From Cambridge in the East to Oxford in the West, the Growth Corridor represents a world-class concentration of talent – whether on globally-renowned university campuses or in the flourishing science and technology industries.
Collectively the area is one of the most economically successful in the country, and by 2050 could help generate as many as 700,000 new jobs. But there are significant challenges to be overcome if that potential is to be realised: the four cities of Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford could be an economic powerhouse for generations to come if they work together – but right now that simply isn’t happening enough.
This was underlined by the findings in our Growth Corridor report published last November, which particularly highlighted the need for councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships, key government departments and delivery agencies to come together and form a strategic vision for the future of the area. Under our recommendations, that would be supported by Government on a new East-West Rail line: that would not only more than halve journey times between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes, but in future could also link up to a new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and unlock land for new homes and new employment opportunities.
This latter point is particularly important – while the Corridor makes a significant contribution to the UK’s economic growth and is highly competitive compared to its rivals overseas, this is under threat as the lack of sufficient and suitable housing makes it increasingly difficult for workers to live and work there. Tackling this isn’t just important to those in the area – it’s also vital for the future economic success of the country.
That’s why we’ve launched the new Cambridge to Oxford Connection Ideas Competition, which seeks imaginative ideas on how we create great places to live and work that are integrated with the proposed transport projects to help stimulate and deliver significant and sustainable growth within the corridor. We want to put this challenge to the brightest and best both here and abroad – including architects, policy-makers, planners, designers and economists.
But crucially we also want to hear from those already living in the area, to use their local knowledge to come up with innovative and creative ideas for the future development of the Corridor.
As chair of the judging panel, I’m clear what we’re looking for – plans that effectively use quality and innovative design to integrate new infrastructure like East-West Rail with the delivery of new homes whilst protecting the area’s unique environment – ultimately creating thriving communities and positive places.
The competition is free to enter, and we particularly want to see teams comprising a range of skills and experiences submitting their ideas.
There will be two phases: the first will be a search for initial ideas, and the four shortlisted entries will each then receive £10,000 to develop these further for stage two, helping to inform the Commission’s final report and recommendations.
We need to do all we can to realise the real economic successes we could achieve in the Growth Corridor, for the four key cities, the wider South East and for the country as a whole. For that, we want to make the most of the knowledge and creativity not just of those working in infrastructure, but of those already living in the places we want to help develop.
I look forward to seeing the innovative solutions that entrants come up with to this complex challenge.