions posed a challenge, requiring full engagement and commitment from the contractor and specialist subcontractor teams. Coordination and adaptation of designs through innovation and a specialist understanding of materials and fabrication processes were crucial in realising the project on-site.

Project details

Area: GIA 6,100 ft2 / NIA 5,100ft2

Project cost: Confidential (under £5M)

Completion date: January 2023

Gross internal floor area: GIA 6,100ft2 / NIA 5,100ft2

Architect: MCW Architects

Client: GCR Camprop Ltd.

Cost Consultant: Project Eleven Consultants

Heritage Consultant: Donald Insall Associates

SE/CE (planning): Conisbee

Visualisations: Rankine Ltd.

Structural engineer: Cooper Associates

M&E: Scotch Partners LLP


Acoustic: Cass Allen

Fire: GB Compliance

Principal Designer: CamProp Construction

Approved Inspector: Shore

Planning: Carter Jonas

Main Contractor: CamProp Construction


Clay hung tiles: Petersen

Facing brick: Wienerberger

Blue roofing: Alumasc Roofing

Single ply roofing: Alumasc Roofing

Composite windows: Ideal Combi

Composite patio doors: Ideal Combi

Bespoke Aluminium cladding, features, window reveals, flashings: Wallis Sheppard Ltd

Entrance doors: Vinco Windows Group

Platform lift: Gartec

Metal web joists: Mitek

Flooring: Saint Cobain

Ceilings: British Gypsum

Kitchens: Howdens