A fluid A14 can be Cambridge and Peterborough’s axis for growth

Pleased to be leading Greenwoods’ strategic land development advice, Jeremy Stanton highlights why he believes there are significant opportunities for land owners and developers across the region and offers his thoughts on the Housing White Paper.

There is an exciting momentum about Cambridge and Peterborough at the moment – one that has been driving the growth of East Anglia as a whole and looks set to do so well into the next decade. 

Some of this momentum is structural; the much needed and long awaited £1.5 billion improvement to the A14, the Alconbury/Huntingdon expansion, and the Cambridge to Oxford tech corridor/rail link, to name three important examples.

The last decade saw a huge amount of property development activity, both residential and commercial, in and around Cambridge and East Anglia as a whole. This facilitated the growth in population and business, with more development both planned and required to meet anticipated growth – be it the provision of housing, offices, shops, education, healthcare or infrastructure.

Cambridge and Peterborough are some 30 miles apart, a distance seemingly reducing year on year with each new housing development.

With a fluid A14 by 2020 (I am a believer) this should significantly reduce the regular journey time between the two cities. I see the two cities and their hinterlands sharing an increasingly symbiotic relationship, with Peterborough providing housing options for employees across the region with an excellent house price to earnings ratio making Peterborough attractive and affordable, and providing cheaper office space for less location specific expanding operations.

Cambridge, for the reasons we are all very aware of, is unique – a magnet for investment and growth, giving Cambridge and the region its international identity.

Peterborough will increasingly benefit from this proximity and can provide space and skills to meet a growing requirement from the Cambridge region, alongside its own growing business offering and identity.

I see a fluid A14 as an axis for growth between the two cities and beyond.  Joining Greenwoods, to lead the strategic Land team, with its offices and an established presence at either end of the A14 axis in Cambridge and Peterborough was a very logical decision.

The development opportunities in the region are real and tangible and as solicitors we need to be readily accessible to clients.

My arrival at Greenwoods coincided with the release of the Housing White Paper. Its heading “Fixing Our Broken Housing Market” is somewhat negative but some of the proposed measures will have a positive impact.

There is an increasing focus on brownfield sites where the presumption is in support of redevelopment for housing unless there are “clear and specific reasons to the contrary.”

This, combined with incentives to build higher where there is a shortage of land, will have a real impact on the region’s towns and city skylines.
Focus on reducing the timescale between grant of planning permission and delivery of the completed housing units may help quicker delivery of more units. However, house builders will always find ways to maintain the balance between demand, value and supply of units on their specific sites. 

The proposed support for smaller house builders and a focus on smaller sites as being a means of speeding up delivery of housing numbers I find really exciting, as this presents a real opportunity for smaller builders and developers to scale up.

One hundred per cent land registration by 2030 making transfer of land for housing and buying a house simpler makes absolute sense. Little  excites a land lawyer more than dusty bundles of unregistered deeds delivered in carrier bags late on a Friday afternoon, with a deal to bring to exchange early the next week!

I see clients increasingly needing expert advice re such matters as “right to light” as buildings reach higher, consideration of restrictive covenants with change of use from brownfield to residential, the triggering and effectiveness of overage provisions on change of use and uplift in values, registration of unregistered land, and – increasingly – planning related development agreements; promotion agreements, options and conditional contracts. 

• You can contact Jeremy Stanton on 01733 887634 or via email: jjstanton [at] greenwoods.co.uk

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