The Cambridge to
Oxford Connection:

Ideas Competition


The corridor that spans Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford defines one of the most productive and fastest-growing knowledge networks in the United Kingdom.

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.


Recognising the importance of the corridor to the UK economy, the National Infrastructure Commission was asked to provide the government with proposals and options to maximise the potential of the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor as a single, knowledge-intensive cluster that is globally competitive while protecting the area’s high-quality environment, and securing much-needed homes and jobs.

Stretching around 130 miles from Cambridgeshire to Oxfordshire via the south-east midlands, the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor forms a ribbon around the north and west of London’s green belt, encompassing Daventry and Wellingborough to the north and bounded on the southern end by Luton, Stevenage and the Aylesbury Vale. The area has a population of 3.3 million people and is approximately 3,900 square miles in total.

Despite its many successes, the region faces a lack of sufficient and suitable homes made worse by poor east-west transport connectivity. Oxford and Cambridge are two of the least affordable cities in the UK with house prices double the national average, and the area as a whole has consistently failed to build the number of homes it needs. That shortage puts sustained economic growth at risk by increasing costs for businesses and diminishing their ability to attract and retain employees.

Currently, the corridor does not function as a single joined-up economic zone. Rather Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford operate as distinct city economies, each positioned on different radial routes around 50-70 miles from London.

Approximately 1.83 million people are currently employed across the corridor, contributing £90.5 billion to the UK economy. Analysis by the Commission suggests that with current trends in development, population and local economic growth, the area could see job growth of 335,000 by 2050, increasing economic output by £85 billion. The actual potential is greater: a ‘Transformational Scenario’ could see the area support a further 700,000 jobs by 2050 and increase GVA (gross value added) by £163 billion.

The National Infrastructure Commission published their Interim Report in November 2016, which made three key recommendations on infrastructure to government:

  • Joint governance arrangements to deliver infrastructure involving local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, government departments and national delivery agencies all working together.
  • A £100m+ commitment to delivering the Western Section of the East West Rail project before the end of 2024, and continuing to develop plans for the Central Section. The East West Rail project, which builds on the largely disused existing route that currently connects Oxford in the west to Bedford in the east, is looking to re-establish the missing 67 miles of track between Bedford and Cambridge which was closed and lost in the late 1960s. East West Rail is planned to largely make use of pre-existing stations, though, subject to route choice, there is the potential for a small number of new stations (e.g. Winslow).
  • A commitment of £27m to the end of 2018/19 to fund the next phase of work on the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway study. As with the East West Rail project the Expressway looks to complete missing sections which would connect the radial motorways of the M4 in the west to the M11 in the east, picking up both the M1 and A1(M) in the centre.

In November 2017, the NIC published its Final Report, Partnering for Prosperity: A new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc.

Achieving the above employment and growth targets is dependent on new infrastructure, roads, rail and housing. All of these elements need to be integrated with place, and be part of a cohesive strategy that unlocks housing sites, improves land supply and supports well-connected and sensitively-designed new communities, bringing productive towns and cities closer together.

The Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition was an integral part of the Commission’s response to the government’s brief. The two-stage open competition was organised by London-based competition specialists Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC).


The aim of the competition was to gather, showcase and promote imaginative responses to integrating placemaking with the proposed infrastructure projects across the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Corridor, and including Northampton.

This was a two-stage competition. At the first stage, competitors were asked to submit details of their proposed team and an emerging concept which addressed the following overarching question:

What is your vision for future development, and related development typologies, across the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford growth corridor, which creatively links existing, planned and proposed infrastructure with placemaking?

The emerging concepts, which were judged anonymously, addressed development typologies across one of three high-level groupings:

  1. Urban Intensification: those developments that look to intensify existing urban settlements, either in the centre, suburbs or on the edge;
  2. Linked Places: those developments that are linked to, and make use of the existing infrastructure of an existing urban settlement. These include, for example, satellite developments, urban extensions and small settlements, such as garden villages; or
  3. Autonomous Places: new settlements of a sufficient scale to be self-contained in terms of requiring, maintaining and operating their own urban infrastructure.

Competitors were also able to suggest a hybrid or new typology, if deemed appropriate.

Competitors were encouraged to form 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.

