Policy priority 2: A strategic aim

Put in place a spatial plan to address housing pressures and provide commercial space where it is required

  • Make Peterborough city centre a more attractive place to do business
  • Build consensus on the need for housing and commercial space

Different parts of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough play different roles in the overall economy of the area. The cities of Cambridge and Peterborough are the main sources of economic activity in the area, accounting for almost half of all jobs and 57 per cent of private knowledge-based jobs. Meanwhile other areas, particularly on the fringes of the two cities, are likely to play a relatively more important role in providing homes for people to live in.

Cambridge in particular has an acute housing problem in terms of both affordability and availability. While great progress has been made in building new homes in recent years (achieving among the fastest housing growth rates in the country), it remains one of the least affordable cities to live in the UK. In order to encourage the future expansion of the city’s economy (and the job opportunities this will create), the metro mayor should adopt an overarching spatial plan to guide how the £170 million of devolved housing funding that the area will receive as part of its devolution deal should be spent, either within the cities themselves or elsewhere across the mayoral area.

It is also worth noting that plans to build new satellite communities from scratch should be done with caution. Settlements such as Cambourne have brought welcome new homes to the area in recent years but new homes there require greater infrastructure investment and have lengthier commutes to work than if Cambridge itself expanded. Where possible the metro mayor should favour the expansion of the central city of Cambridge over new satellite settlements, unless these developments are served by good transport links.

Make Peterborough city centre a more attractive place to do business

High-skilled, knowledge-based companies in the UK are choosing to locate in high density urban centres. Even in Cambridge, which traditionally has seen its economic growth driven by high-skilled businesses on edge of town business parks, has seen a boom in high density development around the train station.

Peterborough’s lack of higher-skilled job opportunities (37 per cent of jobs were high skilled in 2011, compared to 41 per cent for England and Wales and 55 per cent in Cambridge) is likely to be in part a result of the inability of its city centre to attract in such business investment.1 Using the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Single Investment Fund in combination with the spatial plan, the new mayor should make investments to improve the city centre’s attractiveness, including enhancing office provision, public realm and transport connections.

Build consensus on the need for housing and commercial space

It will be essential for the metro mayor to work with local developers and housing associations as early as possible to get the homes and offices the area needs. Committing to the established framework early on will enable the metro mayor to do this effectively, offering developers certainty and allowing the area to better leverage private sector investment.

Footnotes

  • 1 High-skilled occupations are defined as Managers, directors and senior officials, professional occupations and associate professional and technical occupations. Source: Census 2011, workplace data.