Government plans to build a million homes in a new Silicon Valley between the British university cities of Oxford and Cambridge might be slowed by Brexit, urban designer Amanda Reynolds told Sputnik.
In his Budget announcement on November 22, Britain’s Chancellor Philip Hammond, announced the intent to build a million homes in the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor.
The government has already committed to a £3.5 billion (US$4.7 billion) expressway between Oxford and Cambridge and a new railroad for the so-called “brain belt.”
Amanda Reynolds, an urban designer and master planner, said the plan to develop the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor was a “great idea.”
“Oxford and Cambridge are great centers of learning and expertise and Milton Keynes is a place where there is a lot of high-tech already, and work on driverless cars is going on there. There is a powerful connection between infrastructure and development and connectivity is key. Oxford and Cambridge are both well connected to London but not to each other. A new rail line will improve that and with new train stops and faster connections you create potential for new settlements,” Ms. Reynolds told Sputnik.
‘Huge Potential for Jobs’
“There is so much research and academia across that arc and there is potential for huge growth in jobs,” she told Sputnik.
Oxford and Cambridge are the two oldest and most influential universities in the UK.
Already the Cambridge Cluster is home to Amazon, Apple, AstraZeneca, Huawei, Microsoft Research and Samsung while Oxford is home to computer games developers Rebellion and Natural Motion and biotech firms like Oxford BioLabs and electric car manufacturer Yasa Motors.
“The arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford attracts the brightest and best from some of the most cutting edge industries,” said Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Council.
There is a danger that high-tech companies would simply relocate from other parts of the UK, causing unemployment and economic malaise in those regions.
But Ms. Reynolds said the success of a UK silicon valley in the Cambridge-Oxford corridor should not detract from other parts of the country.
‘Future Jobs We Don’t Even Have Names For’
“A lot of these jobs don’t currently exist. Tech jobs are a growth area. People will be working in computers, engineering, biology. Sixty percent of our secondary school children will work in jobs which we don’t even have names for at the moment,” Ms. Reynolds told Sputnik.
”You couldn’t take a valley in the Peak District and create a tech city. You can’t do it out of nothing. You need a critical mass,” she told Sputnik.
Ms. Reynolds said Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2019 might put a dampener on development of the Silicon Valley.
“It is going to work with Brexit but it would work faster and better without Brexit. Brexit won’t kill it, but it will be slower and smaller,” she told Sputnik.
New Towns 70 Years After Original New Towns
Ms. Reynolds said the area north of London had seen a number of “new towns” built just after World War II, including Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Harlow, Peterborough and Welwyn Garden City.
Many people moved out from bombed-out parts of London to live in towns which were built on green fields.
“People moved out of east London slums and thought they were in heaven,” she said.
But she said they were designed with too much emphasis on cars, roads and garages.
‘These Towns Need to Be Pedestrian-Focused’
“We understand urban design principles better now. They were built around car-based centers instead of around pedestrians or public transport. They focused too much on cars. We don’t need houses for cars. We need houses for people. We need to build towns which are designed around walking and cycling and with really good public transport connections,” Ms. Reynolds told Sputnik.
The UK government plans to build a million new homes in the corridor by 2050, build a new east-west expressway and a railroad with new stations at Cambridge South and Cowley.
“The Cambridge—Milton Keynes—Oxford corridor is a national asset that competes on the world stage and fires Britain’s economy. The government invites stakeholders from across the region to work with it over the next 12 months to turn this high-level level vision into a strategy that is capable of being delivered through an integrated programme of infrastructure investments, housing and business growth,” said the government.