At the second stage of the competition, shortlisted teams were asked to progress their emerging visions into creative concepts, developed on a specific location within the corridor. Teams received an additional briefing document and were invited to attend a briefing workshop, and a separate charrette where they received feedback from the Commission and their advisers on their developing designs.

The final concepts produced by the shortlist are available to view here. Each shortlisted team received an honorarium of £10,000.

The jury met again at the end of Stage Two to assess and provide critical feedback on the submissions. The jury selected ‘VeloCity’ as the winner of the competition.

Anticipated Competition Programme

Friday 30 June 2017

Stage One Launch

Thursday 3 August

Stage One Deadline


Shortlist Announced / Stage Two Launch

Late September 2017

Stage Two Deadline

Late October 2017

Jury Interviews

December 2017

Winner Announced


  • Bridget Rosewell OBE FICE (Jury Chair)

    Bridget Rosewell OBE FICE (Jury Chair)

    Co-Founder, Volterra Partners and Commissioner, National Infrastructure Commission

    Bridget Rosewell is an experienced director, policy maker and economist, with a track record in advising public and private sector clients on key strategic issues. She is a Commissioner for the National Infrastructure Commission, a Founder and Senior Adviser of Volterra Partners, and a Non-Executive Director of Network Rail and of Atom Bank. She was Chief Economic Adviser to the Greater London Authority from 2002 to 2012, responsible for all transport and economic impact analysis. Her book ‘Reinventing London’ was published in 2014.

    She was appointed OBE in July 2013 and is also a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

    She has worked extensively on cities, infrastructure and finance, advising on projects in road and rail and on major property developments and regeneration. She has been a member of commissions looking at the future of public services, city finance, London finance, the North East economy, the City Growth Commission and the London Infrastructure Commission.

  • David Lock CBE MRTPI

    David Lock CBE MRTPI

    Strategic Planning Adviser, David Lock Associates

    David Lock is Strategic Planning Adviser at David Lock Associates Limited (planners and urban designers in Milton Keynes and Melbourne, Australia), a consultancy he founded in 1988 and of which he was Chairman until 2013. He is currently Chairman of DLA Architects Practice Limited. He was Chief Planning Adviser (half time) to the Department of the Environment from 1994 to 1997; and a Visiting Professor at the University of Central England followed by the University of Reading.

    He was a Trustee, then Chairman, and is now a Vice President of the Town and Country Planning Association. David is also President of the environmental education charity City Discovery, in his home city of Milton Keynes.

    David was appointed CBE in the 2007 New Year’s Honours List for services to town and country planning. He is a Non-Executive Board Member of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation in North Kent, and Chair of its Planning Committee.

  • Georgia Butina Watson BA MA PhD FRSA

    Georgia Butina Watson BA MA PhD FRSA

    Professor and Research Director of Urban Design, Oxford Brookes University

    Georgia Butina Watson is Professor and Research Director of Urban Design at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK. She is also Academician and Regional Co-ordinator of the Academy of Urbanism, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), UK. Until 2015 she was Head of the Department of Planning and Urban Design at Oxford Brookes University and chaired the Oxford Brookes University Research Degree Committee. Her professional background and academic training come from History of Art, Architecture, Planning and Urban Design.

    Professor Watson has extensive UK and international research and consultancy experience in urban planning and urban design. Her key projects include work on sustainable, resilient and healthy cities; healthy new towns; garden cities; place-making; place-identity; cities in different cultural contexts; urban regeneration; compact cities; urban retrofit; community development; healthy urban mobility; and perceptual and cognitive experience of places with different age groups. She has also been a juror on a number of architectural, planning and urban design competitions and has published many books and research papers.

  • Hilary Chipping

    Hilary Chipping

    Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Strategy and Operations, South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership

    Hilary is Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Strategy and Operations at the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), which she helped to establish in 2011. She oversees the £260m programme of investment through the Local Growth Fund and the development of the Strategic Economic Plan. She works closely with central Government, local authority and private sector partners to enable the delivery of infrastructure to unlock economic and housing growth.

    From 2008 to 2011 she was Director of the Milton Keynes South Midlands Growth Area (the largest growth area in the UK).

    As Director of Network Strategy at the Highways Agency from 2001 to 2007 she developed the investment strategy for the motorway and trunk road network.

    Hilary graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in economics and joined the Department of the Environment as an economist working initially on housing and then, from 1984, local government finance.

