Cambridge Discovery Campus: Socio-economic Impacts

HJA were commissioned by Bridgemere Land Ltd to support a planning application for a proposed innovation centre – the Cambridge Discovery Campus (CDC) – in Hauxton, South Cambridgeshire. Outline planning approval was granted in April 2024.

The proposed development would provide 250,000 sq ft of commercial premises for start-ups and small businesses within the Cambridge life sciences cluster. As the proposed development is located within the green belt, the demonstration of ‘very special circumstances’ was required to support the application.  

Research and development (R&D) and laboratory space would make up the key uses within CDC, helping to boost the life sciences sector through attracting greater investment, research, talent, and skills.  

CDC presents an opportunity create and support high-skilled jobs in knowledge-based businesses (e.g., within the wider life sciences cluster) as well as other technical and non-technical employment opportunities for local residents.  

The four delivered inputs in support of the CDC application included: 

Economic Impact Statement  

An Economic Impact Statement was delivered to identify how the development supports economic growth and meets the policy ambitions for the local area. A range of factors were assessed, including employment, wages, and GVA by drawing on best practice guidance and the latest economy and employment data.  

Our work established the strategic fit of the proposal, demonstrating how CDC aligns with local, regional, and national strategic policies, in particular in supporting growth and innovation in the life sciences sector.  

Our economic impact modelling indicated that CDC would support around 2,000 person years of employment over the construction period and just over 1,000 net additional jobs for local residents during its operation once fully occupied. Additionally, CDC would create beneficial wider impacts such as supplying more scale-up and graduation space for SMEs. 

Find out more about our work on socio-economic impact assessments for past projects like the Salisbury District Hospital site redevelopment proposal, and Union Street Transformation in Plymouth. 

 Click here to read the submitted CDC Economic Impact Statement.

Environmental Impact Assessment: Socio-economics 

HJA assessed the potential socio-economics effects of the proposal by providing inputs to the Environmental Statement (ES). The socio-economics EIA included a policy review, baseline analysis, and technical assessment which, supported by consultations with local stakeholders, identified the scheme’s potential beneficial and adverse effects (and how they can be mitigated) .  

The assessment concluded that CDC would deliver beneficial effects on employment and GVA during its construction and operational phase and has the potential to facilitate wider economic growth in the life sciences sector and associated supply chains across Greater Cambridge and the Combined Authority.  

High GVA-per-worker activities, especially in life sciences, would contribute to productivity growth, and more job opportunities (technical and non-technical) would be accessible to local residents.  

Find out more about our socio-economic EIA work on past projects like the META offshore energy project in Pembrokeshire, and the Toads Hole Valley residential-led mixed use scheme in Brighton.  

 Click here to read the submitted CDC socio-economics EIA.

Employment and Skills Strategy 

HJA delivered an Employment and Skills Strategy to establish how CDC can maximise employment and economic opportunities for the local community.  

Drawing on the Economic Impact Statement, CDC will support jobs during its construction and just over 1,000 net additional jobs once fully occupied, with the highest proportion of these being in R&D roles. The Employment and Skills strategy sets out the local employment market and identifies skills gaps and outlines how CDC can meet the needs of local workers. 

The strategy demonstrated how CDC can bring about beneficial employment and skills impacts to the area, helping to create a strong labour pool for tenant businesses in technical and non-technical roles. Highlighting the development’s positive impact on supporting jobs across the skills spectrum was an important message to communicate to the consenting authority, which was keen to understand what the scheme offers residents beyond high skilled jobs.  

HJA set out a series of tailored commitments, which included a particular focus on raising awareness of careers in life sciences and STEM and engaging with students and young people and local training providers to provide real-work experiences.  

 Click here to read the submitted CDC Employment and Skills Strategy.

Health Impact Assessment  

HJA delivered a Health Impact Assessment to consider the potential health impacts on the local community arising from the development. The HIA consisted of an evidence appraisal of the local policy environment and a profile of local health conditions, and delivered an evidence review of various factors which impact health (such as access to open space, access to employment, social cohesion etc.).  

A number of positive impacts associated with the development were identified, and recommendations to improve health outcomes in the local area were outlined. HJA determined that CDC has the potential to reduce unemployment by offering employment and training opportunities and improve connectivity and mental health by enhancing accessible open spaces and mixed-use facilities.  

 Click here to read the submitted CDC HIA.

The Result of our Socio-economic Impact Analysis 

HJA’s work helped to support the planning application for the proposed Cambridge Discovery Campus, which was awarded outline planning approval in April 2024.  

If you would like to talk to us about how we can support your efforts in seeking planning permission for an employment-led development – whether this requires inputs which make the economic development case for a scheme, or technical inputs to an EIA or Environmental Statement – please get in touch using the project lead contact details provided below. 

Project Lead

Joshua Harding-Jones

Senior Consultant