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The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has backed the concept of an Oxford to Cambridge ‘Growth Corridor’.

The Growth Corridor or ‘OxMKCam Arc’ stretching from Oxford via Milton Keynes to Cambridge is to deliver 1 million new houses and 700,000 additional jobs in the area (to justify the houses) by 2050.

Current housing stock in the 'Arc' amounts to 1.54 million, so an uplift of 1 million is an overall increase of 70%.

What will this mean for Oxfordshire?

• Up to 200,000 new houses for Oxfordshire, in addtional to the 100,000 in current Local Plans ie 4 more cities the size of Oxford over the next 30 years.
• An increase in the county’s housing stock by 70%.
• And an increase in Oxfordshire’s current working age population by 40%: despite the fact that the county has almost full employment.

The National Infrastructure Commission has backed the concept of an Oxford to Cambridge Growth Corridor of a million houses and job creation to justify them.
Highways England are currently deciding the route that the Expressway, which supports the Growth Corridor, should take: B1 or B3.

What is the Expressway?

The Department for Transport (DfT) has pledged to create an ‘Expressway’, ie a dual carriageway from Oxford to Cambridge (via Milton Keynes), as well as an east-west rail link, linking the M4 with the M11.
The Expressway is designed to support the Growth Corridor
Work on the Expressway is due to start by 2025 (and end by 2030). The cost is estimated to be 3.5 billion; the Government has so far pledged only £27 million, the rest is to be paid by the taxpayer.

Where will the Expressway go?

The Highways Agency is to decide the route that the Expressway should take, following analysis and some stakeholder engagement they have ruled out Corridor B2. Highways Agency are now developing viable route options for Corridor B1 and B3.

Corridor B1 - a central corridor broadly alligned with the proposed East-West rail route from Abingdon to south Milton Keynes via Winslow. This option passes to the west of Oxford.
Corridor B3 -  a central corridor broadly alligned with the proposed East-West rail route from Abingdon to south Milton Keynes via Winslow. This option passes to the south east of Oxford.

 A public consultation is planned for autumn 2019 - this will be the first opportunity the public have been given to have their say.

What is CPRE doing?

CPRE Oxfordshire is campaigning for a full statutory public consultation followed by a Public Inquiry into the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Corridor and Expressway, so that decisions are open and transparent.

We are demanding that the environmental and social costs of the Growth Corridor should be weighed against the potential economic benefits envisaged, and the routing of any Expressway, at least through Oxfordshire, be decided in the open.

Dr Peter Collins, Chairman, CPRE Oxfordshire, said:

“The public rightly expect such life-changing and long-lasting decisions to be made with full transparency. The Expressway and growth corridor would completely change the character of Oxfordshire and there must be absolute openness when considering how any potential economic benefits could possibly outweigh the enormous environmental damage.”

  • CPRE has written to the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, copied to Oxfordshire MPs, Council Leaders, Oxfordshire County Council and OxLEP (see letters below).
  • And we are lobbying our local decision-makers - CPRE has written to all Oxfordshire Parish Councils asking them to suport our call for a Public Inquiry (see letter below). Thanks, in part, to our lobbying...

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has called for a full public consultation into the initial assessment of the three corridors being considered between Oxford and Cambridge - a process which currently includes stakeholder engagement, but not full public consultation (see: Oxfordshire Growth Board Minutes, 30 November 2017 and below Letters from Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council to Highways England (16 January 2018) & the National Infrasructure Commission (11 January 2018); and

A motion has been passed by the Oxfordshire County Council calling for a Public Inquiry into the need for the Expressway and the selection of a route and to set up a cross-party Committee to look at all aspects of the impacts of the Expressway (see: Oxfordshire County Council Minutes, 12 December 2017).

Why is a Public Inquiry necessary? 

It is obvious, and the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council has said as much, that any decision to impose a Growth Corridor on rural Oxfordshire will be contentious to say the least; it is also obvious, as he also accepts, that any of the potential Expressway routes – including upgrading the A34 – will be environmentally harmful, albeit to varying degrees.

It is essential to open Government that important matters which are capable of being decided in the open, and with public involvement, should be decided in the open and not as is currently intended, behind closed doors.

It is also clearly the case that whilst the outcome of an open consultation and a Public Inquiry may still lead to discontent, its teeth will be largely drawn if the public can see that the decision was fact-based and open.

An open independent decision will also absolve authorities and elected representatives of the accusations of complicity or failure to do their duty which are already widely voiced.


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