How much more can Cambridge grow? Investigation shows potential for 65,000 new jobs and 38,000 homes

How much more can Cambridge grow? Investigation shows potential for 65,000 new jobs and 38,000 homes

Cranes Cambridge

here are fresh warnings that Cambridge’s infrastructure is creaking under the weight of the city’s monster growth.

Our special report today has taken a look at the Cambridge growth agenda – and revealed some staggering findings, as the city stands at a crossroads in its future.

We can reveal…

  • The growth forecast in the local plan back in 2011 has been swept away – with as many as 20,000 extra jobs and 5,000 new homes now in the pipeline
  • Developers claim there is a £175 million funding shortfall in the £3 billion infrastructure bill to mitigate this growth
  • The developers of Northstowe have also raised concerns that accelerating building at other new towns may hinder its plans to get the project moving

The local plan blueprint on which the investment is planned is now some five years old, with our analysis showing how much the landscape has changed in the meantime.

However, the councils undertook further work last year and continue to stand behind these figures.

City council leader Lewis Herbert said: “The strong partnership working between the city, South Cambridgeshire and the county councils also includes the utility providers and already enables a responsive approach to infrastructure requirements where, for example, new developments have been approved by planning inspectors outside of the draft local plans.

“The proposed devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will also unlock new avenues of funding and help us meet the challenges of growth across the Greater Cambridge area.”

The Cambridge growth spurt

The City Deal published the map below back in autumn 2014, as its 15-year vision for between £750 million and £1 billion of investment to mitigate Cambridge’s growth.

This was in response to the growth outlined in the Cambridge local plan, the planning for which started back in 2011.

And as our analysis shows below, the goalposts have shifted drastically as to what is in the pipeline for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire between then and now.

The local plan has still not been approved, and is unlikely to be until summer next year.

All this information is in the public domain, while much of it is already supported by our councils.

This is without even mentioning the fact the councils already acknowledge some 35,800 homes are now on course to be built in the area by 2031.

Developers are also challenging the local plan to build a further 10,000 homes, the bulk of which are on sites in Cambridge’s green belt.


What’s changed

Cambridge Science Park / Northern Fringe East

In November the city council voted to pursue an ambitious redevelopment plan around the new Cambridge North railway station – potentially delivering 15,000 new jobs and 440 new homes

Waterbeach barracks

Both landowners Urban & Civic and RLW Estates believe 10,000 homes could be built at the new town. The first phase of building could start as early as 2018.

Cambridge East

Modifications to the local plan approved late last year would see a new development of 750 homes built near Cambridge Airport, in addition to the 1,300 homes at Marshall’s Wing development

ARM / Capital Park

New ARM owners Softbank has said its takeover bid will create at least 1,500 new jobs at the microprocessor manufacturers in the next five years

Wellcome Genome Campus

The site says it plans on creating 2,000 new jobs over the next decade. Longer term, it has announced even bolder expansion plans that could also include 1,000 new homes

Biomedical Campus

The latest estimates suggest up to 15,000 new jobs could be created at the Biomedical Campus by 2031 – 6,000 of which will arrive in the next five years

Cambourne / Bourn Airfield

While the local plan had only earmarked 1,200 new homes at Cambourne West, developers MCA Developments believe 2,350 new homes can be squeezed in

West and North West Cambridge

The University of Cambridge wants to create 15,000 jobs at its new and improved research campus off Madingley Road – 11,000 more than is there currently

Growth in the south

Smithson Hill, which wants to build a new mixed-use hub for the agri-tech / food / plant science sector at Hinxton, has identified a further 2,500 jobs south of Cambridge. It says 2,000 new jobs could be created at the former Spicer site in Sawston, while a further 500 could be added at Iconix Park in Pampisford

Local plan – 45,000 new jobs and 33,500 new homes

Potential reality – 65,000 new jobs and 38,000 new homes

Cllr Tim Wotherspoon, South Cambs District Council’s cabinet member or strategic planning, added: “High quality facilities and well planned transport links are vital to unlocking much-needed homes in new towns and villages.

“That is why our local plan and the transport strategy for the area were put together at the same time, and we are already working with our partners to make sure a new town north of Waterbeach and a new village at Bourn Airfield could be delivered successfully.


“Delivering growth through new towns and villages does increase some costs of the developments, but this has been weighed up when putting together the local plan against the damage that the alternative of building more large developments in the green belt on the edge of Cambridge would cause.”

