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Barr Ellison Solicitors – commercial property
17 May, 2016 - 11:30 By Kate Sweeney

Towering innovation turns Cambridge into ‘Cranebridge’

Cambridge Rail Station cranes

Fourteen major construction developments were initiated in Cambridge, Europe’s Science & Technology capital, last year – making it one of the fastest growing hotspots in the UK.

Property consultancy Bidwells says it represents a significant rate of growth in a city with a population of just 128,500 – so much so it has dubbed the city ‘Cranebridge.’

Senior partner Patrick McMahon said Bidwells has compared its research to the findings of the very well established ‘Crane Survey’ carried out by Deloitte. 

A recent Deloitte survey noted nine new major development starts in Birmingham last year – a city with a population of 2.47 million.  In Manchester, there are 21 new projects in a city with a population of 2.41 million. The Bidwells Cambridge data shows that the city presently has one crane for every 2,500 people.  

As Bidwells notes, from the major new housing developments ringing the city, to AstraZeneca's global R & D centre and headquarters on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, to the multi-million pound CB1 development at the station and the University of Cambridge-led North West Cambridge initiative, it is clear that the Cambridge Phenomenon – traceable back to the 1970s – continues unabated.

Recent data released by Cambridge Ahead highlighted the true strength of the city's booming economy when it revealed that for every £100 generated by business in the entire UK as revenue, £1 of this has been produced by Cambridge. And the recent Centre for Cities report identified Cambridge as having some of the best socio-economic indicators in the UK and, at 102 per 100,000 of population per annum, a patent registration rate more than five times its nearest rival (Aberdeen with 19.7).

In a recent survey, Bidwells has shown that Cambridge is towering ahead in the development stakes with 50 cranes spread across the city. The active development review, undertaken by Bidwells, highlights what it calls “the staggering growth currently shaping the city.”

McMahon said: “As you approach the city from any direction you cannot help but notice the cranes towering across the skyline. As one of the UK’s fastest growing cities, the level of active construction provides clear testimony to the strength of the Cambridge development market.

“Cambridge is the most innovative city in the UK and is a cornerstone of the Oxford-Cambridge-London ‘Golden Triangle’. Key sectors like bioscience and ICT are driving this and are the vanguard of the nation’s future economic prosperity.”

Take up of office and R & D space in Cambridge in 2015 was 1.2 million sq ft.

There is currently a total availability of office and R & D space in Cambridge of around 715,000 sq ft. This represents only about seven months’ supply at current demand rates. Requirements in the city for office and R & D space stands at approximately 1.7 million sq ft, representing nearly three times the current level of supply and creating a very positive development imperative.

There are currently more than a dozen major residential schemes being developed around the city with sizes ranging from 1,200 units at Trumpington Meadows to 150 units at Vesta in the city centre.

Key developments taking shape in and around the city include:-

  1. The North West Cambridge development which will include 1,500 homes for University and College staff, 1,500 private houses for sale, accommodation for 2,000 postgraduates, 100,000 sqm of academic and research and development space, together with community facilities such as a primary school, community centre, health centre, supermarket and local shops.
  2. The Cambridge Biomedical Campus combines world-class biomedical research, patient care and education on a single site. It is currently undergoing a major expansion which includes the co-location of companies alongside the existing community of healthcare professionals and research scientists. The Campus is on track to becoming one of the leading biomedical centres in the world by 2020. Situated on the Biomedical Campus, AstraZeneca is currently building a new global R & D centre and headquarters which will become home to approximately 2,000 employees.
  3. At Great Kneighton, to the south of the city, a new development of several hundred new homes is being created by Countryside Plc next to a new 120-acre country park which will be home to local wildlife, recreation and sports facilities.
  4. The CB1 project represents a new city quarter for Cambridge which includes: new Station Square, an Accor Ibis Hotel, a new 3,000-space multi-storey cycle park and the 125,000 sq ft One Station Square office scheme, alongside restaurants, cafes and retail outlets.
  5. There are also further residential schemes planned. The CB1 area is already home to a growing cluster of global and UK companies, including Microsoft.

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