Last month, Director of Socius, Steve Eccles attended Built Environment Networking’s The Future of the OxCam Arc Conference; In partnership with Bidwells, where he joined regional policy influencers, developers, investors, and occupiers to give a private sector view on the importance of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc.
Taking part in a panel session, which focused on Repositioning the Arc: What Should It Be? How Should It Be Delivered? Steve joined sponsors Willmott Dixon, local enterprise partnership SEMLEP and the Oxford to Cambridge Arc Leadership Group to discuss the potential of the Arc and what it should and could be for the UK.
The Arc is not only the UK’s leading science and technology cluster, but is renowned around the world. The combination of world-class academic institutions, blue-chip corporate occupiers and a long legacy of innovation, has made it a major contributor to the national economy. According to Bidwells, the area’s economic output is £115 million – but has the potential to triple if we deliver the right space and infrastructure to support growth.
For Socius, the Arc is extremely important for economic growth and particularly how it can help to drive forward Milton Keynes, with its newly gained city status.
At our MK Gateway development in Central Milton Keynes, where we’re working in partnership with long-term investor Patron Capital and award-winning architecture practice Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, we have designed a scheme that retains Milton Keynes’s heritage whilst delivering ultra-modern workspace and homes designed for future living. The workspace is being delivered through the sensitive repositioning of Saxon Court, a modernist building and local landmark, and will offer flexible floorplates that can accommodate businesses big and small. The building connects via a new public square to a new building that comprises Build-to-Rent apartments, that in a UK first will offer seven 3-storey vertical gardens for people to use for outside work and relaxation. Innovation is part of Milton Keynes’s DNA and we therefore felt it was vital that MK Gateway pushed the boundaries of urban mixed-use.
Similarly, in Cambridge we are taking a bold approach to transforming a former Travis Perkins depot into a mixed-use community of wellbeing-focused workspace and new homes, set in a new public park. Not only are we creating density in a city where there is a shortage of workspace and affordable homes and land for development is scarce, we are delivering a significant increase in green space, quadrupling biodiversity, creating an attractive – and sustainable – place to live and work.
We believe that genuine local engagement and co-creating with local residents, businesses and stakeholders will prove to be vital for the growth and success of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
Reflecting on the discussions held at the conference, Steve commented: “Hopefully central Government will put its weight back behind the Arc, bring some stability and consistency, so that local stakeholders can collaborate better and bring forward a coordinated vision for the future.”
We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to support the journey towards a more sustainable and connected region.