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In recent decades Cambridge has been among the standout performers for residential property price growth and has a strong claim to be one of the UK’s premier residential markets, according to the latest research by Savills. Cambridge house prices have risen 241% since 2001 according to Land Registry – just 1% less than London over the same period, and well ahead of the rest of the East of England. Recent performance in the city has been somewhat weaker, however, despite boosts from the stamp duty holiday. Values in Cambridge rose by 3.8% in the year to June 2021, somewhat lower than the national average of 6.2%. Cambridge’s spectacular historic growth has become a double-edged sword for the city. It is one of the least affordable housing markets in the country, limiting market activity and future value growth. 


A key challenge for the city will be how it continues to grow and adapt to changing requirements without losing that rich character. One of those key challenges will be a significant demographic shift. Oxford Economics predicts the numbers of residents aged over 60 will grow by 29% between 2021 and 2031. The population aged 25–59 is expected to fall by 12%. This is a direct consequence of the city’s unaffordability, as younger households cannot afford to move into or stay in Cambridge. As the current population ages, Cambridge will see fewer economically active households. Well-targeted policy and development will be required to attract and retain these younger households within the city itself, rather than settling further out. Losing these types of households could have negative consequences for footfall and therefore the retail and leisure offering within the city centre.


“At their peak in 2018, house prices were an eye-watering 13.5 times greater than local average earnings – higher than London’s figure of 12.3 at the time,” commented Lawrence Bowles, Director, Residential Research at Savills. This means the city struggles to attract younger and less affluent workers – including key workers. These households often have to find accommodation outside of the city itself, putting greater stress on infrastructure. The greater number of long-distance commutes also has environmental implications. Providing either suitable accommodation in the city or suitable and sustainable transport options into the city must be a priority going forward.


The stretched affordability in the city has resulted in a strong rental market. Rents have grown 4.1% in the city in the 12 months to August 2021, compared to 1.6% in London. “There are three Build to Rent schemes in the pipeline, which we expect to deliver around 550 rental homes. This will help increase the tenure and housing options within the city, supporting its continued growth and development,” said Steven Lang, Director, Commercial Research at Savills.





The economic foundations of Cambridge’s high-performing residential market are solid.Employment and productivity is very strong in the city, with total employment expected to grow by 9% over the next ten years. This growth will be driven by further expansion in the already well-established science, tech, IT and professional services sectors.  Unemployment between 2010 and 2020 averaged only 4.5%, compared to 5.9% nationally. The productivity figures are even more flattering: after 20 years of stellar productivity growth – 24% ahead of the national average – Cambridge had closed its productivity deficit with London from 20% in 2001 to just 4% in 2020. According to Oxford Economics forecasts, Cambridge is due to overtake London in value added per worker in 2022, and achieve a 6% lead by 2030. 


This growth, supported by several major office deals, has underscored Cambridge’s appeal to employers. Software provider MathWorks moved into their new 93,000ft² premises at Cambridge Science Park earlier this year, marking the scheme’s biggest deal for over a decade. And Huawei has reaffirmed its commitment to building a new research and manufacturing facility in Sawston. Additionally, Blackstone portfolio company BioMed Realty also plans to deliver approximately 800,000ft² of high-quality purpose-built lab space, following the acquisition of two new sites in Cambridge.


The demand for commercial office and laboratory space in Cambridge remains buoyant. The obvious turbulence of 2020 did not dampen take-up, which was broadly in line with the five-year average. 2021 has progressed in a similar way with some significant deals signed, or in an advanced stage, that will further reduce the supply of available space in the city. Going forward, Cambridge will have a severe lack of new stock under construction, which will conflict with the continued hunger from occupiers of all sizes. Additionally, older stock cannot provide a solution as it may fail to meet occupiers’ ESG requirements, including Carbon net zero. This exacerbates the potential supply ‘crunch’ in the short to medium term. Accoridng to Savills, this may result in lesser attractiveness of Cambridge to occupiers as their requirements cannot be met in the city.




Health sector

Throughout 2020, the pandemic focussed occupiers’ and commercial property investors’ attention towards the human health sectors. This appetite and interest has continued throughout 2021 and shows no sign of tailing off. For Cambridge specifically, with a rising interest in human health and wellbeing from the software, mobile and technology sectors, which have a significant presence in Cambridge, it has also created another future layer of demand that will emerge in the next few years. Commercial property investor interest has also continued to grow at an unprecedented rate, where we are aware of new entrants entering the market on an almost weekly basis.


