Leaders say the focus must be on speeding up the delivery of over 50,000 homes on existing sites before looking elsewhere, following the publication of an independent report highlighting the pivotal role Greater Cambridge needs to continue to play in economic growth.
In a report published today (Friday 14 September) the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Commission says that the rate of new homes being built in the county needs to increase to support the number of jobs being created and to tackle the high cost of housing – and that Greater Cambridge must play the pivotal role in generating economic growth across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Council bosses have welcomed the report findings, including the need to speed up the delivery of homes, but have said that new homes in existing plans would see over 50,000 homes delivered so there is no need to look at other sites.
The report identifies Greater Cambridge as the most important area in the region to invest in improving transport links to maintain growth across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. It notes that for many of the United Kingdom’s knowledge-intensive sectors, our area provides the only viable place within the UK to locate.
The report states that 67% of the region’s economic output is taking place in Greater Cambridge – highlighting that infrastructure in South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge must be the top priority in the County in the short to medium term.
Council Leaders have said the report demonstrates the need for a continued, significant focus on additional transport investment in the area and point to the fact that the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP - formerly City Deal) is already in place and working across the Councils, universities and businesses to ensure this happens.
Leaders have also said that the report reinforces the national significance and need for the full £500 million of funding for transport improvements that was agreed as part of the City Deal agreement in 2015 to be released, and that they will be urging Government to make sure it is all unlocked.
Cllr Bridget Smith, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “This report is unequivocal that our area attracts investment and jobs that the UK would otherwise lose. So, for many firms it is Greater Cambridge or nowhere in this country. It couldn’t be any clearer in its recommendations to focus investment in this area to deliver the nationally significant growth that will benefit local people by creating jobs and significantly increasing the output from existing organisations. We will be looking to the Mayor to make sure this report shapes proposals for the Combined Authority and that much needed homes that everyone can afford to live in and high-quality transport links, are delivered. Currently even average income earners cannot afford to get on the housing ladder.
“The Greater Cambridge Partnership is already in place to make sure additional transport links are delivered as quickly as possible. As we all know there is already too much congestion and action is needed now.
“The Local Plans we have already provide land for thousands of new homes. Our view is that we need to look to these areas of growth and see how we can make sure the homes are delivered more quickly. The Greater Cambridge Partnership is in place and we will also be looking to the Mayor and the Combined Authority to make sure this report plays a key role in how he prioritises investment.”
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council and Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, said: “We welcome the report and its recognition that Greater Cambridge is a distinct economy generating growth nationally, as well as contributing to prosperity across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Working with the Mayor and Combined Authority, the Greater Cambridge Partnership will continue to address transport and infrastructure gaps that are vital to assist new housing to keep pace with jobs growth.
“The biggest unmet challenge, which the report only partly addresses, is housing affordability and we will be ensuring that new developments create large numbers of homes at rents people on average and lower incomes can afford, given that home purchase is not an option for too many.
“The report also highlights the challenge locally of staff recruitment and retention and the constraint this imposes on economic growth. We mustn’t forget, in delivering our growth ambitions, the severe risks posed by Brexit, particularly a “no deal scenario”, that would block the recruitment of essential staff from other EU countries and compound staff shortages experienced at all levels by businesses and organisations across Greater Cambridge.”
South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council have recently heard back from Government Inspectors who have found their Local Plans, which set out the growth plans for the area, to be sound.
The two Local Plans set out how 33,500 new homes and 44,000 new jobs will be delivered up until 2031. However, land has also been allocated for around 20,000 more homes in the plans, at new town locations such as Waterbeach and Northstowe, that will still be being built after 2031.
The report also highlights the severe housing challenges the area is facing and local leaders are suggesting that more work is needed on housing affordability for average and lower income earners who cannot afford to buy homes in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.
They have said that opportunities are available at major housing sites to address affordability. This could include looking at sub-market rents and considering setting specific targets for the delivery of key worker homes.