Friday, 7 September 2012

Game on for Cambridge makers

It’s back to school and back to work this coming month for many and while gearing up for a busy autumn, Will Mooney, Carter Jonas partner and joint head of its commercial agency and professional services in the eastern region, shows how there was no summer slouching in Cambridge.

With the nation still basking in a post-Olympics glow which looks set to be sustained by the achievements of our Paralympians, we’re told we’re returning to our desks in a new, positive frame of mind.

Positive in spirit and mindset at least, as we’re still faced with what’s become the certainty of economic uncertainty.

The regular round of statistics – inflation up, joblessness falling, employment rising yet GDP down in consecutive quarters – continues to baffle our brightest and best economists and policy makers.

Added to this, was a report by a core of MPs which has the British workforce down as ‘among the worst idlers in the world’ and bemoans our lack of productivity in comparison with our Brazilian and Chinese peers.

Taking a look around Cambridge, one could hardly accuse it of idling the summer away. Far from it. The summer months have seen commercial and business interests fired-up by various issues and announcements.

The beginning of August saw the new bank, Cambridge & Counties - which is owned by Trinity Hall, one of the oldest of the Cambridge colleges, and the county council’s pension fund - confirm that it had approved loans to the tune of over £2 million with an eye on a further £6 million commitment in the pipeline.

Fast and efficient work as it only opened officially for business in June which was also when the Government welcomed its establishment.

While, at first, our newest bank is focusing on lending to SMEs – with loans secured against commercial property - it does have retail bank ambitions too in the future.

What a banking contrast to our return from holiday in September 2007, when, like in many UK cities, we witnessed customers queuing in Cambridge to withdraw their deposit and close current accounts at the Northern Rock branch.

The queues were the harbinger of what was to transpire a year later when the term ‘credit crunch’ was coined and which been in use as common currency since then.

Interesting- and most encouraging for those of us in the property business - that the Cambridge & Counties Bank is securing loans against commercial property.

The enduring investment value of bricks and mortar for those in it for the long term received further fillips, locally, during the summer.

Last month saw councillors’ unanimous approval in a process which will bring forward the next stage of the substantial development of North West Cambridge. This is development on a scale which will see 2,000 student bedrooms and 1 million sq ft of academic, research and commercial space.

Also of commercial property note are the plans for a new, four-storey building at St John’s Innovation Park on which Savills is acting for St John’s College and on which public consultation was running over the summer.

In mid-August came the news that private healthcare provider, Nuffield Health is planning to replace its Trumpington Road hospital – built in the 1920s and for those of us who’ve been around almost as long, still known locally as ‘The Evelyn’ - with a brand new £25 million state-of-the-art facility.

So it’s been a busy time for Cambridge businessmakers but it’s also been a busy summer for the city’s policymakers as the City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council both launched discussion about housing numbers and locations in July which will see pressure on the city’s green belt.

Far from being the silly season, this past summer has seen news of some august property projects taking great leaps forward either in rising apace from the ground – look at the rapid progress of both the Eastern Gateway entrance and cb1 – or in planning for the future.

Will Mooney MRICS

Commercial, Cambridge

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