VeloCity has been hired to draw up a new ‘greener’ vision for the enormous 810ha estate surrounding the Grade I-listed Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire
The all-women team of architects, designers and engineers is devising a new strategy for Blenheim Estate Land, which manages a portfolio of residential, commercial and agricultural properties surrounding the John Vanbrugh-designed monumental country house.
The appointment comes three years after VeloCity won an international contest backed by the government’s National Infrastructure Commission for ideas to boost sustainable development within the UK’s Cambridge-to-Oxford growth corridor. The winning concept, which focuses on reinvigorating the rural landscape, also won the inaugural William Sutton Prize 2018 for Excellence in Social Housing Design and Placemaking.
The new strategy will re-imagine a greener future for the estate and surrounding villages based around people, places, sustainable transport and new technology. The place-based vision proposes incremental change over three decades and will seek to support the estate’s ambition to become the UK’s first carbon-negative land manager.
At its core is the concept of a new ‘village cluster’ bringing together the eight settlements surrounding UNESCO World Heritage Protected landmark – Bladon, Cassington, Church Hanborough, Combe, Long Hanborough, Wootton, Stonesfield and Woodstock. Key aims include reducing car dependency and harnessing local materials sourced through local supply chains, building on traditional village character and forms.
The VeloCity team met during a series of women’s cycling events and includes Sarah Featherstone of Featherstone Young, Kay Hughes from Khaa, Petra Marko of Marko and Placemakers, Annalie Riches of Mikhail Riches, Jennifer Ross from Tibbalds and Judith Sykes from Expedition Engineering.
Ross said: ‘To achieve a zero-carbon future by 2050 requires us to think differently about how we live and work and move around, the design of our homes and the way in which services are delivered. It requires creative and holistic thinking.
‘Our VeloCity proposition and the way we have applied our thinking to the estate of Blenheim and its surrounding villages will, we envisage, provide an opportunity to enable rural communities to respond positively to the environmental, social and economic issues we are all now experiencing.’
Featherstone said: ‘Working with Blenheim Estate Land and talking with local people in the area has shown us that villages need to work together to tackle pressing issues around isolation, road congestion and loss of local shops, pub and schools.
‘Our strategy is a game-changer and looks to link villages with new walking and cycling routes so that collectively they can grow to a capacity that brings back important community facilities and reduces the need to travel further afield by car, thereby making more sustainable places to live and work.’
Sykes added: ‘The last few months have really demonstrated what a different future could look like. We have recognised the value of green spaces on our physical and mental wellbeing.
‘Working patterns have changed, streets have been given over to people and we are connecting more with our local community. This is the essence of the VeloCity principles and we are excited to be working with Blenheim Estate Land to demonstrate how they can be delivered to create sustainable, healthy and inclusive rural communities on their estate.’