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The high hopes for new development along the Oxford-Cambridge Arc depend in part on the go-ahead being given for new road and rail links along the corridor. But one section of the arc where new construction is picking up irrespective of any new infrastructure commitments is the area around Milton Keynes and nearby south Bedfordshire.  

Today, Milton Keynes ranks as the fastest-growing city in the UK with a population projected to increase from 270,000 currently to 500,000 by 2050.  According to a recent report from Savills, The Oxford-Cambridge Innovation Arc, the greatest opportunities for growth in the area are around Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire where the new east-west road and rail links will cross the Midlands and East Coast Main Line and the M1.

Keenly-anticipated contract

Glenigan Construction data reflects the buoyant level of construction activity around Milton Keynes. One keenly-anticipated office contract due to be announced early this year is for the construction of Santander’s new £150 million digital hub in the city. Tenders have been returned on the project which will involve almost 55,000 sq m of new office space and work is set to start in the spring and continue for 37 months (Glenigan Project ID: 18322356).

Milton Keynes’ prospects will be bolstered by a new university in the city centre, which it set to open in 2023 with 5,000 students and with a focus on STEM subjects. Construction on the project, MK: U Phase 1, is at the pre-tender stage and will involve work worth £188 million on a campus involving 61,120 sq m of new space. Work is set to start late this summer and could continue for 35 months (Glenigan Project ID: 18103061). 

Meanwhile, the absence of tight constraints on housing compared to other cities in the arc such as Oxford has meant Milton Keynes can accommodate more new homes; MK is building at the rate of 1.4% of its housing stock annually, compared to 0.4% in Oxford.

One significant housing scheme where a contract has been awarded and reserved matters granted is Countryside Properties’ £25.5 million scheme for 226 houses and 95 flats at Snellshall Street in Milton Keynes (Glenigan Project ID: 19280562).

Meanwhile, one of the country’s relatively few shopping centre redevelopments is set to get underway in Milton Keynes next spring. Hammerson’s £18.7 million scheme, The Point Milton Keynes Redevelopment, is set to create a retail and leisure development and is at the pre-tender stage (Glenigan Project ID: 13276343).

Rosy outlook

Long term, the outlook is rosy for new construction in Milton Keynes and across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. According to Savills, the Arc has the potential to deliver 1 million new homes and create up to 1.1 million new jobs by 2050 if the necessary new infrastructure is delivered. 

To accommodate growth for promising sectors such as pharmaceutical, cyber security, automotive and biotechnology, the agent says the Arc region will need an extra 9.6 million sq ft of office and R&D floorspace and 69 million sq ft of warehouse space.