Former Cambridge mayor Cllr John Hipkin, who leads the independent groups on both the county and city councils, is a staunch defender of the city’s conservation.

He said our figures were proof that only building thousands of extra houses was not the answer to solving Cambridge’s affordability crisis.

“The growth of the city is happening at a faster rate than we anticipated,” he added.

“That being the case, the old arguments still arise about whether the city and South Cambridgeshire can reasonably be expected to go on absorbing endless growth before it becomes a vast, characterless conurbation.”

He added that thoughts must now turn towards getting on with building new communities such as Bourn Airfield – and thinking about new settlements even further afield.

“The case for regenerating some of the market towns within the county is so much more imperative, as a result of this rapid spurt in growth,” said Cllr Hipkin.

Delivering the infrastructure Cambridge needs – what will be built

Transport area Busways and other bus priority measures Cylceways Highways Park and ride Public realm Railway TOTAL
Cambridge £25.8m £55.8m £850,000 N/A £33m N/A £115.5m
Cambridge orbitals £106.4m N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A £106.4m
Cambridge radial routes – Milton Road, Histon Road etc £27.3m N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A £27.3m
Ely to Cambridge £46.1m £14.4m £129.8m £11.5m N/A £33.1m £234.9m
Haverhill to Cambridge £36m £10.8m N/A £7.2m N/A N/A £54m
Newmarket to Cambridge £94.6m N/A N/A £17.3m N/A N/A £111.9m
Non transport corridor N/A £5.7m N/A N/A N/A N/A £5.7m
Royston to Cambridge £15.8m £9.2m £21.6m £17.3m N/A N/A £63.9m
Saffron Walden to Cambridge N/A £10m N/A N/A N/A N/A £10m
St Neots to Cambridge £91.4m £23.4m N/A £11.5m N/A N/A £126.3m
TOTAL £443.3m £129.3m £152.3m £64.8m £33m £33m £855.9m

Rafts of technical studies have been undertaken by the councils’ consultants through the local plan process.

They are adamant that the development strategy of building new settlements linked to Cambridge is the right one, instead of simply extending Cambridge or existing villages.

These reports include the fact slightly more than £2 billion in national funding is in the pipeline for the Cambridge transport network, including the A14 upgrade and the new Cambridge North station.

A report by Peter Brett Associates also forecasts £850 million will be spent on ‘corridors’ between Cambridge and the surrounding area.

This is split £450 million on busways; £130 million on cycleways; £150 million on new roads, including £130 million to be spent dualling the A10 between Waterbeach and Cambridge; £65 million on new park and ride sites and upgrades, and £33 million apiece in Cambridge public realm improvements and moving Waterbeach railway station.

Commercial Estates Group, which wants to build thousands of new homes in the green belt south east of the city, has calculated that the pot of money is some £175 million short of funding all these schemes.

This shortfall is around £80 million over the next five years, says Commercial Estates.

Where Commercial Estates Group says the shortfall is


Total funding needed – £187m

Guaranteed funding – £107m


Total funding needed – £236m

Guaranteed funding – £218m


Total funding needed – £323m

Guaranteed funding – £237m

But Cllr Wotherspoon called this “totally misleading”, given that not all these proposed developments are needed to deliver the growth, and there are other sources of funding available.

Cllr Kevin Blencowe, the city council’s executive councillor for planning, added: “The strategy for infrastructure is set by the county and there is a belief that strategy is deliverable.

“We take that into account and set the local plans on the basis we believe the transport strategy is deliverable. We can then set employment and housing growth we envisage.

“What a lot of developers need to take into account, of course, is in making arguments against the current growth on those future infrastructure requirements, this will affect their own aspirations. Their sites will require infrastructure as well.”

Paul Kitson, the project manager for the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) at Northstowe, also said he was confident any issues could be resolved with the council.

As part of the local plan process, the HCA told the councils that it planned on starting pre-application discussions about phase three at Northstowe as early as next year.

This meant it needed to be considered in any infrastructure planning up to 2031.

Their submission also said more thought needed to be given to speeding up delivery at Waterbeach and Bourn Airfield, and the impact this could have on resources for schemes like Northstowe.

Mr Kitson told the News yesterday: “We’re trying to make sure everything is linked up at a strategic level for the next five to 10 years.

“We’re all committed to building and making high quality places. It’s not that it can’t be done – the whole idea of the local plan process is to ask these questions.”

Cambridge News, 23rd August 2016