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Insight | What could the Cambridge to Oxford corridor look like?

Cambridge to cxford connection image collage

A cycling region, a new national park, and a network of villages are among the ideas proposed by four projects shortlisted in a National Infrastructure Commission-led competition to transform the Cambridge to Oxford corridor.

The route, which spans Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton, and Oxford, is home to 3.3M people and has “significant” housing and transport pressures.

In the first stage of the Cambridge to Oxford Connection competition, entrants were asked to detail a vision for future development in the area “creatively linking existing, planned and proposed infrastructure with placemaking”.

Shortlisted teams were then asked to progress their vision and develop a specific location in the corridor for the second phase of the competition.

innovation hive town centre sketch, barton willmore and malcolm reading consultants

Innovation hive town centre sketch, Barton Willmore and Malcolm Reading Consultants

Source: Barton Willmore and Malcolm Reading Consultants

The CaMKoX Innovation Hive submitted by Barton Willmore with Momentum includes designs for a new national park and capacity for new homes.

The submission proposed a “process of organic growth intelligently steered by a delivery guide”, with the community at the heart of the plans. The proposals include distinct districts such as Interchange Market, Rural Edge, The Centre, and Waterside. 

They include plans for a self-build centre, pre-fabricated factory homes, a transport depot and a cycle and public-transport-only high street.

The entry said: “If you think of a place that you have happily spent time it is unlikely that you would immediately think of a new town. It is more likely that you are thinking of an older place which has had time to evolve and mature, a place with a rich mix of buildings, spaces, shops and places to eat.” The team behind the Innovation Hive believe their vision and organic delivery will create this atmosphere in the new town.

Archipelago aerial view

Archipelago aerial view

Source: Fletcher Priest Architects and Malcolm Reading Consultants

The concept entered by Fletcher Priest Architects with Bradley Murphy Design and Peter Brett Associates is called the ”Mid-Vale Archipelago”.

The plans include improving the transport connections between the existing towns and cities. The second entry focused on the test site at the village of Haddenham and market town of Thame, where the existing road would become cycle and public transport only.

The proposals include an improved interchange at Haddenham and Thame station, new housing developments, and alternative car sharing models to allow space normally needed for driveways to be used for recreation.

Urcadia

Urcadia

Source: Mae and Malcolm Reading Consultants

Urcadia was submitted by Mae with Oneworks, Planit, AKT II, Tyrens and Max Fordham.

The proposals outline plans for new homes created using new construction techniques to help young people get on the housing ladder.

The ”New Living Campus” plan could house 250,000 people in 12 clusters, including self-build terraced houses to multi-level apartment blocks. The competition entry suggests that the clusters could develop a particular field of innovation. The examples given are construction material innovation and biotechnology in food production. Each cluster would have between 5,000 to 25,000 homes.

Concept Village

Concept Village

Source: Tibbalds Planning & Urban Design, Mikhail Riches, Featherstone Yound, Marko and Placemakers, Expedition

The fourth shortlisted entry, VeloCity, proposes a region that is “no longer reliant on the car” with a network of cycle routes, supported by fast rail and road links.

This proposal, entered by Tibbalds Planning & Urban design with Mikhail Riches, Featherstone Young, Marko & Placemakers, Expedition Engineering and Khaa, is focused on a network of villages connected by cycle paths. The entrants say this approach would allow “traditional planning policy to be turned on its head and locations that were previously seen as unsuitable for growth… transformed into well-connected and sustainable places.” At the core of the proposals is “light touch living” which aims to reduce consumption and shift from using fossil fuels for personal transport.

The shortlisted entrants will be interviewed by the jury at the end of the month, with the winner set to be announced mid-November. Each shortlisted team has been given £10,000 and may be given a continuing role as the project develops. Comments on each of the schemes can be sent to cambridgeoxfordconnection@malcolmreading.co.uk

Readers' comments (2)

  • The trick is not to turn planning on its head but to turn financing on its head because house builders only get finance for schemes that are low risk. Finance is the key to innovative schemes not planning. What Government would commit to a totally publicly financed scheme. Too many fine planning visions turn into ' National house builder sprawl ' because that's what sells!

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  • And where does a railway fit into all this?

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