OxCam Arc-wide Plan & Growth Body Announced

Ben Seymour, Unsplash

18th February 2021

Ben Seymour, Unsplash

Government announces an Arc-wide Plan and Growth Body, but local views must not be over-ridden.

Today’s announcement of an OxCam Arc Spatial Framework and a new Arc-wide Growth Body is at odds with locally driven and democratic planning, according to CPRE Oxfordshire. Instead, it risks driving a maximum growth agenda inappropriate in a climate emergency and post-Covid world, and unwanted by the local populations on whom it will be foisted.

Unlike Local Plans, it appears the Framework will not be subject to independent examination and scrutiny.   However, it will have the status of national planning policy, which local authorities will have to follow when preparing their own Local Plans, including the joint Oxfordshire 2050 Plan, and is likely to dictate future growth targets.

The Government has also announced that it will create an Arc-wide Growth Body, to drive and support economic growth, but there is no similar commitment to environmental investment.

The Arc is an imaginary concept designed to create artificial competition between regions, rather than directing appropriate development to where it is needed,” said Helen Marshall, Director, CPRE Oxfordshire.

We believe the proposals are out of touch, removing decision-making away from local people and our locally elected representatives. They are also out of place, looking to focus massive investment and development in the over-heated south-east, in contrast to the levelling up agenda. It will allow the Government to pursue a top-down imposition of growth, paying no heed to the rural nature of much of the area or the needs of local communities.

Our councillors seem to think that they can wait and see what the Government has to offer in return, but by the time it gets to that point, it will be too late. Buckinghamshire Council has already withdrawn from the Arc Leaders group on the basis that they did not want development imposed on them from elsewhere.”

Although the Framework policy paper is careful to avoid setting out the actual implications of its proposals, previous Government announcements have suggested the Arc is being targeted for 1 million new houses, equivalent to three times Oxfordshire’s entire existing housing stock.

Oxford-Cambridge Expressway

The Spatial Framework policy paper entirely fails to mention the controversial Oxford-Cambridge Expressway project, that is currently ‘paused’.

Helen Marshall added: “The Government has missed yet another opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin of this unnecessary and entirely misconceived road project. The threat hanging over local communities is unacceptable and any environmental promises about the Arc are worthless until this is resolved.”

Oxfordshire 2050

Since the Arc Development Plan was first promoted through the National Infrastructure Commission’s Planning for Prosperity, CPRE Oxfordshire has been pressing for a Vision for Oxfordshire which is in line with local people’s aspirations and avoids our County being swamped by an Arc wide growth agenda imposed by Government.

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has set up an Oxfordshire 2050 Plan project, with which we have been working, to produce a vision for Oxfordshire’s future which will be locally led – that is, based on local people’s own views about the extent to which the County should develop – and environmentally sensitive to the need to protect the unique nature and character of Oxfordshire, the most rural County in the South East.

This may have to be within the high level policy context set by the Government’s development of an overarching Plan for the Oxford/Cambridge Arc announced today, but we will do our utmost to ensure that Oxfordshire avoids the “one size fits all” over-development strategy which we see the Government’s Plan representing.

The Oxfordshire 2050 Plan is intended to meet the needs of local people and match their vision of the County’s future, and to be fully consulted on and tested through Public Examination as a Local Plan would be. We will work hard to make sure that that is the case.


You can see the Government press release here.

And the Spatial Framework Policy Paper here.


See also:   www.challengethearc.co.uk

This website provides information and commentary on the Arc proposals, brought together by the five affected CPRE Branches.