Viewpoint - 22/11/2017

Arc of opportunity could be a game-changer

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A ground-breaking deal which could boost the economy of Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Northampton, Luton  and Cambridge by more than £160 billion a year would be a significant ‘game-changer’ for commercial property in the region. Read more from Ian Leather, Director in Office Agency at LSH...

A report by the National Infrastructure Commission which has urged local authorities and ministers to work together to seize the opportunity and harness the area’s economic potential, has been welcomed by LSH.

A deal could lead to the building of the first new towns in the UK for half a century and unlock opportunities to tackle the area’s housing shortage, improve local transport connections and create thousands of new jobs, according to commission chairman Lord Adonis.

Currently the area generates £90billion per year towards the national economy. But by taking these steps this could rise to over £250billion a year – an increase of over £160billion a year.

Lord Adonis said: “The arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford attracts the brightest and best from some of the most cutting edge industries. But the area also suffers from a lack of available homes and an infrastructure network that is feeling the strain – pricing local people out of the market, making it difficult for businesses to recruit staff, and threatening the future competitiveness of one of the most successful parts of the country.

“A ground-breaking deal between ministers and local leaders could transform the area, helping to double the rate of housebuilding and deliver the first new towns this country has seen for half a century. With this one of the most economically important parts of the UK, it could add billions of pounds a year to the national economy.

“I urge local leaders to seize this opportunity and work together with Government, both for the benefit of their residents and of the country as a whole – all by delivering a million new homes and jobs by 2050, investing in improved road and rail links and protecting the area’s natural environment.”

Ian Leather, Director in Office Agency at LSH, said: “This is a potential game-changer for the region if we can get everyone working together to make the most of the opportunities presented.

“There has been a notional Oxford and Cambridge Arc for many years but it has never really been fully joined up.

“The completion of the East to West rail link and the Cambridge to Milton Keynes Expressway will really help boost the region. There are pieces of the jigsaw already in place but we need this sort of initiative and financial investment in infrastructure to join the rest of the dots together supported by a cohesive strategy, which is the key to making a success of this.

“If we can do that, with everyone working together, it will be a game-changer for locations which otherwise tend to suffer from out dated market perceptions. Cambridge is booming, Milton Keynes consistently features in the top five growth cities in the UK. However, the likes of Northampton, Bedford and Luton - whilst doing well - need this investment in regional infrastructure to help boost their profiles and enhance the wider regional offer.

“It will benefit the wider region because we will then have strong North and South and East and West connectivity which will support occupiers looking to recruit new talent and ultimately to tap into a wider labour pool of skills spanning a huge area.”

He added: “It is still early days with some of the projects seemingly over the horizon on the back of this announcement, occupiers and business may need to start thinking strategically about it and what and where the opportunities are.”

Commissioner Professor Sadie Morgan said the report is a “once-in-a-generation chance to create great new places to live and work, creating liveable communities and safeguarding the future of one of the most economically important regions in the country”.


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