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8 December, 2019 - 19:45 By Kate Sweeney

Bidwells wants Olympic style body to steer tech growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc

Property chiefs including representatives from Bidwells have urged the Government to create an Olympic-style body to deliver the homes and infrastructure needed to create a supercluster within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

They warn that Science & Technology companies in the Arc could struggle to retain top talent unless urgent action is taken.

The call for an Olympic-style delivery authority is one of the proposals put forward in the ‘Radical Regeneration Manifesto’ produced by Bidwells, architects Perkins and Will and policy advisory business Blackstock Consulting.

The manifesto sets out 16 policy recommendations to overhaul the tax and planning systems to make Britain a more attractive place to invest and develop.

Patrick McMahon, senior partner at Bidwells, says: “At either end of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc are the two best universities in the world that collectively see some of the world’s most promising talent walk through its doors each year.

“But, while attracting top talent doesn’t seem to be a problem, retaining it certainly is. By delivering vital housing, infrastructure and cutting-edge science and technology facilities, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’s knowledge-based economy can compete on the global stage while having significant knock-on effects for the rest of the UK through supporting industries and connecting businesses. 

“But to do so, a long-term strategy that encourages public-private collaboration is crucial.”

In Cambridge, houses prices have soared by 73.4 per cent in the last decade while in Oxford prices have seen a 66.8 per cent rise. The success of the Arc’s knowledge-based economy, which has an annual GVA of £100 billion, has also triggered office rent increases of 11.9 per cent in the last year alone as companies vie for limited space.

To guarantee the Arc’s future growth, 25 major investors and developers, including Legal & General, Barratt Developments, and Grosvenor, are calling for politicians to create a singular body responsible for delivering housing and infrastructure within the Arc – just as they did with the Olympics and the Docklands. 

This new body, which would bring together local councils and developers, would be responsible for delivering all new housing, transport links, social infrastructure and commercial space within the Arc, which covers three million people.

The Olympic-style delivery authority, which would see the Arc’s 31local authorities sit alongside developers to coordinate decision making and risk-taking, will help streamline planning, making it easier to deliver and speed-up major projects such as the Oxford-Cambridge rail link and development more generally as well as giving investors greater certainty. 

This would help create a supercluster like California’s Silicon Valley with tech giants sitting alongside startups and university spinouts, the partners argue.
Established in 2006, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) helped ensure the 2012 London Olympics and the games’ legacy were a success.
Over a six-year period, the ODA led and coordinated the planning and construction of the Olympic Park, with eight new venues, a media centre complex, the Olympic and Paralympic athletes’ village, 250 acres of parklands, as well as new bridges, roads and energy infrastructure.

The construction of the Park in East London was widely hailed as a success due to the ODA’s ability to remove the need for time-consuming negotiations with various local bodies. 

Instead, the overriding development entity encouraged collaboration between the five local councils that sat within the boroughs in which regeneration was taking place and developers, with strict and immovable deadlines for planning, financing and construction ensuring targets were met.

The ODA was inspired by the success of the London Docklands Development Corporation which was appointed powers to acquire and dispose of land to drive regeneration efforts. 

The LDDC also served as the development planning authority for the area and was further empowered in 1982 when the creation of an enterprise zone simplified planning rules and capital allowances.

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