National Infrastructure Commission targets strategic corridor

The National Infrastructure Commission is about to launch an ideas competition to link Oxford and Cambridge with a strategic corridor of transport and development.

The two-stage contest, which opens at the end of the month, will be aimed at multi-disciplinary teams including architects and urban designers.

Competitors will be asked to come up with ways to balance placemaking with development within the corridor joining four of the UK’s fastest-growing cities: Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford.

Already a new east-west railway and an Oxford-to-Cambridge expressway have the backing of the NIC.

Competition organiser Malcolm Reading said the NIC wanted “visionary ideas” for development typologies that can contribute to delivering the homes the area needs, integrate the delivery of infrastructure with high-quality places and maintain the environmental and cultural character of the corridor.

Reading said: “This part of England is on the absolute cusp of change. New infrastructure is coming but now this needs to be integrated with imaginative and integrated placemaking that encourages a good social balance and easy access to natural landscapes and green spaces.”

Members of the commission, which was set up by former chancellor George Osborne to champion long-term strategic thinking on the nation’s infrastructure, include dRMM co-founder Sadie Morgan, pictured.

In March 2016 Osborne asked it to make recommendations to maximise the potential of the corridor as a single, knowledge-intensive cluster that competes on the global stage.

Later that year the NIC published an interim report which warned that its success was threatened by a “chronic undersupply of homes made worse by poor east-west transport connectivity”.

It added: “Two of the least affordable cities in the UK lie within the corridor, and the area as a whole has consistently failed to build the number of homes it needs. That shortage puts sustained growth at risk.

“It is already increasing costs for businesses and diminishing their ability to attract employees at all levels.

“Investment in infrastructure, including enhanced east-west transport links, can help to address these challenges, but it must be properly aligned with a strategy for new jobs, homes and communities, not developed in isolation. This means local authorities working in partnership, and with government, to plan places, homes and transport together.

“Current governance mechanisms are not sufficient to deliver the step-change in strategic leadership and collaboration needed.”

The competition will launch at the end of June with the winning entry announced in the autumn.

For more information visit the competition website.