A rural scene near Huntingdon Road, soon to be the newest university site.Julian Paren

Construction has finally begun on the north-west Cambridge site in the most recent development project for the University of Cambridge.

The 150 hectare triangular area between Huntingdon Road, Madingley Road and the M11 will eventually be developed into a mixed-use site, boasting houses, graduate accommodation and research facilities.

Half of the 3000 houses on the new £1 billion site will be set aside for university staff, in the hope that provision of new housing will help to attract staff and researchers to the university in the future.

Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz believes that the scale of this development will provide for much of the accommodation, for both staff and post-graduates, that the university is likely to need over the next 20 years.

A unique feature of this development, however, has proved the source of some concern; unlike other ‘out-of-town’ sites such as Girton and Homerton, this site will not be based around a new college.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, has raised concerns about the impact this will have on Cambridge student life: “I do think elements of the ‘Cambridge experience’ will be missing from the site. One is the traditional college and another is undergraduates, and [they] do add to the greater good of Cambridge by making it a more vibrant place.” 

However, this is a worry that Tim Holt, Head of External Communications for the university does not share. He explains that those living in north-west Cambridge will be “affiliated very much to a college” in the same way that those living in Clare’s ‘colony’ accommodation have remained an integrated part of Clare.

Moreover, he believes that the north-west Cambridge development, rather than being isolated from central Cambridge, will in fact be a “natural extension to the city”.
Cycle routes and pathways have been planned to encourage this link between city centre and the site.

The planning process also has included a number of public consultations and the final site will reflect this partnership between the university and the public. Half of the homes provided will be made available for sale to the public, whilst site amenities such as sports and community centres will be open to all.

The first building to open on the site in September 2015 will be the University of Cambridge Primary School, a co-educational school for children between the ages of four and eleven. It is hoped that the new University of Cambridge Primary School will have close links with the university’s Faculty of Education and the wider university.

Construction on the site is expected to be completed by early 2017. The first university buildings should be finished by December 2016.