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VeloCity wins NIC competition for development of Cambridge-Oxford arc

Words: Laura Edgar
Big Back Garden / Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, Mikhail   Riches,   Featherstone Young, Marko and Placemakers, Expedition Engineering and Khaa

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) have announced the all-female VeloCity team as winners of its ‘Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition’.

The team comprises: Jennifer Ross from consultancy Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design; Sarah Featherstone from Featherstone Young; Kay Hughes from (Khaa); Petra Marko (Marko and Placemakers); Annalie Riches (Mikhail Riches); and Judith Sykes (Expedition Engineering).

The competition sought visions for the future of an arc covering Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford. It informed the commission’s report Partnering for Prosperity: A New Deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc, which suggested that a new ‘brain belt’ linking Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford could create an economic powerhouse adding up to £250 billion a year to the UK economy and paving the way to the first new towns in 50 years.

The chancellor’s Autumn Budget supported the report.

Clustered around six villages south-east of a new station on the Oxford to Cambridge rail link, the winning scheme could be replicated across the arc to support a substantial number of new homes.

VeloCity’s scheme featured common land at the heart of each development, which provides shared amenities and a focus for communities to interact.

It advocates integrated public transport connections with expanded pedestrian and cycle routes so there is less need for a car, and small-scale construction and local utility networks designed to reduce the environmental impact of new housing.

Jennifer Ross, VeloCity team leader, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to win. The six of us met taking part in women’s cycling events and became friends through a shared interest in designing places that put the pedestrian and cyclist first. We wanted to work together and the competition was the perfect opportunity. We spent a lot of time discussing density and placemaking and how the implementation of new public transport infrastructure can change the way we plan for and think about building successful communities.”

The competition was launched in June, with the four teams being invited to produce detailed strategies for integrating infrastructure with placemaking in the arc.

Bridget Rosewell, commissioner and competition jury chair, said: “The jury was drawn to VeloCity’s human-scale approach to sensitively and incrementally accommodating new homes, alongside the team’s commitment to ensure new settlements would be communities from the get-go. Creating effective new settlements can be challenging: the team’s flair and imagination in addressing this shows how good design can translate into liveable communities.”

Image credit | Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, Mikhail Riches, Featherstone Young, Marko and Placemakers, Expedition Engineering and Khaa