Scheme will convert part of shopping centre to life sciences hub, while refurbishing other areas for retail


Corstorphine & Wright has received planning approval for the redevelopment of a shopping centre in Cambridge from the local council.

The Grafton Centre has seen a significant decline in occupancy rates and footfall in recent years.

Initiated by Pioneer Group, a developer and operator of life science and high-tech campuses, the redevelopment of the Grafton Centre will involve converting a significant area of the existing shopping centre into laboratory and office space.

This space is intended to cater to start-ups, small businesses, and established companies in the science and technology industry, addressing the growing demand for such facilities in the city.

The western end of the centre will be retained for retail, but also undergo refurbishment. New public areas, including a public square, aim to improve the quality of retained retail environment.

The redevelopment is targeted at addressing the high demand and short supply of laboratories in Cambridge.

Michael Walters, group director at Corstorphine & Wright, the scheme’s designer, stated, “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.”

The scheme also aims to achieve positive environmental benefits, including +538% biodiversity net gain and 18,500 tonnes of carbon savings through repurposing existing buildings.

Additionally, the scheme aims to establish a sustainable research ‘ecosystem,’ linking start-ups, experts, and entrepreneurs in the life sciences sector.

A new community science lab/classroom with a program of community outreach and STEM investment is part of the approved plan.

Richard O’Boyle, chief executive of Pioneer Group, commented, “Cambridge is at the heart of the UK’s research industry, but new lab space is in short supply and desperately needed. By providing this space in the city centre, we will also deliver new jobs near where people live, encouraging more sustainable travel as well as helping local shops, cafes, and restaurants to thrive.”

Additional project data:

Client: Pioneer Group / Angelo Gordon

Architect: Corstorphine & Wright

Landscape architect : Macgregor Smith

Planning consultant: Bidwell

Structural engineer: Mosaic

M&E consultant: K J Tait

Quantity surveyor: Gardiner & Theobald