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Tue May 18 2021

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Developers lobby for fast-track planning across Oxford-Cambridge Arc

16 Oct 19 A document claiming to represent the views of a host of property developers is calling for the creation of a development agency with special planning and compulsory purchase powers to drive through a swathe of central southern England.

Developers want to exploit the commercial potential of Britain's leading universities
Developers want to exploit the commercial potential of Britain's leading universities

The so-called Oxford-Cambridge Arc has been identified by government as a region for growth but developers fear being stymied by a planning system that gives opponents to developments a voice.

The call for special fast-track planning powers across the belt comes in The Radical Regeneration Manifesto produced by property consultant Bidwells, architect Perkins & Will and public relations spinners Blackstock Consulting.

They claim to speak for 25 investors and developers, including Legal & General, Barratt Developments and Grosvenor and want a single body bringing together developers and local authorities to have joint responsibility for housing, offices and infrastructure across the arc.

They take as their proposed model the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) and the more recent Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).

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The LDDC was given powers in the 1980s to acquire and dispose of land to drive regeneration efforts. It also served as the planning authority for the area. The ODA did a similar job to force through construction of facilities in time for the London 2012 Olympics.

The developers say that if they were given more power they could turn the Oxford-Cambridge Arc into ‘a supercluster like California’s Silicon Valley with tech giants sitting alongside start ups’.

Bidwells senior partner Patrick McMahon said: “At either end of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc are the two best universities in the world that collectively see some of the world’s most promising talent walk through its doors each year. But, while attracting top talent doesn’t seem to be a problem, retaining it certainly is. By delivering vital housing, infrastructure and cutting-edge science and tech facilities, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’s knowledge-based economy can compete on the global stage while having significant knock-on effects for the rest of the UK through supporting industries and connecting businesses. But to do so, a long-term strategy that encourages public-private collaboration is crucial.”

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