Team members met cycling

An all-women team is among the four finalists for the National Infrastructure Commission’s ideas competition for an Oxford-Cambridge link.

The team led by planner Jennifer Ross of Tibbalds also features Annalie Riches of Mikhail Riches, Sarah Featherstone of Featherstone Young, Kay Hughes of Khaa and Petra Marko of Marko&Placemakers.

The five women met taking part in the PedElle women’s cycling events and became friends through their shared interest in designing places not dominated by cars.

Their anonymous entry for the Cambridge to Oxford Connection contest organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants has a strong focus on cycling and other alternatives to the car.

“I think it’s unique to have an all-women team,” said Ross. “In my whole career I’ve never worked on one.

“It’s about a group of good friends who wanted to work together but it became an intentional thing to do it as all women.”

Riches said the competition was an obvious chance to work together because it played to their skillsets. Infrastructure was often perceived as a male domain, she added.

 “We think it’s a really strong statement to put in an all-women team, said Hughes, who recently led the group on a cycling study tour of the Netherlands which she wrote about for BD.

She said they were excited to be shortlisted, adding: “I’m delighted to be part of such a talented and innovative team.

“We’ve all spent a lot of time discussing debating city-making and density and the competition was a result of those discussions.”

The other finalists, picked from a field of nearly 60, are Mae, Fletcher Priest and Barton Willmore.

The four teams will be given an honorarium of £10,000 to develop their initial submissions. There were honourable mentions for O&H Properties and OMMX.

The contest seeks “inspirational yet realisable visions for the future of development within the arc encompassing four of the UK’s fastest-growing and most productive centres: Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford”.

Bridget Rosewell, the NIC’s commissioner and chair of the competition’s jury, said: “At the second stage, we will be looking for proposals that are rooted in their context and understand the local character, environment and landscape.

“We have asked competitors to consider how places will be integrated with infrastructure, but above all, we want to see what the proposals will mean for the lives of the people living and working in the corridor.”

Last November, the NIC published an interim report on the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor and said it “could be a world renowned centre for science, technology and innovation” after being tasked six months earlier by the then-chancellor George Osborne to “maximise the potential” of the corridor. It stretches approximately 130 miles around the north and west of London’s green belt and has a population of 3.3 million people.

The final designs produced by the finalists will be used in the commission’s report to government later this year.

The shortlisted teams in full

·         Barton Willmore – Robin Shepherd (Planning Partner); John Haxworth (Partner); Dominic Scott (Urban Design Partner); Gareth Wilson (Planning Partner); Michael Knott (Planning Director); Ben Lewis (Infrastructure Director); Peter Newton (Architecture Director); Carolyn Organ (Planning Associate); Vaughan Anderson (Urban Design Associate); Patrick Clarke (Associate Landscape Planner); Richard Webb (Associate Landscape Architect); Simone Gobber (Urban Designer); and Tom Carpen (Infrastructure Associate) – with Will Durden (Director, Momentum)

·         Fletcher Priest Architects with Bradley Murphy Design and Ron Henry (Partner, Peter Brett Associates)

·         Mae with One Works, AKT II and Planit-IE

·         Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design – Jennifer Ross (Director) – with Annalie Riches (Co-Director, Mikhail Riches), Petra Marko (Co-Founder and Director, Marko&Placemakers), Sarah Featherstone (Co-Director, Featherstone Young) and Kay Hughes, Khaa

Honourable mentions went to:

·         O&H Properties Ltd – Pippa Cheetham (Planning Manager) – with David Atherton (Partner, Peter Brett Associates), Bill Gush (Regional Director, Land & Water Group), James Russell (Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Forester, Forest of Marston Vale Trust), Espen Østbye-Strøm (Chief Operating Officer, Floodline Developments), Simon Collier (Partner, David Lock Associates), James Clifton (Architect and Planner, Canal and River Trust), Jane Hamilton (Chair, Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Trust) and Gareth Barker (Anglian Water)

·         OMMX – Hikaru Nissanke (Director) and Jon Lopez (Director) – with Paul Toplis (Partner, Price & Myers)