VeloCity chosen for Oxford to Cambridge growth competition – New concept village centres on walking and cycling

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

Their vision – VeloCity – is a strategic approach to growth and placemaking along the Oxford to Cambridge corridor, centred on a re-imagining of the village for the 21st century.

The all-women team is a collaboration between Jennifer Ross of Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, Sarah Featherstone (Featherstone Young), Kay Hughes (Khaa), Petra Marko (Marko and Placemakers), Annalie Riches (Mikhail Riches) and Judith Sykes (Expedition Engineering).

VeloCity focuses on six villages situated to the south east of one of the new stations on the Oxford to Cambridge rail link as a test bed. It advances a place-based vision for reimagining how a group of smaller villages might evolve over a 30-year period.

Taking the opportunities that will be created through the introduction of a new integrated system of fast rail and road links connecting major towns and cities, the proposals introduce an associated finer grain network of local, medium and longer distance cycle and pedestrian routes and in so doing the strategy seek to explore how we might plan for a future which no longer needs to rely so heavily on movements by car.

The vision has been developed to enrich village life and a sense of place, while creating new homes and working environments in healthy and socially cohesive places – described by the team as a modern picturesque. It proposes a way to install a low-cost high speed data network and introduce technology to foster a more sustainable environment and new employment opportunities with an emphasis on the retention and enhancement of the natural environment.

Jennifer Ross, Director of Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, said:

“The successful implementation of this strategy allows for 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.”

“It also considers how the vision might be delivered over time and the key actions and interventions that would need to be taken to make it happen. It is a people-centred vision that shows how communities could get involved and shape the places in which they live.”

Sarah Featherstone, Director of Featherstone Young, said:

“This is really exciting to see our place-based vision chosen as the winning scheme. Our re-imagination of the 21st century village will provide new homes and working environments whilst retaining the strong character and identity of existing villages. This is a real opportunity to reinvigorate the social infrastructure creating lifetime villages with mixed tenures and integration of shared spaces where people can live, work and socialise together.”

Kay Hughes, Director of Khaa, said:

“The National Infrastructure Commission competition shows the benefit of putting design at the heart of deciding how to shape the places we live and work. The VeloCity proposal reconciles the needs of our environment with a high-technology and low-cost future infrastructure. It supports health and wellbeing while creating places with identity and a sense of belonging, a truly collaborative effort from all the team.”

Petra Marko of Marko and Placemakers said:

“Our proposal addresses people, place and the process how to effect big change over time. It is important to see the National Infrastructure Commission recognise this placemaking approach as an essential and integral part of large-scale infrastructure planning. It’s been a great collaboration.”

Annalie Riches, Founding Director of Mikhail Riches, said:

“VeloCity is the result of a planning strategy that seeks to ensure the sustainability of the countryside while unlocking the potential for economic growth. We want development to strengthen the identity of village centres – adding housing density that will in turn support local village economies, rather than sprawling along roads as a car-dependent endless suburb. We want to grow infrastructure along existing corridors and support population growth with robust public transport links. Underpinning this all is a new cycling infrastructure – a light-touch network linking towns to each other as well as to transport interchanges.”

“The area of the country between Oxford and Cambridge contains some of the country’s most picturesque scenery, as well as some of the best opportunities to grow the economy – VeloCity suggests a model that will allow the two to coexist in an achievable, pragmatic and environmentally responsible way.”

Judith Sykes, Director of Expedition Engineering, said:

“VeloCity demonstrates the role of infrastructure in placemaking. Strategic infrastructure investment combined with local networks and digital platforms unlocks potential to create thriving villages for the 21st century.”

Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford collectively make up the ‘Cambridge to Oxford connection’. As one of the most economically successful parts of the country outside London, this corridor has the potential to support a further 700,000 jobs by 2050.

The NIC was asked to provide the government with proposals to maximise the corridors potential as a globally competitive knowledge-intensive cluster while protecting the area’s high-quality environment, and providing much-needed homes and jobs. The team’s submission was one of four shortlisted entries from the 58 the NIC received.