Cambridge office update – Tapping into the Cambridge phenomenon

Cambridge office update – Tapping into the Cambridge phenomenon

As our Cambridge office enters its fifth successful year, we take a look at its journey so far and at the positive outlook for sustained growth in the region.

Our Cambridge office opened its doors in January 2015 under the leadership of Partner and Office Lead, Ben Furr, with a vision to capture the substantial development of the eastern region.

Since then the office has grown rapidly, both in terms of staff numbers and the services we focus on, enabling us to offer our multi-disciplinary range of services ‘in-house’ whilst being supported by the wider firm.

The introduction of our Cambridge-based Mechanical & Electrical Engineering team, headed by Grant Harden, has resulted in the successful roll-out of M&E services to the area. To date, the team has secured a number of projects locally and further afield, including full design duties for mixed residential schemes in Cambridge and High Wycombe.

We continue to expand and consolidate our project management services, providing Employer’s Agent, Clerk of Works, Quantity Surveying and Building Surveying services for a varied client base ranging from local authorities and private developers to higher education establishments, not least Cambridge University itself.

Development continues at pace and is evident from our appointment in 2018/19 to a number of noteworthy schemes including:

  • The redevelopment of a civic centre site to provide 225 residential units on behalf of Dacorum Borough Council
  • Project management for an off-site pre-fabrication system for Three Rivers District Council which will see the creation of temporary accommodation for the homeless
  • Joint Venture Representative services for the delivery of affordable housing through a Joint Venture between Cambridge City Council and Hill
  • M&E Engineering services for a new build 230-unit residential scheme on a green-field site south of Cambridge. Each dwelling will be provided with Hyper Optic broadband communication systems and electric car-charging facilities with an aspiration to provide high-efficiency installation using all-electric space heating and hot water systems.

The outlook for Cambridge and the wider region

Cambridge boasts an enviable and unusual local economy based upon a worldwide research and technology-based market, giving rise to the moniker ‘the Cambridge Phenomenon’.  Key examples of Cambridge’s success include:

  • There are currently around 1,000 technology and bio-technology companies based within the area, trading across the world, from small start-ups to global players such as Microsoft and ARM.
  • The draw of Cambridge has attracted the complete relocation of established businesses to further connect with the Cambridge network and research excellence across the region. AstraZeneca is a prime example, with their new state-of-the-art research/office facility due for completion soon.
  • Cambridge tops UK cities for the highest number of patents registered (per 100,000 residents).  Of the top five cities (the remainder being Coventry, Derby, Oxford and Aberdeen), Cambridge’s figures are in excess of the remaining four combined.
  • It will be no surprise that Cambridge University is ranked as one of the two best universities in the UK and within the top group of universities worldwide.

However, years of success and development bring challenges and constraints. The terms ‘worldwide city’ and ‘size of a large town’ don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Cambridge has historically adhered to its ‘green belt’, which wrapped tightly around its perimeter, substantially reducing the opportunities to grow and leading to some of the highest property prices in the UK. Clearly, this is restrictive for new entrants to the area and for existing established organisations looking to expand and maintain their worldwide status.

Because of this, the city’s approach has been to encourage development, to substantially increase the housing stock and to relieve the pressure of rising property values to bridge the gap between industry growth and housing supply (not to mention ancillary facilities and infrastructure). This has included the relaxation of the green belt to build out the city boundaries, creation of ‘new towns’, and building upon Cambridge University and College land for university ‘key worker’ accommodation

Whilst the market, economy, development opportunities and desire to increase housing stock all align to create significant growth, there are clearly still many constraints. House prices remain high (as do land vendor expectations), infrastructure remains a challenge, and growth/wealth across the wider region has perhaps not flowed as freely as would be expected. These are all challenges which, like the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’, are very specific to this city, and require focussed and innovative solutions.

We are confident that our Cambridge office is making an impact in addressing these challenges and tapping into these opportunities, and we look forward to building upon our current role within the city and across the wider region.

For more information on our Cambridge-based services, contact Ben Furr, Partner – Head of the Cambridge Office, or Grant Harden, Partner – Cambridge M&E Lead.