OxCam Arc: Budget News

Hulton Park

11th March 2020

Government says Expressway is ‘paused’, leaving our countryside and communities in limbo.  But the bigger Arc project steamrollers on…

The Oxford-Cambridge Expressway

Alongside today’s Budget, the Government published its updated Roads Investment Strategy 2.   

On p.117, the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway is described as being ‘paused’ whilst alternative options are considered.

You can see the document in full here:

See: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/871716/road-investment-strategy-2-2020-2025.pdf

Helen Marshall, Director, CPRE Oxfordshire, said:  ‘Our communities and countryside are entirely left in limbo by this lack of clarity.  Despite all the rumours, hints and indeed promises of cancellation, the Government has squandered the opportunity to squash this carbon-hungry, costly and ineffective proposal once and for all.  It also undermines good planning for the county as a whole, as we can’t see how the new Oxfordshire Plan 2050, the long-term strategic development plan for the county, can possibly be taken forward without knowing where we stand on the expressway.’


The Oxford Cambridge Arc – growth agenda still at the fore

The full Budget policy paper says:

“2.20 The OxCam Arc

“The government has designated the corridor of land connecting Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge (the OxCam Arc) as a key economic priority. Earlier this year, the government announced the East West Rail Company’s preferred route for the new line between Bedford and Cambridge. The government will also, subject to planning consents, build a new rail station at Cambridge South, improving connectivity to the world-leading research facilities of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus – the largest cluster of medical and life sciences research in Europe.

“The Budget announces plans to develop, with local partners, a long-term Spatial Framework to support strategic planning in the OxCam Arc. This will support the area’s future economic success and the delivery of the new homes required by this growth up to 2050 and beyond. The government is also going to examine and develop the case for up to four new Development Corporations in the OxCam Arc at Bedford, St Neots/Sandy, Cambourne and Cambridge, which includes plans to explore the case for a New Town at Cambridge, to accelerate new housing and infrastructure development.”

The Government remains committed to the major development proposals for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc – new transport links and urban development to create over 1 million new houses and 1 million new jobs. This would mean a doubling of the population and housing stock in the area by 2050.

CPRE Oxfordshire says:
– There has been NO public consultation
– There has been NO strategic environmental assessment
– There has been little to NO parliamentary scrutiny or local authority debate.

The proposed spatial strategy must not be used as a way of the Government pushing through its development targets without reference to the views of existing local residents or taking adequate account of the environment and climate change.

CPRE believes there are other parts of England, particularly in the Midlands and northern regions, that need regeneration and so merit investment far more than the area of the Arc. For example, recent research has shown that nearly half of all jobs created in the last 10 years have been in London and the South East, despite only a third of the population living in that region. The Government and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), which has led policy work on the Arc to date, have not properly considered the impact of their emerging proposals for growth, migration, regeneration and infrastructure spending on these other regions. CPRE believes that this should be an essential part of any strategic planning process for the Arc.

In housing, the main priority should be providing the affordable housing needed by existing residents supported by sustainable public transport. The scale of development proposed by the NIC and endorsed by the Government is too great in terms of what the Arc area should be expected to sustain. According to the NIC, around a quarter of the total new house-build across the Arc (200,000 houses) will be to address anticipated levels of buying by London commuters, for which we see no justification, especially as many will be unaffordable if in line with post-2012 figures. We want development on brownfield land in the principal urban areas to be prioritised, at an appropriately high density to make best use of scarce land resource and create settlements that have better access to services and infrastructure.


You can read more about our OxCam Arc & Expressway campaign and find out how you can get involved here.