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Ox-Cam Arc requires a delivery body, say property professionals

Words: Laura Edgar
Oxford / iStock_000023817808

An Olympics-style organising body is needed to deliver homes, transport, social infrastructure and commercial space across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

This is according to property professionals, who have warned that a lack of new housing, workspace and suitable infrastructure threatens to “stifle” growth in the region by pricing out talent and businesses.

They highlighted that houses prices in Cambridge have increased by 73.4 per cent in the past decade, while in Oxford, prices have risen by 66.8 per cent. In addition, the success of the arc’s knowledge-based economy, which has an annual GVA of £100 billion, has caused office rents to jump by 11.9 per cent in the past year alone as companies vie for limited space.

The 25 investors and developers, including Barratt Developments, Grosvenor and Legal & General, have called on politicians to create a single body that would be responsible for delivering housing and infrastructure within the arc in the same way autonomous bodies delivered the 2012 Olympics and the London Docklands development.

The area's 31 local authorities would sit alongside developers to coordinate decision-making and risk-taking, which the organisations say would help to “streamline” planning to “make it easier to deliver and speed up major projects such as the Oxford-Cambridge rail link” and give investors greater certainty.

They believe this would help to create a supercluster like California’s Silicon Valley, with tech giants sitting alongside start-ups and university spinouts.

The call for an Olympics-style delivery authority is one of the proposals put forward in the Radical Regeneration Manifesto, which has been produced by property consultant Bidwells, architectural practice Perkins and Will, and policy advisory business Blackstock Consulting.

Patrick McMahon, senior partner at Bidwells, said: “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 tech 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.”

Image credit | iStock