It is home to 3.3 million people and hosts some of the country’s most successful cities, as well as world-leading universities, knowledge-intensive high-tech firms and highly-skilled workers.
Yet within this area significant housing and transport pressures exist: the scarcity of suitable and affordable homes, and difficulties in travelling within, and between, cities. These constraints are becoming obstacles to attracting and retaining talent and inevitably putting a break on economic growth.
Across the corridor, new infrastructure is coming in the form of rail and roads that will hugely improve connectivity, but really captivating, attractive places, which allow people to flourish – whether new or reinvented – are rarely accidental.
This is why the National Infrastructure Commission, an independent body with cross-party support that provides advice to government on infrastructure policy and strategy, decided to run this free-to-enter, two-stage ideas contest.
The competition’s initial open call for entries was aimed at broad multidisciplinary teams of urban designers; architects; planning, policy, and community specialists; landscape designers; development economists; and others with local knowledge and general insight. Submissions from international teams and students were welcome. Fifty-eight teams responded at the competition’s first stage, from which the jury selected a shortlist of four to produce design concepts. The jury met again in November 2017 to interview the shortlist, and selected ‘VeloCity’ as the winner of the competition
Through the competition, the Commission was seeking visionary ideas for development typologies across the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor, and including Northampton. Typologies that contribute to providing the homes the area needs, integrate the delivery of infrastructure – the highly anticipated East West Railway and planned Oxford to Cambridge Expressway – with high-quality places, and maintain the environmental and cultural character of the corridor.
A strategy that integrates placemaking with infrastructure is essential for the area to achieve sustainable progress that speaks to all communities and creates a sound basis for economic success. The knowledge economy is particularly vulnerable to talent relocating – the job may be great, but this is just one factor among many. How does the environment measure up? What is the community like? Is this a place to settle and make a future, to live happily and healthily?
The need for fresh and visionary thinking is urgent: future generations, locally and nationally, depend on realising the potential of an area that is one of the engines of the UK economy – but in a sustainable, creative and intelligent way. The Commission published its Final Report, Partnering for Prosperity: A new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc, in November 2017.
In the Autumn Budget 2017, the Government backed the Commission’s vision to build up to one million new homes across the arc by 2050, and announced plans to complete both a new East-West Rail link and an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway by 2030.
This competition was focused on finding the very best ideas to guide the Commission forward.