Major housing development set for Cambridge

A major new housing development is set to be built next to Cambridge Airport, the latest of several large projects around the fringes of the city.

Named Wing, the development will be delivered by housebuilder Hill, which signed a deal with Marshall Group, one of the biggest landowners in the city to deliver 450 new homes.

The site covers 160 acres and will be the first residential project the Marshall Group has ever entered into. This fact may be an indicator of the shifting priority in and around the city, with bigger demand for housing than new business premises, even in a city where science and high-tech businesses have been flourishing and adding to their premises.

Instead, the jobs created by this development will be within the construction sector, including those fitting insulation and waterproofing. The insulation will not just include the cavity wall variety designed to maintain warmth on cold days, but also noise insulation due to the proximity of the airport. However, this will not need to be as extensive as it would for residents living near a major airport with the arrival and departure of large jets.

The initial 450 homes will just be the start, with the masterplan for the area including 1,300 properties. The first phase will include 135 affordable homes including properties available for shared ownership and affordable rent. The homes will consist of apartments containing between one and three bedrooms and houses with between two and five bedrooms.

Associated developments will include new sports pitches, a primary school, allotments and some retail space. Newmarket Road, which links the area with the heart of the city, will be upgraded to improve transport connectivity.

Commenting on the project, chief executive of Hill Andy Hill said: "Having developed over 1,000 homes in Cambridge over the last five years alone, we take great pride in being able to provide a variety of homes for a range of people.

"We are therefore thrilled to be partnering with Marshall on this development and hope that it marks the start of a successful long-term relationship between two like-minded family firms committed to making Cambridge one of the best cities to live in the UK."

The theme of making Cambridge more liveable is one that extends well beyond just this development. The city and its surrounding county need new homes as much as anywhere in the country, and with so much business and innovation going on in an area without a major centre of population - both Cambridge and Peterborough have little over 100,000 inhabitants - the need to find land for growth has been acute. This is also true across the east of England, where the largest conurbation is that centred on Norwich, with around 180,000 residents.

While that may have driven the decision by Marshall Group to use this latest piece of land for housing, it also underpins the decision of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to sell off old airbases across the eastern counties. Although it is also true that the MoD has been divesting property across the whole of the UK, the heavy concentration of old Cold War bases in counties like Cambridgeshire has provided a convenient supply of large brownfield sites.

Examples of this include Waterbeach Barracks, which lies just north of Cambridge and has been earmarked for 6,500 homes under plans outlined by Urban and Civic.