To provide a clear, long-term (35 years) growth vision for Cambridge which transcends short term political interests.

Growth Project Group Chair: Matthew Bullock, Master, St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

In addition to being Master of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, and a Vice Chairman of Cambridge Ahead, Matthew was a founding financier of the Cambridge Phenomenon in the 1970s and 1980s. He became a Managing Director of BZW and then Barclays Capital, Chief Executive of the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society, and Chairman of TAP Biosciences plc, International House Trust Ltd and The Transforming Pathology Partnership. He was also a Non-Executive Director of Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Chairman of its Audit Committee. Previously he was a member of the Audit Committee of Cambridge University and a founding Advisory Board member of the Cambridge Judge Business School.

Project Team Members

Richard Antony – Senior Bursar, Jesus College
Chris Bartram MA FRICS* – Non-Executive Director of Land Securities Group Plc
Jamie Bignal - Relationship Director, HSBC
Dr Andy Cosh – Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge
Mark Cottrell – Property Director, Arm
Christine Doel – Director, SQW
Martin Dougherty – Chief Operating Officer, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Genome Campus
Bob Ensch – Area Director, Cambridge, Morgan Sindall
Tom Holbrook – Director, 5th Studio
Graham Hughes – Executive Director Economy, Transport and Environment, Cambridgeshire County Council
Dr Ying Jin – Director of Studies and Fellow of Robinson College, and lecturer at the Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge
Viktoria Oakley – Planning Manager, Lands Improvement Holdings
Jane Paterson-Todd – CEO, Cambridge Ahead*
Dr Robin Pellew OBE – Chairman, Cambridge Past Present & Future
Glen Richardson – Associate Partner, Carter Jonas
Claire Ruskin – CEO, Cambridge Network
Peter Studdert – Director, Peter Studdert Planning Ltd
Christopher Walkinshaw – Corporate Communications Director, Marshall of Cambridge (Holdings) Limited

*Member/Member Organisation

Project Overview

Our growth project work is concentrated into three streams, namely:

  • Corporate data: developing compelling, repeatable and reportable data about companies’ growth in Cambridge and the wider region.
  • Qualitative research: complementary company research exploring the different aspects of managing high-growth.
  • Spatial modelling: undertaking spatial land use modelling and developing land use and transport scenarios to influence future planning policies.

Corporate data

Our corporate data provides clear evidence of the ongoing high growth of the company turnover and employment in the sub region. Working with the Centre for Business Research in the University of Cambridge, we publish the aggregate turnover and employment of all companies registered in the Cambridge area annually each new year, analysed by over 20 sectors.  We have shared this data with the Greater Cambridge Councils (Cambridge City and South Cambs), who recognise that our data is robust and can be used as an input into their planning forecasts. 

The gap between the data produced by Cambridge Ahead and the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) regional employment growth data, which for some time had been reporting slower growth, has now started to close. We are working towards agreeing with the ONS on the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s data and we hope this will lead to closer cross referencing between their and our datasets, in order to provide a reliable forward view of the sub region’s growth and hence infrastructure requirements.

Qualitative research

Our qualitative research invites 100 companies in the sub region to respond. The results reveal the difficulties companies are experiencing in finding trained staff and attracting them to Cambridge because of the lack of affordable housing and the length of commuting distances. These local constraints to growth are starting to impact productivity and, if eased, would have a measurable impact on future growth. Member organisations, PWC and Rand Europe are working with us on future updates in this area, since qualitative research, particularly if repeated on a similar basis, can provide powerful underpinning to our corporate data analysis in policy discussions about managing growth in the area.

Spatial modelling

Spatial modelling is a major focus for our work. The models are owned and run by the Department of Architecture in the University of Cambridge and their work involves building six scenarios of how the sub region might grow over the next 35 years. The base case assumes recent employment growth continues at or close to the recent growth rates indicated by our corporate data, and then predicts how things might develop if we continue as we are with the current local plans. This suggests that housing occupancy and rents will rise strongly and that commuting would become unsupportable by the city’s road system. In turn, companies would react by diverting growth elsewhere, in some cases overseas. This scenario is not what anyone would tolerate. So, we then examine five alternative scenarios around changed planning and transport policies: greater densification of the city; fringe development into the greenbelt; dispersal of growth to market towns away from Cambridge, but connected by transport links; transport corridors, reaching out from the city, along which companies and housing could develop, but keeping green wedges for key landscapes; and exploration of digital transformation of how we work. Each scenario produces different impacts, in terms of hard economics, on housing and wages costs, on future growth rates and investment costs, and each has different environmental and quality of life impacts. The scenarios are complete and coherent and the trade-offs between these factors for each scenario are clearly set out for businesses, the local population and politicians to decide upon.

Into the future…

We have put these scenarios into the public domain as a backcloth to the debates about the City Deal and the regional transport strategy. We hope that doing so will help the whole community reach a consensus about a structured vision for growth to 2051. This is essential, because if we want to keep Cambridge special, we need to manage its growth. It will also be crucial in making any case to central government to release funds, or better still, to allow Cambridge to keep and invest some of the surplus proceeds, which its growth currently yields to central government, as part of a rolling devolution strategy. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) will help to articulate these plans for the Greater Cambridge Councils and for the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire.


Data Highlights


01223 653023


Sarah Brereton, Director, Limewash
01223 813 557

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