“The appetite for Cambridge’s office and laboratory market continues to grow as the City increasingly becomes one of the world leaders in life science, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and engineering,” said Lawrence Bowles, Director, Residential Research at Savills. These key drivers behind the investor interest are anticipated to produce significant rental growth predicated by expansion of the occupier base due to huge flows of capital being raised by companies of all scales, the academic spin-out through to the later-stage venture capital. These indicators, combined with a severe shortage of supply in Cambridge, highlights the need and creates the key ingredients for future development growth.


The pandemic also raised investor interest levels in more alternative types of commercial property. In particular, the laboratory market, where occupancy and utilisation rates were considerably higher than in traditional offices through lockdown, increased the interest of investors. This heightened interest was also supported by the considerable level of capital being raised – particularly venture capital – by companies that then require laboratory space.


Of course, despite research and development (R&D) property historically sitting within the offices’ use class, there are significant differences between the specification of laboratory and office property. Despite this, it has been interesting to see how quickly investors have become comfortable with the wider types of R&D investment property that caters for very different end-users compared to a traditional office.



For more information, please see:
Cambridge: Thriving on Innovation by Savills
Shifting demographics pose a challenge for Cambridge by Savills

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Charming cottage which inspired spy novelist John le Carré’s best-selling thrillers is on the market for £3million

Novelist John Le Carre’s former Cornish family home where he wrote best-selling thrillers has gone onto the market for the first time in 60 years for £3million. 

The writer and his wife bought Tregiffian Cottage in St Buryan, near Penzance, in the late 1960s.

The property was actually three former fisherman’s cottages which were adapted by Le Carre to create a single coastal home in 3.3 acres.

Le Carre, who died in December 2020, was best known for his spy novels, many of which were written at Tregiffian and then adapted for film and TV.

Nick Cornwell, le Carré’s son who grew up in the house, revealed their dog ate an early draft of one of the manuscripts. 

John Le Carre and his wife bought Tregiffian Cottage in St Buryan, near Penzance, in the late 1960s

John Le Carre and his wife bought Tregiffian Cottage in St Buryan, near Penzance, in the late 1960s 

The house boasts incredible seafront views which can be seen from this bright room

The house boasts incredible seafront views which can be seen from this bright room 

Le Carre - whose real name was David John Moore Cornwell - died in December 2020 aged 89

Le Carre – whose real name was David John Moore Cornwell – died in December 2020 aged 89

He told The Times: ‘Every Le Carre novel from 1970 onwards owes at least some of its genesis and most of its writing time to that house.’ 

The main house is 5,000sq ft including a self-contained guest wing.

There is a drawing room with an open fireplace, oak panelled walls and a west-facing bay window with a door to the garden.

Agents Savills add on Rightmove: ‘There is a library, which as one might expect, is a work of art, with bespoke joinery and a feature window at one end, glazed with what is believed to be part of the canopy from a second world war fighter plane.

‘There is also a seaward facing conservatory that has mesmerising views out to sea.

‘The dining room has a slate tiled floor, door to the garden, staircase to the first floor. The kitchen has a fireplace, island unit and door to the garden.

‘From here there is access to the rear hall, leading to a utility room, laundry room, boot room and scullery, with access to a safe room.’

A large swimming pool which is part of the property - with incredible views

A large swimming pool which is part of the property – with incredible views

On the first floor, there is a main bedroom suite with a barrelled ceiling, en suite bathroom and a semi-circular bay window with coastal views to the west.

There is a guest bedroom suite and further bedroom with dressing room and separate bathroom, both of which have sea views.

The guest wing, which is accessed via a staircase from the rear hallway, has a sitting room, bedroom and bathroom.

There is a detached annex/studio building, which could be rented out as a holiday let or used as a studio.

A staircase then rises to a first floor studio space, which was Le Carre’s writing room.

It has a balcony and granite staircase linking to the courtyard.

There are also a number of chalet-style buildings and a swimming pool as well as a gardener’s hut.

A living/sitting area in the house which has gone up for sale

A living/sitting area in the house which has gone up for sale 

The description goes on: ‘The gardens and grounds have been beautifully landscaped, whilst being sympathetic to the property’s enchanting coastal setting, and are mainly to the east and south of the house and buildings.

‘Much thought and years of care have been invested in the gardens, cleverly creating a variety of formal and informal areas, split into lawns, borders and wild meadow areas with paths cut through.