  • Lord Andrew Adonis

    Lord Andrew Adonis

    Chairman, National Infrastructure Commission

    Lord Andrew Adonis was appointed as Permanent Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission on 21 April 2017 having served as Interim Chair since October 2015. He was a member of the independent Armitt Commission, which recommended an independent National Infrastructure Commission in 2013.

    Lord Adonis was formerly the Transport Secretary from 2009 to 2010, Minister of State for Transport from 2008 to 2009 and Minister for Schools from 2005 to 2008. He was Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit from 2001 to 2005, having worked there since 1998 as Education Adviser.

    Prior to these appointments, Lord Adonis was a journalist at the Financial Times for five years (1991-96) before moving to The Observer as a political columnist. He was educated at Keble College, Oxford, studying history, followed by a PhD in modern history and a fellowship at Nuffield College, Oxford. During this time he was also elected to Oxford City Council from 1987 to 1991.

    Lord Adonis also chairs the Trustee Board of Frontline.

  • Sadie Morgan D.Des (LSBU) FRSA

    Sadie Morgan D.Des (LSBU) FRSA

    Founding Director, dRMM Architects and Commissioner, National Infrastructure Commission

    Sadie Morgan is a Founding Director of leading architectural practice dRMM, alongside Alex de Rijke and Philip Marsh. The studio is recognised for creating innovative, high quality and socially useful architecture. dRMM’s recent high profile projects include Trafalgar Place at Elephant & Castle, Hastings Pier, Maggie’s Oldham and Faraday House at Battersea Power Station. In 2017 the practice received its third shortlisting for the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize.

    Sadie chairs the Independent Design Panel for High Speed Two (HS2), is a Commissioner of the National Infrastructure Commission and Commissioner of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission. In 2017 she was appointed as a Mayor’s Design Advocate for the Greater London Authority.

    Sadie lectures internationally on the work of dRMM and the importance of infrastructure which connects back to people and place. In 2013 she became the youngest president of the Architectural Association, and in 2016 she was appointed Professor at the University of Westminster and awarded an honorary doctorate from London South Bank University. In 2017, she was named New Londoner of the Year at the New London Awards for her work championing the importance of design at the highest political level.

  • Tim Broyd FREng CEng FICE FRSA

    Tim Broyd FREng CEng FICE FRSA

    Professor of Built Environment Foresight and Honorary Professor of Civil Engineering, University College London

    Tim is Professor of Built Environment Foresight at University College London (UCL) as well as an Honorary Professor of Civil Engineering at the same university. He recently moved to UCL following a career in industry, and has substantial experience as corporate director of technology, innovation, knowledge management and sustainability for globally operating engineering design consultancies. In addition, he was CEO of the construction industry research body CIRIA from 2002 to 2007. 

    Within his new role, Tim works with leading individuals in industry, government and academia to understand and prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. He is a leading advocate for BIM (Building Information Modelling), was a founding member of the UK Government’s BIM Task Group, was lead author of the UK’s published strategy on BIM Level 3 ('lifetime BIM’), and has provided advice in this area to the development teams of a number of large infrastructure projects. Tim is the current President of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

  • Tom Holbrook

    Tom Holbrook

    Director, 5th Studio and Professor of Architecture and Industry Fellow, RMIT University

    Professor Tom Holbrook came to architecture tangentially, co-founding 5th Studio in 1997 as a spatial design agency, working across the fields of architecture, urban design, infrastructure and landscape. 

    Tom’s design practice has developed an approach to strategic thinking that explores the dynamic between architecture and the scale of infrastructure and landscape. The relationship between research and practice has encouraged design innovation and a fresh attitude towards complex regeneration projects.

    In combination with practice, Tom is Professor of Architecture and Industry Fellow at RMIT University. Tom is a member of the Independent Design Panel for High Speed Two (HS2) and a Design Advocate for the Mayor of London.

    Tom is directing 5th Studio's spatial study on the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor for the National Infrastructure Commission.



Media Enquiries

Sarah Southerton
Head of Communications
National Infrastructure Commission
[email protected]
+44 (0)20 7270 1948

Media Enquiries regarding the Competition

Catherine Reading
Malcolm Reading Consultants
[email protected]
+44 (0) 20 7831 2998

Competition Enquiries

Jayne Broomhall
Malcolm Reading Consultants
[email protected]
+44 (0)20 7831 2998