Cambridge Question Time: take me to your leader

Cambridge Question Time on 27 November, organised by Estates Gazette in association with Mills & Reeve, Savills and CRS highlighted Cambridge’s success and lively discussion raised several interesting considerations for what the future holds for the city.  

The following points came out of the discussion between the panellists: Mike Shaw, head of national strategic development, Savills; Peter Seaborn, planning partner, Mills & Reeve; Clair Rickaby, senior underwriter, CRS; Chris Goldsmith, managing director, Turnstone Estates and Claire Ruskin, chief executive, Cambridge Network.

  1. Devolution is the key for Cambridge to achieve success – the city needs a leader with a clear vision. A single point of contact (whether a mayor or the proposed unitary authority) would give Cambridge a greater voice nationally;  help bring longed-for political stability for developers; and ensure that a comprehensive long-term strategy could be developed to best assist Cambridge in dealing with its future expansion. 
  2. Cambridge’s growth shows no sign of slowing – the technology and science scene is thriving and development is flourishing across the city. The concern was whether the city can keep up with rate of development required. 
  3. More affordable housing is needed – anyone who has looked to buy property in Cambridge will know that the market is booming and there was a general concern that potential residents are being priced out of the market, having to look further and further afield. 
  4. Roads are the biggest headache, as highlighted in the recent Cambridge Quality of Life Survey conducted by RAND Europe. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of affordable housing  in the city, as more workers have to commute and the public transport infrastructure does not adequately meet their needs. However, an east-west rail link is perhaps not the answer, with more investment needed in rail and cycling. 
  5. Office space is in heavy demand – occupiers are looking for smart space tailored to their requirements. TMT occupiers want flexible, collaborative space.  Maybe more shared office space is the answer? Cambridge must balance preserving its heritage with providing modern, flexible offices. 
  6. Greenbelt development might be the only answer – Cambridge centre is crowded. With little room for development outwards or upwards, do we have to look at developing the greenbelt?

The Quality of Life Survey highlighted that Cambridge benefits from good healthcare, job satisfaction and sense of safety. It was a full house for the EGQT event. All signs of a booming economy in Cambridge but the consensus was Cambridge must find a leader to take the city forward with a well-considered strategy to ensure it maximises its potential for growth. 

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