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With Brexit uncertainty dominating the news right now, some businesses are understandably concerned about future unknowns. Whatever happens, though, we can at least be sure that Cambridge and the surrounding regions have plenty else to look forward to.
The government’s ambitious plans to invest billions into the transport, housing and infrastructure of the towns and cities stretching from Cambridge to Oxford are now beginning to take shape. This arc of mega-development – often referred to as the ‘Oxbridge Corridor’, but which also takes in Northampton, Milton Keynes and Bedford – offers the prospect of unprecedented growth for businesses in this region to capitalise on.
In recent years, the Oxbridge Corridor has been identified as a successful region with tremendous potential. However, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) identified, in reports of 2016 and 2017, two significant challenges that were impeding this potential, but which, if tackled successfully, would enable business to compete more effectively in global marketplace. First, poor east-west transport links stifle connectivity, rendering travel between the corridor’s towns and cities difficult and inefficient. Second, there is a chronic undersupply of housing throughout the region, which in turn has inflated local house prices and placed unwanted restrictions on the potential for businesses to recruit and retain employees.
Within the past six months, significant steps have been taken to begin to address these issues. On September 12, 2018, the government accepted the recommendations of Highways England and announced the choice of ‘Corridor B’ as the preferred route for the new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway. The expressway is expected to cut journey time between the M1 (Milton Keynes) and the A34 south of Oxford by up to 40 minutes. A full public consultation on the proposed route is due to be conducted this year, with construction beginning in 2025.
Of even more significance to Cambridge, the proposed East-West Rail line promises the long hoped for re-establishment of a direct rail link between Cambridge and Oxford, and the opening up of connections between East Anglia and central, southern and western England. Phase 1, Oxford to Bicester is now complete and phase 2, Bicester to Bedford, is under construction. A consultation has just closed on the route for the final phase 3, between Bedford and Cambridge, and this is estimated to complete by the mid-2020s.
In addition to enhancing intra-corridor connectivity, the benefits for housing and the potential for rapid growth in the population of the corridor is no less substantial. It is anticipated that the Oxford- Cambridge Expressway and the East-West Rail line will help facilitate the development of as many as one million new homes by 2050, unlocking opportunities for expansion of the workforce and bolstering the ability of local companies to attract and retain talent. With its proposed infrastructure improvements, the NIC has predicted that the Oxbridge Corridor could sustain a transformational level of growth, supporting 1.1 million new jobs across the region by 2050, and the Government has re-affirmed its commitment to the area in a publication, produced alongside the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc: government ambition and joint declaration between Government and local partners.”Good news for Cambridge
Cambridge currently enjoys considerable influence over the east of England markets, as well as easy access to London. However, its reach into the centre and west of England has been stifled by inefficient transport links. The Oxbridge Corridor plans therefore mark the start of a period of considerable opportunity for the Cambridgeshire region.
As a leading regional law firm with offices in Cambridge, London, Milton Keynes and Northampton, Hewitsons is ideally placed to assist its clients in making the most of this opportunity. A dedicated Oxbridge Corridor team of specialists from across our offices is already providing comprehensive and commercial legal solutions to landowners, developers, investors and businesses alike, and in the corporate team in Cambridge we continue to support clients in their investment and expansion plans. Let us hope the positive news continues.
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email Laurence Evans