The Oxford-Cambridge Arc stretches from Oxfordshire to Cambridgeshire, home to 3.7 million people and over two million jobs.
Centres of innovation
The Arc is already home to some of the UK’s most innovative and productive cities. Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes have consistently been ranked among the fastest growing economies in the country in recent years.
However, the Arc’s economy is constrained by poor east-west transport connectivity. At present, this prevents it from functioning as a single economic region.
The knowledge economy
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has identified the future success of the Arc as a national priority. It argues that a joined-up plan is needed for new jobs, homes and infrastructure.
This would help the region to exploit the economic benefits of its world-renowned education and research facilities. The region boasts two of the top-ranked universities globally in Oxford and Cambridge, as well as internationally recognised research centres such as Harwell and Culham in the ‘Science Vale’ of South Oxfordshire.
The focus on knowledge-based sectors is reflected in industry clusters across the region. These include technology and biosciences in Cambridge; high performance technology and financial services in Milton Keynes; motorsport and high performance engineering in Northamptonshire; and high-tech engineering and biosciences in Oxford and the Science Vale.
New homes, new workplaces
The NIC suggests that up to one million new homes will be needed across the Arc by 2050. This ambition will require significant investment in new infrastructure, as well as commercial property development to support new jobs.
Cambridge Econometrics has modelled a scenario in which close to 950,000 new jobs could be created in the Arc by 2050. To support this level of jobs growth, the amount of commercial floor space across the region would need to increase by more than 50%. The Arc’s largest cities would each require millions of square feet of new office space.
The new east-west road and rail links will to help drive economic growth, as well as unlocking new locations for residential and commercial property development. Thousands of workers will be put within easier reach of high quality jobs such as those found on the region’s science parks.
Locations that are currently poorly connected will become commutable, increasing their viability for new development. New or upgraded train stations and key road junctions will act as beacons for developers.
Oxford and Cambridge themselves may be among the least viable locations for new large-scale development, due to high land prices, limited land availability and the presence of green belt around both cities.
In contrast, Milton Keynes will be highly receptive to new development, benefiting from a central location within the Arc, a greater supply of affordable, developable land and a local council that already has substantial expansion plans. The NIC suggests that Milton Keynes has the potential to double in size to become a city of over 500,000 people.
Milton Keynes is also expected to be the biggest single focus for employment growth and commercial property development. Under Cambridge Econometrics’ transformational growth scenario, 136,000 new jobs would be created in Milton Keynes by 2050, more than in any other local authority in the Arc. This level of employment growth would require the volume of office and industrial floor space to increase by well over 60%.
Arc of vision
Much of the initial focus of plans for the Arc has been on the need for new housing, but the commercial property sector will have an important role to play in driving economic growth. High quality workplaces will be needed to support the knowledge based industries that are the region’s key economic assets.
Looking to buy or let office or industrial space, please contact: Tom Harker Associate Director – Office Advisory T: 01908 544905 www.lsh.co.uk