Cambridge Cross Sector

Cambridge Cross Sector
Cambridge Cross Sector

31 May 2016, by Susan Emmett

Big decisions lie ahead for this fast growing city if it is to maintain its world leading status

Cambridge is a global success story but failure to embrace further growth will impact on its competitiveness and ultimately its contribution to the national economy.

As one of the fastest growing economies in the country, this medieval city punches above its weight. Despite a population of just 284,715 across Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, its influence as a world-leading centre for research and development stretches well beyond its city boundaries, attracting global companies such as AstraZeneca and accommodating over 4,300 knowledge intensive firms.


This activity underpinned strong employment growth of 31.3% in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire in the 10 years to 2015, far exceeding the UK average of 12.1%. People have followed the jobs, resulting in population growth of 11.8% over the same period compared with the national average of 7.8%.

Yet this growth has come at a price. Cambridge is suffering from significant pressure on housing, workplaces and infrastructure which needs to be addressed if the city is to continue to compete globally.

There is a risk that failure to tackle these pressures could constrain growth of existing companies, impact on the city’s attractiveness to future new employers and result in a skills shortage as jobs and talent go elsewhere.

Global competition

Given the global nature of much of the city’s knowledge economy, Cambridge could lose out to competitors such as Boston in the US, rather than other UK neighbours, resulting in a loss for the national economy as a whole.

Cambridge and its hinterland has seen strong continual demand for commercial space which is not being matched by supply. Our analysis shows that availability of office and research and development space will have fallen by 90% in the five years to 2017.

A shortage of housing is also adding to affordability pressures despite a significant increase in house building. We calculate that Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire should be building 2,415 new homes a year assuming current policy levels of affordable housing identified as viable in their Local Plans.

This target is 748 homes higher than the current estimate of need. Given the average housing delivery rate over the last four years, this leaves a shortfall of 1,008 homes a year.

Options for growth

Meeting demand for workplaces and homes requires bold decisions and a joined-up approach between Cambridge and regional local authorities. In this report, we not only set out the challenges facing a growing city but also explore options for further growth and the infrastructure improvements needed to link jobs to housing and tackle the city’s congestion problem.

These include: further densification within the city boundaries, reviewing the Green Belt to allow for expansion, extending existing satellite towns and developing new settlements in the wider area.

None of these options are solutions on their own but business as usual is not an option if Cambridge is to stay ahead.

Articles from Spotlight: Cambridge Cross Sector – 2016

Global Success Requires Growth

Cambridge has seen strong continual demand for commercial space. But supply will have fallen by 90% in the five years to 2017

High Demand Not Matched

Employment growth has attracted more employees to the city and surrounds, pushing up the cost of housing and leading to affordability pressures

Getting Over The Growing Pains

Meeting demand for workplaces and homes requires bold decisions. We explore options for further growth

Outlook And Recommendations

The need to plan for further growth


Receive the latest research

Retail Properties

Key contacts

Steven Lang

Steven Lang

Commercial Research

Head Office London

+44 (0) 20 7409 8738


Nick Gregori

Nick Gregori

Associate Director
Residential Research

Head Office London

+44 (0) 207 409 5907


Gaby Day

Gaby Day

Research Analyst
Residential Research

Head Office London

+44 (0) 207 299 3003