‘It is difficult to do the gardens justice in words as they are impeccably maintained and planted with a variety of specimen trees, shrubs and herbaceous borders, interspersed with numerous sheltered seating areas, viewpoints and sculptures.’

It comes two years after another of Le Carre’s homes was offered for sale for almost £2million.

The writer moved into the stunning Grade II property near Wells, Somerset, in 1965.

Le Carre – whose real name was David John Moore Cornwell – died in December 2020 aged 89.

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Copyright Dispute: DC Comics And ‘Fables’ Author Clash over Ownership, Author Aims for Public Domain

A detail from a 'Fables' cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image courtesy of the publisher ECC.
A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image courtesy of the publisher ECC.

This is a story full of fairy tales. In some ways, it even resembles one. And yet it also proves that, in the real world, things rarely end happily ever after. A few days ago, Bill Willingham, the father of the celebrated Fables comic book series, announced that he was sending his most cherished work to the public domain, that is, to everyone. That’s only fair, since that is also where he got the main characters of his stories, from Snow White to the Wolf, from Pinocchio to Prince Charming, who were then relocated to modern New York. In this tale, the hero has long-faced mistreatment at the hands of the villains, DC Comics, the owner of Vertigo, which publishes the work in the United States, and its executives.

“If I couldn’t prevent Fables from falling into bad hands, at least this is a way I can arrange that it also falls into many good hands,” Willingham wrote in an online post in which he decried the label’s repeated attempts to take over his creations and opposed them with this final extreme remedy. But the company responded that it considers itself to be the true owner of the series.

In a statement published by the specialized media IGN, the company threatened to take “necessary action” to defend its rights. Thus, the end of the dispute is uncertain. But it is unlikely that everyone will end up happily ever after.

In the meantime, in a new post, Willingham celebrated the massive support he received. In fact, for the moment, he has declined all interview requests — he did not respond to this newspaper’s request, nor did the publisher — arguing that he preferred to spend the next few days working on new artistic projects. Meanwhile, the dispute continues.

Fables is one of the most celebrated graphic novels of the last 20 years, and it has spawned spin-offs and a video game adaptation (The Wolf Among Us).

This situation also touches on a key issue, namely, the intellectual property rights of characters and works, especially in a sector where, for decades, dozens of cartoonists and screenwriters have accused comic book giants Marvel and DC of pressuring them to cede their ideas and accept commissioned contracts.

Willingham sums it up as a policy aimed to make creators sign “work for hire” agreements and crush them. All of this makes a gesture that was already intended to make a splash even more resonant.

A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image provided by ECC
A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image provided by ECC.

Indeed, the battle over intellectual property is as old as contemporary comics: the copyrights for Superman, Batman and The Fantastic Four all have unresolved disputes and complaints from Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger and Jack Kirby over the contemptuous treatment they suffered. And heavyweight Alan Moore has been lamenting for years that DC took away his ownership of famous works like Watchmen.

Along with prestige and principles, tens of millions of dollars are at stake, especially now that the film industry has become interested in comics.

“When you sign a contract with DC, your responsibilities to them are carved in stone, where their responsibilities to you are treated as “helpful suggestions that we’ll try to accommodate when we can, but we’re serious adults, doing serious business and we can’t always take the time to indulge the needs of these children who work for us” the Fables author wrote on his blog. Following the impact of his original message, Willingham posted two other texts. He maintains that he had thought about sending his work into the public domain when he passed away, but that “certain events” have changed his plans: among them, he lists the changes in management and attitude at the top of the publishing company; the multiple breaches of obligations such as consultations about covers, artists for new plots and adaptations; DC’s forgetfulness when it came to pay, which forced him to demand invoices of up to $30,000; the suspicious frequency with which the publisher attributed it to “slipping through the cracks” (to such an extent that the author insisted that they stop using that expression); and the time and chances he gave them to respect the pact, renegotiate it or even break it and consensually separate.

A detail from the cover of the first volume of Bill Willingham's comprehensive collection of 'Fables.'
A detail from the cover of the first volume of Bill Willingham’s comprehensive collection of ‘Fables’.

“Shortly after creating Fables, I entered into a publishing agreement with DC Comics. In that agreement, while I continued to own the property, DC would have exclusive rights to publish Fables comics, and then later that agreement was expanded to give DC exclusive rights to exploit the property in other ways, including movies and TV.

