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26 November, 2012 - 17:40 By Tony Quested

Cambridge business triggers development bonanza

Robert Marshall

World-leading business Marshall of Cambridge has lit the touchpaper to one of the most significant developments in city annals – freeing up 125 acres of non-airport land for housing and commercial schemes and bankrolling upgraded manufacturing facilities at the company.

Hundreds of new jobs will be created by the historic decision. An official planning application will probably be submitted to South Cambs District Council in the UK next summer but it is not envisaged that work would start on-site much before 2015.

The full extent of the scheme will not be known until the land is sold and Marshall makes its section 106 payments for community projects.

Forty per cent of the envisaged 1500 homes will be affordable housing on land between the north of Newmarket Road and High Ditch Road.

A school, a commercial hub – either a supermarket or a light industrial development, a new petrol filling station, playing fields and open space amenity land are all up for discussion.

The development will also enable the company, over a number of years - to modernise and improve its existing manufacturing facilities and generally tidy up the site.

As part of the process for this planning application, the company will be hosting a three day design workshop in early January, which will provide an opportunity for representations from all stakeholders, including the relevant planning authorities, Marshall employees and the general public, in order to develop a master plan.

Group chief executive, Robert Marshall said: “Since our foundation in Cambridge in 1909, Marshall has been a cornerstone of the local community and we are very proud of our contribution to the skills base and the creation of employment which has been of benefit to the local economy.

“We are also very aware of the shortage of good quality housing to support the needs of Cambridge’s growing economy, and our employees. This long term project represents the start of an exciting period of investment in the growth of our businesses.”

Steering the scheme through to fruition to all-round benefit will be a hard task logistically. Marshall employs around 4,500 people and it is not known as yet whether the revamp of the site will involve any relocation aspects.

Also, while some might assume that the company is sitting on a gold mine, the costs of Marshall’s elements of the various upgrades will be considerable.

A property source told Business Weekly: “While prime residential land in Cambridge city centre has been known to fetch between £3m and £4m an acre that is top dollar for the very best land. We are talking Newmarket Road for the Marshall scheme and developers these days no longer rush forward to sign big cheques for the opportunity.

“The cost of tidying up and putting services into the site could also be huge. Marshall may be better advised to tidy up the land itself and sell it off in parcels for the various elements of the scheme. Notwithstanding that, the potential development remains one of the most significant that Cambridge has seen.”

Studies were undertaken between 1999 and 2011 to determine whether it was practicable for Marshall of Cambridge to relocate its aviation businesses elsewhere, to enable housing development to take place on the Cambridge Airport site.

These studies, which were completed in 2010, clearly showed it was neither practicable, nor desirable, for such a move to take place and in January 2011 the company announced that it would not be relocating the aviation business; this remains the case today.

As a result of this decision to remain in Cambridge, the Airport is now being developed in line with Government policies and it has an important part to play to help to secure and increase employment in the local area.

This includes supporting existing and new businesses in the region and, in particular, those with global links. Part of the company’s investment in the airfield includes in 2013 a major runway refurbishment valued at £20 million.

• PHOTOGRAPH: Robert Marshall

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