Two wheels good, four wheels bad for Cambridge-Oxford competition winner

A cluster of green, car-free villages connected by cycle routes, with swathes of common land and shared amenities to make sure communities interact with each other. This is future of growth in the Oxford-Cambridge-Milton Keynes corridor, if the winning entry to the National Infrastructure Commission competition is anything to go by.

Launched in June, the competition looked for inspirational visions for future development and new homes within the Growth Arc around Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford.

Led by Velocity – an all-female team of designers, planners and engineers from Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design – the team’s vision sees six new communities created along the planned East-West rail line, along with environmentally friendly new homes connected to shared amenities.

The team initially met each other through a women’s cycling event, and went on to work together through a shared interest in designing places that “put the pedestrian and cyclist first”.

Announcing the award last week, Bridget Rosewell, competition jury Chair, said she was struck by Velocity ‘commitment to ensuring new settlements would be communities from the get-go’, with large common land at the heart of each development providing a focus for residents to co-operate.

A striking vision for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc

The competition ties in with the NIC’s ‘Partnering for prosperity: a new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc’ report last month, which set out how Government investment would double housebuilding rates and deliver one million new homes and jobs by 2050. At the crux of the report is the proposal for the Government to fund a £1bn commuter service between Bicester and Bedford by 2023, and a new East West Rail line between Bedford and Cambridge by 2030.

The Chancellor subsequently backed the Commission’s vision for one million new homes by 2050, and announced plans to complete both a new East-West Rail link and an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway by 2030.

The Commission launched the competition in June, and received more than 50 first-stage submissions from teams across the country. Entries from Barton Willmore, Mae, and Fletcher Priest Architects were also shortlisted by the panel, and received an honorarium of £10,000. The next steps now are for VeloCity’s vision to be showcased, along with all earlier submissions, at a conference and public exhibition on the Growth Arc in early 2018. The National Infrastructure Commission are expected to release further details in the coming weeks.

With Government having committed to helping deliver significant growth in the Growth Arc area, developers and local authorities will now need to work together to demonstrate their ambitious visions to sustainably deliver a million new homes for the area.