Government must urgently rethink Oxford-Cambridge Arc to protect nature and climate
21st September 2021
Proposals for significant new housing and infrastructure development are bypassing critical safeguards for environment
Government plans for rapid growth and development between Oxford and Cambridge, known as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, risk damaging impacts on nature and climate unless they urgently rethink their approach, according to nature conservation and countryside charities the RSPB, The Woodland Trust, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, and CPRE.
The charities say Government proposals for increased house building and infrastructure development – including new towns – are bypassing critical processes for safeguarding the environment. They are calling on Government to rethink their plans and asking people to respond to a public consultation on ‘the Arc’ to tell Government they want to see nature and climate prioritised and prevent unsustainable and damaging development.
How is Government’s current approach to the Arc putting nature and the environment at risk?
- Government is bypassing critical steps and processes designed to protect nature by ensuring environmental impacts are considered. For example:
- Proposals for new settlements between Bedford and Cambridge are being developed ahead of sustainability and environmental assessments of Government’s overall growth plans.
- East West Rail is moving to choose a route for the new line between Bletchley and Cambridge, which will determine where new housing is built, but has not been subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment of the options and their environmental impacts.
The consultation does not support or even mention the environmental ambitions adopted by a majority of the Arc’s council leaders as well as many of its universities and leading business organisations.
These ambitions aim to reduce the environmental impact of growth and make a positive contribution to nature recovery and tackling climate change but have been ignored by Government since their publication in March this year.
Government has yet to announce any specific commitments to or targets for restoring nature in the Arc or adopting higher standards of environmental sustainability in the new houses and infrastructure its proposals will see built.
The charities say that Government must rethink its plans for the Arc to ensure that, if they go ahead, they protect the natural environment and respond to the linked nature and climate emergencies by restoring nature across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
A Government consultation is asking people for their views on what the priorities should be for the future of the Arc.
The charities are encouraging people to respond by highlighting the importance of protecting and restoring nature and sharing their concerns about the damage unsustainable growth and development could do if Government doesn’t rethink its approach.