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The spread of new development around Cambridge and the East of England region is gathering pace.

The cluster of life sciences and tech businesses in the area which the government is particularly keen to encourage is creating opportunities for new construction contracts particularly on commercial office and housing projects.

CGI of Cambridge Discovery Campus

Earlier this month planners gave the go-ahead for a major science and innovation park, the Cambridge Discovery Campus, located two miles south of the city (pictured). It will provide 343,000 sq ft of space for small and medium-sized businesses across six laboratory-enabled buildings overlooking a sports field. Work on the £170 million scheme – which is being developed by Bridgemere – is set to start in spring next year and run for 24 months (Project ID: 15110023).

Major approvals

The campus project is the latest in a series of major new commercial/office schemes in the pipeline in the East of England which is buoying up construction activity around the region.

The April edition of the Glenigan Construction Review shows that – even before the green light for the Cambridge Discovery Campus – detailed planning approvals for office projects in the East rose by 310% in the three months to March compared to the period a year earlier. In all, consents in the region were worth £545 million, equal to 14% of all office consents nationally.

Other significant schemes in the pipeline in the area include Project Newton, a £150 million development of almost 40,000 sq m of offices, R &D and other space across eight mixed-use commercial buildings to the east of Cambridge. Tenders have been returned and work on the scheme is set to start this autumn and run for 36 months (Project ID: 21262048).

Meanwhile, work is set to start this summer at Botanic Place, a £200 million commercial development in Cambridge which will involve over 54,000 sq m of office space and where Skanska UK has recently been appointed as main contractor (Project ID: 19443557).

Earlier this month the quoted property group British Land topped out The Optic, a major scheme providing over 95,000 sq ft of high-spec office and lab-enabled space on Peterhouse Technology Park near Cambridge and due for completion early in 2025 (Project ID: 23073806).

Gareth Roberts, head of development for innovation and life science at British Land, said: “Demand for lab space in Cambridgeshire is significant. Many of the world’s leading tech and life sciences firms are right here on our doorstep, and we need to ensure that we’re providing them with the space and facilities that they need in order to be able to grow.”

The Optic forms part of a wider strategy at British Land which involves a pipeline of around 2 million sq ft of science and tech space across Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, London, Bath, and Guildford.

 Housing opportunities

The strength of new business growth in the region is also creating good opportunities for work on new private housing developments in Cambridge and the surrounding area.

The latest Glenigan Construction Review shows that the value of housing project-starts in the East of England rose 28% in the first quarter compared to a year earlier and were worth £962 million.

One major housebuilder, Bellway, is underway with construction on a £100 million scheme of 223 houses and 128 flats at Springstead Village in Cherry Hinton – close to the new Cambridge Discovery Campus scheme – and where work will continue until next spring (Project ID: 23037861).

Meanwhile, Taylor Wimpey (East Anglia) is set to start work later this spring on a £12.6 million scheme of 36 houses and 5 townhouses at Phase 2 Burghley Green at Cambourne, near Cambridge (Project ID: 22416665).

New housing developments are also taking shape in areas which are further afield but within commuting distance of Cambridge. One significant project where reserved matters planning has been granted and work is set to start this coming autumn is a £28.1 million Countryside Partnerships development of 174 houses & 4 bungalows at Great Haddon near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire (Project ID: 23185128).

The social housing work pipeline in the region is also growing. Earlier this month, Vistry Group unveiled a £35 million deal to build 160 affordable houses and apartments on the former RAF Upwood base in Ramsey, north of Huntingdon, working in partnership with social housing provider Hyde Group. Work on the site is expected to start later this summer and run for 18 months (Project ID: 09172303).

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