Cambridge builds a bright future
A train station opening next year could make this old city more desirable than ever, reports Nicola Venning
‘The red-hot housing market in Cambridge is jobs-driven’
Beguiling Cambridge, with its historic colleges, cobbled lanes and excellent schools, sounds like a perfect place to live – were it not so hard to buy a home. “Cambridge is experiencing a significant high demand,” says Jennifer Mullucks of Garrington, a property search consultancy. “There are bun fights for properties in certain areas.”
Family homes in the Victorian suburb between Hills Road and Trumpington Street, close to good schools such as St Mary’s and The Leys, are “of great interest”, Mullucks says. Four- bedroom town houses go for about £1 million, according to Rightmove.
It is a similar story along the necklace of villages south of the city, such as Whittlesford, Foxton and the Shelfords. A detached house in Great Shelford hovers just shy of £960,000, according to Savills, while the average price of a property is £603,360.
Cambridge has seen property growth rates on a par with London. In the three years to July 2016, prices rose by a total of 37 per cent. The average price of a home is now £442,518.
“Cambridge is currently the most desired city in which to live in the whole of the UK,” says Martin Walshe, director of Cheffins estate agency. As well as its “surprisingly small” housing stock, “the red-hot property market is primarily jobs-driven, and coupled with this, Cambridge has some of the best educational facilities in the world, making it the perfect choice for relocating families”.
The city is now almost as renowned for its enterprise as it is for its worldclass university. It has one of the fastest-growing economies in the country. Some 58,000 people are employed across 4,300 firms in its innovation industry, from global companies such as AstraZeneca and ARM to the high-growth start-ups of Silicon Fen. Addenbrooke’s teaching hospital is nearby, as are the science, research and business parks.
Employment in the city has grown 31.5 per cent in the 10 years to 2015 and the population is up by 11.8 per cent over the same period, according to Oxford Economics, the research and forecasting firm.
But now the city is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. There is considerable pressure on infrastructure, housing and workplaces, according to a recent report from Savills. “We are struggling to cope with expansion,” says Chris Carey of Bidwells estate agency.
One solution is a hotly anticipated new train station, which is being built to the north of the city. Cambridge North is due to open in May 2017.
The station will be connect to Ely, King’s Lynn and Birmingham to the north, sending trains southbound to Cambridge, London King’s Cross, Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport. The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway will also serve the station.
Near the suburb of Chesterton, the station will also, crucially, be within walking distance of Cambridge Science Park. “It will take enormous pressure off the city,” Carey says. “People working in the Science Park and London commuters will be very attracted by it.”
The station has already sparked interest from investors and home buyers alike in Chesterton, a mix of early-20th-century homes and postwar semis. It is more affordable than other parts of the city; the average property is £467,772, while £620,000 will cover a detached home.
James Hirst, 34, who runs the fitness company Cambs Boot Camp, and his partner, Vicky Swift, 29, a therapist, bought a tired four-bedroom detached house in May. The house, which set the couple back £547,500, is a fiveminute cycle from the new station.
“Compared to what you pay in the middle of town, we got a lot for our money,” Hirst says. “I think there is a lot of growth potential over the next few years.”
Other areas set to benefit from the new transport hub include the characterful and bustling local villages of Histon and Impington. The neighbourhoods boast a duck pond, village green, several pubs, a wide range of shops and excellent schools. Impington Village College is one of the best secondary schools in the country. “They are thriving communities but the one thing they have lacked is the accessibility to a station,” says Carey.
From next spring, Histon and Impington, which are on the Guided Busway, will be three miles from the new station. “You will have the convenience of everything on your doorstep as well as ease of access for commuters,” he says. The average price of a detached house in the area is £626,200, while terraced homes go for an average of £317,150.
There are several new housing developments in the pipeline around Cambridge that are set to benefit from the new station, such as the proposed new town of Northstowe and the North West Cambridge site.
The university has dedicated a 150-hectare site to the project. The £1 billion campus will provide 3,000 homes, including affordable accommodation, student digs and private housing. A primary school, community centre, health centre, supermarket and local shops are also planned. The first phase of 1,100 homes is due for completion next year.
“Three thousand passengers are expected to use the station every day,” says Walshe. “Demand in this area will increase dramatically as a result.”
Opening doors: a four-bedroom house on Humberstone Road for £875,000, main (01223 214214; cheffins.co.uk); Storeys Way, a Grade II listed house with 5,256 sq ft, is £4m, right (01223 347147; savills.com)
Bookish: a threestorey Victorian home with five bedrooms in Chesterton, £1.1m (01223 214214; cheffins.co.uk)
Townie: this sixbedroom house on Jesus Green is £1.5m (01223 214214; cheffins.co.uk)