DC paid me a fair price for these rights (fair at the time), and as long as they behaved ethically and above-board, and conducted themselves as if this were a partnership, all was more or less well. But DC doesn’t seem to be capable of acting fairly and above-board.

In fact, they treated this agreement (as I suppose I should have known they would) as if they were the boss and I, their servant. In time that got worse, as they later reinterpreted our contracts to assume they owned Fables outright,” Willingham laments. Hence, he concluded that “you can’t reason with the unreasonable.”

Having ruled out a lawsuit as too expensive and time-consuming at 67 years of age, he found a more creative solution: if they prevented him from owning his works and benefiting from them as he was entitled to do, he would not let the publisher do so either. Or, at least, everyone could use the comics as they wished. But the label was quick to clarify in its statement to IGN: “The Fables comic books and graphic novels [are] published by DC, and are not in the public domain”.

For his part, Willingham promises to continue fighting for all the conditions of his still-in-force contract that he considers DC to have violated, as well as for the last installments of the series, the final script of which he delivered two years ago.

There will be additional chapters in this dispute, as well as in many other ones like it: in 2024, the historic first image of Mickey Mouse, the one that starred in the 1928 short Steamboat Willie, enters the public domain in the U.S. and other countries. Copyright in the U.S. lasts for 95 years, and math is an exact science.

Therefore, in a few years, King Kong, Superman and Popeye will meet the same fate. But The New York Times has wondered how the “notoriously litigious” Disney will react and how far it will go to fight in court. And who would dare to freely use all these works for fear of a million-dollar lawsuit? The same question surrounds DC and similar companies. Because in the real world, fairy tales are rare. Or they end up in court.

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Assessing The Potential of The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) Against China’s Belt And Road Initiative (BRI)

(THE VOICE OF EU) – In a recent address, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the newly unveiled India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) as a transformative force poised to shape global trade for centuries. While the IMEC undoubtedly presents a significant development, it’s vital to scrutinize its potential impact compared to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The IMEC was jointly announced by US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Delhi. Designed to fortify transportation and communication networks between Europe and Asia via rail and shipping routes, the project not only holds regional promise but also reflects a strategic move by the US in its geopolitical interests, particularly concerning China.

However, the IMEC faces a formidable contender in the form of China’s BRI, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.

Despite facing some headwinds, including a slowdown in lending due to China’s economic deceleration and concerns raised by nations like Italy, Sri Lanka, and Zambia regarding debt sustainability, the BRI remains a monumental global undertaking.

With investments surpassing a staggering $1 trillion and over 150 partner countries, the BRI has transformed from a regional initiative to a near-global endeavor.

Comparatively, the IMEC may not immediately match the scale or ambition of the BRI. While the US, Japan, and the G7 nations have introduced similar initiatives like the Global Gateway and Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, none have achieved the expansive reach or influence of the BRI.

The emergence of these projects over the past five years, however, demonstrates the BRI’s pivotal role as a catalyst for global economic growth.

Viewing the IMEC solely through the lens of opposition to the BRI may not provide a comprehensive understanding of its potential.

Instead, the IMEC contributes to a broader trend of transactional partnerships, where countries engage with multiple collaborators simultaneously, underscoring the complex and interconnected nature of global trade relations.

Yet, realizing the IMEC’s aspirations demands meticulous planning and execution. A comprehensive action plan is expected within the next 60 days, outlining key governmental agencies responsible for investments, allocated capital, and implementation timelines.

Establishing a streamlined customs and trade infrastructure is equally critical to facilitate seamless transit, a challenge highlighted by the Trans-Eurasian railway’s 30-country passage through Kazakhstan.

Navigating geopolitical complexities between partner countries, particularly the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, poses another potential hurdle.

Ensuring these nations maintain a unified strategic vision amid differing priorities and interests requires careful diplomatic coordination.

Furthermore, the IMEC will compete directly with the Suez Canal, a well-established and cost-effective maritime route.

While the IMEC may enhance relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it could potentially strain ties with Egypt, prompting critical assessments of the project’s economic viability.

Beyond trade and economics, the IMEC ambitiously aims to incorporate diverse sectors, from electricity grids to cybersecurity.

This multi-dimensional approach aligns with discussions held in security forums like the Quad and, if realized, could significantly contribute to a safer, more sustainable global landscape.

As we contemplate the potential of the IMEC, it is with hope that the lofty ambitions outlined in New Delhi will culminate in a tangible and positive transformation for the world.

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