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Saunders sees huge opportunities for the new sustainable Oxford-Cambridge corridor


A new investment corridor that will link together the university cities of Oxford and Cambridge, via Milton Keynes was announced late last year. Known colloquially as the “brain-belt expressway”, it will “bring a once in a generation opportunity for economic growth to the region” with “phenomenal opportunities” for the surrounding towns, cities, and the new communities that will be created. Think of the corridor as the UK’s version of “Silicon Valley”: attracting high-tech businesses such as those interested in medicine, life sciences, autonomous vehicles, biotech and artificial intelligence, enabling these industries to cross-fertilise their success around the region.
The area is already amongst the most economically successful in the UK and the plan is to build on this for the benefit of the whole country. Oxfordshire’s ‘Science Vale’ for example, has already proven to be an economic powerhouse of science and tech businesses clustered together and the idea is to replicate this along the corridor. Plans include new homes, business and leisure, alongside improved infrastructure and connectivity links. The corridor will be "broadly aligned" with the proposed east-west rail route between Abingdon and south Milton Keynes, and will involve the development of a vehicle Expressway of high-quality east-west roads. Up to 1 million new homes are planned for construction by 2050, most probably located within new, locally-proposed garden towns and within one new major hub, which will be funded by both public and private investment. Huge opportunities will be created, however, the key to making this a success, is to ensure that every part of it is sustainable; in other words, planned and developed in a joined up way.

Saunders Managing Director, Martin Williams, sees these tremendous opportunities. “A new strategic plan, such as this one, brings with it the opportunity to create an exemplar sustainable development.” commented Martin. “Sustainability in this context, means creating places where people will want to live and work. It's about ensuring these places cultivate a strong and healthy society that meets the diverse needs of people and promotes personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, as well as providing employment.”

He goes on to explain. “Simple examples of sustainable opportunities include mixing uses, such as commercial, light industrial, residential, and leisure developments together to provide active, vibrant spaces that are safe at all times of day and night rather than becoming a ghost town at the end of the working day. Local leisure facilities that are easy to reach on foot or by bicycle - thus encouraging people to spend their free time close to home without the need to jump in the car, or siting buildings so that they can exploit natural heating and lighting.”

Martin can also see that “...another huge opportunity is to use modular construction for elements of buildings. You cannot build an entire factory offsite but you could easily design and build standardised modules, such as individual offices or bathrooms, or parts of the fabric of the building, and move these into place. This is an efficient way of constructing buildings, maximising the return on investment.”

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