Saturday, Jan 31st

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Land ahoy!

Gone are the days when land availability is a matter of concern just for planners and developers in the business property sphere in and around Cambridge. Anxiety has been expressed below-the-line by some agents since the early years of this decade.

Now these once private anxieties are bubbling to the surface and being aired and shared above-the-line as the Local Plans of both Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council begin to take on a more definite shape this spring and client demand closes in.

Cambridge is a destination city for business but it lacks enough bricks on the ground to meet the demands of current occupiers. To accommodate future growth plans of home-grown businesses and those corporates and professional service companies wishing to locate here, property advisors are already pointing to the need to earmark land and look to potential commercial development land that has yet to be formally adopted in these authorities’ Local Plans.

This poses problems for all those charged with identifying future, realistic site and land opportunities in the city beyond 2030 and 2040. Now that’s speculative development in its purest form, surely?

Every sentiment and forecast points to the continuing prosperity and growth of Cambridge. However, not everything is in place to underpin its smooth delivery and provide for the city’s economic pre-eminence in the mid-to-long term to meet a demand which so clearly exists.

Civic Cambridge has not been too receptive to such demands in the past.

The ongoing squeeze on property availability and price is well-documented – whether commercial or residential – and will continue to be reported by all agents in the city as the decade progresses.

With land as a finite resource, the level of development needed to ensure ongoing economic prosperity in those areas of this region which have Cambridge as their commercial heart will involve compromise.

There are unresolved tensions between what business and the nation looks to Cambridge for and what many of its residents want. It won’t be an easy task to reconcile the differences of all interested parties but it will have to be done. It won’t be pretty.

Central government continues to count on Cambridge so much that, having retained the ultimate power over planning decisions, there may be some truths beyond this decade that some may find hard to swallow.

Land: they ain’t making any more of it. More’s the pity.