What is the future for infrastructure and housing in Cambridgeshire?


Cambridge's railway main station with cycle park in the CB1 development



Future Cities Forum will be in Cambridge again this March 2022 to discuss the record investment in it as a science city, the success of the City Council in developing new homes for this over-heating city and the need for enabling infrastructure/transport to serve the level of continued activity that this city is seeing.


The Guardian newspaper has been writing about Cambridge drawing record investment last year placing it as the UK’s leading tech hub. It states that research reveals the number of UK unicorns or start ups worth more than $1bn (£750m) grew to 116 in 2021.


‘The UK technology sector drew a record £29.4 billion in investment this year (2021), according to research, with Cambridge declared the country’s leading regional tech city…more than double last year’s total of £11.5 billion…This increase in $1 billion companies brings the total numbers of unicorns in the UK to 116 according to figures published by the government’s Digital Economy Council, an advisory committee. This compares with 31 in France and 56 in Germany, according to the DEC.


‘References to the government’s levelling-up policy, which seeks to reduce the wealth and opportunity gap between London and the rest of the UK, featured heavily in the DEC research. It declared Cambridge the leading regional tech city in the UK, ahead of Manchester and Oxford, reflecting factors including its high levels of venture capital funding and number of unicorns. Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast are also in the top ten.


‘The research stated that 30% of the £26 billion in venture capital funding in UK tech last year went into companies outside London and south-east England. The regions were home to nine of the 29 unicorns formed in 2021 including Interactive Investor in Glasgow – an online investment platform – and the electric aircraft firm Vertical Aerospace in Bristol.’


Among other questions at the Cambridge event Future Cities Forum will be asking whether there is there sufficient investment in the region and the City of Cambridge’s infrastructure and housing to support the booming tech industry?


Development Director at the Infrastructure & Projects Authority (for the OxCam Arc), Karl Fitzgerald will be joining our Cambridge discussions. In 2021 Karl commented to Future Cities Forum on the idea of a pattern book and a 'learning as we go' approach to help the future of infrastructure. He explained:


'When we are delivering at this kind of scale the only way to do it is to go boldly and make the odd mistake. I am a proud advocate of the pioneers who built Milton Keynes - and the scale of ambition that was put in to practice. It is the same with the Oxford - Cambridge Arc, we have to make sure that there is sustainability, biodiversity and resilient places for people to live in. It is an enormous challenge with a background that is rapidly changing. Our infrastructure challenges will require all stakeholders from central government to local authorities and local people to collaborate to make it work. A pattern book really helps when the scale is so enormous and it is a real challenge to get your head around.


'We no longer have a policy challenge but now people are making steps in a design and planning delivery exercise. Take the street challenge for example. We do not want cluttered streets but we need to put in the charging points, so how do we solve this problem? Electric mobility needs wider infrastructure and it usually takes 9/10 years to get a grid network in place. We have designed our infrastructure to keep energy cheap but then not spending on infrastructure creates need. So I think generating sets of rules to design within is a good idea.


'When we talk about levelling up the North, perhaps we can be using lessons that we are learning in the Ox-Cam Arc - these could be transferable to the North of England. When there are multiple aspects of government working in a spatial way, you need flexibility. The benefits from one department could be transferred to another department. There are no benefits from cycling schemes except in terms of people's health and saving on the NHS, but those cycle benefits do not transfer into the transport area. Tools will be ready to use in the levelling up process. Investment in the Ox-Cam Arc is not attracting investment away from other parts of country. It is international investment that is being drawn into the Arc.'


Meanwhile, Kier, a leading provider of construction and infrastructure services, has been awarded a place on three out of four Lots of the Cambridgeshire County Council Design & Build Contractor Framework, the maximum number of Lots a contractor could bid for.


This the fourth time that Kier has secured a place on this framework which will run for three years, with an option for a one-year extension. In the three previous iterations of the framework, Kier has completed over £200 million of schemes including award-winning Northstowe Education Campus, Fulbourn Primary School and New Road Primary School.


Works will involve design-and-build services for education capital projects, but could also include adult social care, offices, community and public buildings. It will cover new build, demolitions, capital replacements, extensions, repairs and renovation programmes.


Mark Dady, Managing Director at Kier Eastern & Midlands, said:


'We're extremely pleased to have secured a place on all three lots we entered of Cambridgeshire County Council's framework, which will deliver a large number of public sector schemes over the next three years.


'This award is testament to the high-quality work we've delivered in collaboration with Cambridgeshire County Council on previous iterations of this framework and it further strengthens our presence in the region. We're looking forward to continuing our relationship to provide vital buildings for the community.'


Cambridgeshire County Council commented:


'Cambridgeshire County Council is thrilled to be working with Kier on this framework. The projects delivered will provide much needed infrastructure in Cambridgeshire to support our corporate outcomes. Following a process compliant with Public Contracts Regulations (PCR) 2015, and advertised on the Find A Tender (FTS) Service, Kier has demonstrated a mutual understanding of these outcomes, and an excellent track record of project delivery.'



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