November Professional Ponderings

Added on November 5, 2018 in Recent News


Oxford Cambridge Arc – It’s not just the boat race that Oxford and Cambridge are competing over!

Having been brought up in Cambridgeshire, but worked professionally in property in Oxfordshire, for the last three years, prior to returning home, it was thought that I was the ideal candidate to report on this topic in this month’s ponderings!

I had always been taught that, in earlier times, you could travel the 67 mile trip, as the crow flies, between Oxford and Cambridge, without leaving College owned land. The route that links Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford has been hailed the Brain Belt of the UK, with the Government focusing on bringing forward development within this arc.

Areas which will be affected – these include Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire (obviously) but also include Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. These areas will be the focus for the provision of up to a million new homes by 2050, along with infrastructure to include a new express roadway link and the completion of east/west rail links, between the two cities.

Oxford and Cambridge have seen their property markets booming and they have a lot in common:-

  • Beautiful College cities with stunning architecture,
  • Each situated approximately 60 miles from London,
  • The creation of many well paid job opportunities,
  • The creation of technological hubs with many ‘spin off’ companies, linked to the Universities.

In terms of housing, the property market has soared in recent years. Research undertaken in 2018 demonstrated that the average house price in Cambridge was £527,000 compared to £521,000 in Oxford, both well above the UK average.

The rollback of the Cambridge greenbelt has seen large amounts of land made available for new homes, and the current improvements to the A14 will help to provide the infrastructure needed to cope with additional traffic through the region and facilitate further expansion of Cambridge, including the development of additional science parks, etc. Oxford’s attitude to the Green Belt has been somewhat more defensive and the Green Belt has often been described as the key inhibitor to Oxford’s growth and the main cause of the housing deficit.  There have been many studies produced on the housing deficit in Oxfordshire and how this should be tackled with recent figures suggesting that 100,000 new homes are needed across Oxfordshire by 2031. The recent announcement of £215 million funding to boost housing and infrastructure in Oxford should see plenty of opportunities for Oxford to catch up.

In Cambridge there are rumours of the creation of a Cambridge underground. The new mayor sees opportunities in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire to bring forward development schemes and improve public transport links.  Work on the A14 and the proposed Expressway, coupled with the reopening of the rail link between Oxford and Cambridge will improve connectivity and open up development opportunities.  Already, the Government have proposed 5 new garden towns along the route of the “Varsity Line”.

How is this relevant? The need for additional housing, job opportunities and infrastructure is now well recognised. Many of our clients are landowners or farmers, located within this key region and now may be the time to look at opportunities for development.  Equally, as the relevant policies emerge, some of you will be contacted by promoters and/or house builders, actively looking for opportunities within this “brain belt”.  If you need any advice, in connection with such opportunities and/or approaches, we would be very pleased to assist and please do not hesitate to contact me or any other member of our Planning and Development team.

Ginni Farbon – Rural/Development Surveyor

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