The Marque, Cambridge’s first high-rise development. (Image credit to The Marque Cambridge.)
Over the last 50 years, Cambridge’s tech presence has flourished, resulting in the city becoming the most established and powerful cluster in Europe. That being the case, large tech corporations, like AstraZeneca, and big retail companies such as Amazon and Apple, have begun relocating to the area to capitalise on this close network of like-minded businesses and the availability of highly qualified graduates and scientists.
This is great for the local economy, however it also puts substantial strain on the residential area. So what’s being done? According to the SHMA carried out as part of the Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Local Plans, around 33,000 new homes could be built by utilising some of Cambridge’s surrounding green belt land.
Marika Brundell of Carter Jonas says: “Building on Cambridge’s surrounding green belt land is a topic of much debate. Some residents’ associations have spoken up about the idea, however the Local Plans stipulate that the housing can be built without using the most valuable parts of the land, and that much of the desired land is of poor quality.”
According to the Centre for Cities report, it is estimated that approximately 4,500 new homes a year are needed to keep up with demand. It states that over 17,000 homes are already in the pipeline from sites such as Northstowe and Cambridge East. A further 2,000 could potentially be delivered by utilising some of the brownfield sites around the city.
If the proposed plans to develop on the city’s green belt land don’t come to fruition, what are the alternatives? It’s clear that Cambridge is going to continue growing at a rapid pace, and if the answer isn’t to build out then the only way is up. The city has already seen its first high-rise development in The Marque, and now there are plans to replace Wilton Terrace on Station Road with a nine-story office block as part of the CB1 development.
This has paved the way to build high-rise residential buildings. Late last year, plans were unveiled to construct an eight-story, mixed-use development on Newmarket Road, just off East Road. Similar to the idea of building on green belt land, such developments have also caused controversy, as there are concerns that they will clash the historic aesthetic of Cambridge.
“The word high-rise is quick to put people off, however we’re not talking sky-scrapers,” adds Marika. “Absolute height restrictions can be enforced to ensure the city’s skyline is protected. I wholeheartedly believe that the heritage of Cambridge should be preserved, but that shouldn’t mean that we can’t plan for the future and ensure Cambridge’s growth continues.”
One way or another, Cambridge will need to adapt to its rising demand for housing. But with the right restrictions and considerations put in place, there’s no reason why the city’s historic and picturesque aesthetic should be marred in the process.