Carter Jonas Welcomes ‘Cambridge 2040’
Date of Article
Jul 12 2023
Commercial sectors

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Government plans to invest considerably in Cambridge as ‘Europe’s Silicon Valley’ made national news headlines recently. Delivering up to 250,000 additional homes over the next two decades, this is intended as part of a blueprint to fix England’s housing crisis and unleash growth in life sciences and technology. 

‘Cambridge 2040’ also includes identifying large swathes of land for business parks, laboratories and science hubs alongside proposals for sustainable public transport. 

If fully implemented, it could effectively treble the size of the city, bringing its population, currently at 145,000, in line with that of Bristol or Manchester. With the average Cambridge house price over nine times the average salary, the need to address supply and demand in the housing market and increase the availability of homes for key workers is long over-due.

William Rooke, Partner in Carter Jonas’s Commercial team, commented, “Cambridge is a world-class city, key to UK plc and the future economic prosperity of the country. Currently home to over 26,000 businesses and generating total revenues in excess of £48bn, the city has experienced considerable growth and has an unparalleled potential to expand on this. We are seeing current occupier demand for over 1 million sq ft of science and tech space which cannot be accommodated within the city’s present stock. 

“The identification of Cambridge as central to the Government’s growth strategy demonstrates the importance of employment-led growth, specifically in the rapidly expanding tech industries. Those companies already located here have shown a considerable appetite for augmentation and the city is uniquely placed to host both established and growing companies, in AI, green technology and other emerging sectors.

Colin Brown’s Planning & Development team has overseen much of the city’s growth in recent decades. He says, “Cambridgeshire and the surrounding area is well placed to deliver on the growth agenda provided that it is coordinated and supported by necessary critical infrastructure. To deliver an additional 250,000 homes alongside commercial development, transport and community infrastructure by 2040 is however ambitious in the extreme, and would mean development proceeding at a wholly unprecedented rate. To my mind delivery of anything even approaching that level of ambition would require a development corporation with wide planning and land assembly powers to be established quickly and for the vision to take into account significant known constraints, including the already over-stretched demand on roads, the need for major public transport infrastructure, and water availability. It would mean substantial revisions to the local plans already in place and effective coordination between the public and private sectors and critically, Central Government. I do not doubt the potential of Cambridgeshire to work towards this considerable ambition, but a strategic approach is imperative to delivering growth effectively and one suspects it will take well beyond 2040 to do so.

“Cambridgeshire is currently delivering one of the highest levels of housing in the country. There are currently plans to deliver a further 52,000 new homes in Greater Cambridge by 2036, 37,000 of which are already committed to in new settlements such as at Waterbeach and Northstowe. To accelerate housing delivery even further on sites as yet unidentified requires strategic planning to move at a considerably faster rate than we have seen to recently and would require a large range of development locations to be identified.
‘The Oxford Cambridge Arc, although much spoken about, is yet to be realised and there is potential for Cambridge’s expansion to progress along the (as yet unconfirmed) tracks of the East West Rail line. But the failure of the Arc to move beyond being a ‘concept’ also provides a lesson to Cambridge 2040: that little will materialise without a coordinated plan led by a powerful delivery vehicle and with clear and defined Central Government support and funding.