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14 September, 2018 - 12:00 By Tony Quested

University leads call to arms in fight to boost Cambridge infrastructure

The University of Cambridge has added its powerful voice to a call for a more co-ordinated government policy to driving growth across the UK and Europe’s leading science & technology cluster.

It wants to see heavy investment in a joined-up campaign to provide more houses, better transport options and improved business capacity across Cambridge, Peterborough and The Fens.

Vice-chancellor Professor Stephen Toope delivered a robust call to arms following today’s publication of the final report from the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER).

Professor Toope said: “Its detailed analysis shows how pivotal Cambridge is to the economic wellbeing of our region and the role we can play in delivering prosperity to the wider country.

“Moreover, its ‘three economies model’, which identifies Fens, Cambridge, and Peterborough as distinct economic areas across Cambridgeshire, is one we endorse and support. 

“The next challenge is to ensure that all three areas can benefit from and complement each other’s many strengths so we can collectively tackle the significant disparities across our county and ensure a more inclusive and sustainable future.

“Policymakers should take note of this impressive report. It explains many of the diverse challenges we face across Cambridgeshire, and rightly exhorts government to invest in much-needed homes, transport infrastructure, and business capacity across our county.

“Together with other universities and businesses, we urgently need these improvements to sustainably support our staff and their families, and to facilitate continued growth across our region. 

“We are enthusiastic partners in these goals and look forward to working with the combined authority, our mayor, the GCP and others, to attain CPIER’s objectives in the years to come”.

Cambridge Ahead chairman Ian Mather echoed the call for action rather than endless debate.

Key findings, which Cambridge Ahead agree need to be taken forward, include:-

  • The identification of three distinct economic geographies in the Combined Authority area and the need for policy and delivery to be tailored to their particular circumstances so each can achieve its potential
  • The need to prioritise infrastructure projects, key road and rail links, and final mile solutions for Greater Cambridge
  • That all local partners need to come together to drive agreed priorities forward
  • That health and wellbeing, skills and quality of life must be central elements when considering the local industrial strategy to be drawn up by the Combined Authority
  • That the Government needs to deliver further fiscal devolution to unlock the potential of the whole area
  • The importance of Greater Cambridge in attracting foreign direct investment to the county and the UK.

In relation to Greater Cambridge, the review points to the need for the UK Government to adopt a “Cambridge or overseas” mentality towards knowledge-intensive businesses. Maintaining a supportive environment for these businesses should be considered a nationally strategic priority, says Mather.

He said: “This report is a highly significant piece of work. It has unearthed key facts about the region, including that the rate of economic growth has been higher than previously thought. 

“This has led to an infrastructure gap that needs to be filled, in particular relating to housing and transport, and the review provides an excellent basis for wider considerations such as the development of the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc. 

“All who live and work in Greater Cambridge will welcome CPIER’s findings that a package of transport and other infrastructure projects, designed to alleviate the growing pains of the area, should be considered the single most important priority for our region. This requires better collaboration between the Combined Authority, local councils and the GCP, as well as further devolution from central Government, including fiscal powers, and stronger engagement from businesses and academia.”

The final report can be found at http://www.cpier.org.uk/final-report/

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: University of Cambridge Vice-chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope

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