Pioneer Group’s regeneration plans for Cambridge’s Grafton Centre approved

Pioneer Group, a leading developer and operator of life science and high-tech campuses, has secured planning permission from Cambridge City Council, subject to S106, for the redevelopment of the Grafton Centre in the city.

The Planning Committee at Cambridge City Council yesterday (7 Feb) voted in favour of the multi-million-pound regeneration for the shopping centre, which will be converted into laboratory and office space for life science and tech companies. The western end of the centre will be retained and transformed into a more attractive destination for local shoppers.

The redevelopment will contribute towards addressing an acute demand and short supply of laboratories and offices in the Cambridge area – recognised as a national priority - whilst providing amenities for the local community and occupiers.

Key highlights of the approved redevelopment plan include:

• Long-term improvements to retail, with an anticipated £111.2 million extra economic impact on the surroundings
• Positive environmental benefits, including +649% biodiversity net gain and 18,500 tonnes carbon savings through repurposing existing buildings
• Up to 2,000 jobs from PhD to entry level created within the new science centre
• The creation of a sustainable research 'ecosystem' linking start-ups, experts and entrepreneurs in the life sciences sector
• A new community science lab / classroom with a programme of community outreach and STEM investment

Cambridge City Council town planners welcomed the scheme as a "significant opportunity" to bring "strong benefits economically, socially and environmentally" to the Grafton Centre and the centre of Cambridge.

Richard O’Boyle, Chief Executive of Pioneer Group, said: “Cambridge is at the heart of the UK’s research industry, but new lab space is in short supply and desperately needed. By providing spaces suitable for international companies, small start-ups, and scale-ups in one building in the city centre, scientists here will be able to work together, as well as collaborate with mentors from Pioneer, researchers in the city’s amazing universities, and investors, to help them develop lifesaving new technologies.
“The scheme will also deliver new jobs near to where people live, encouraging more sustainable travel as well as helping local shops, cafes, and restaurants to thrive. We would like to thank all the neighbours, businesses, and local stakeholders who helped us refine and improve the designs to create an even better scheme.”

Michael Walters, Group Director at Corstorphine & Wright, designers of the scheme, said: "We are delighted to receive planning approval for the Grafton Centre redevelopment. This project represents a significant investment in the future of Cambridge, and we are eager to bring our extensive town centre regeneration experience providing a sustainable future to current distressed assets. We are also pleased to continue our work with Pioneer Group to create desirable and flexible lab space and contribute to the city's continued growth and development."

Jonathan Bainbridge, Partner, Planning at Bidwells, said: “We are delighted to have played a part in facilitating a scheme that will offer significant public realm improvements while tapping into the strong demand for life sciences workspace in Cambridge. The Grafton Centre is a site of vast, as-of-yet unfulfilled potential, and this holistic regeneration project will see it transformed into a thriving commercial and retail hub which gives back to the community – we are grateful to the positive and productive relationship with the community which will be continued. The success of the broader Oxford to Cambridge supercluster, of which this site will be a significant addition to, relies on this kind of innovative planning and has the potential to be emulated across the region.”

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Pioneer Group operates in 12 leading innovation locations across the UK and Ireland. The sites offer a range of flexible, specialist laboratories, industrial and office space to support scientists, technologists, engineers, and entrepreneurs on every step of the innovation journey from R&D to manufacturing.

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