Proposed “knowledge corridor” from Oxford to Cambridge threatens rural Oxfordshire

Hulton Park

30th May 2017

Government is backing the idea of creating a “knowledge corridor” between Oxford and Cambridge, including a new “Expressway” and a significant increase in housing along the route.

In November of last year, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) – a non-elected and non-accountable body, published its interim report into the Cambridge – Oxford corridor and in its Autumn Statement the Government committed £17m of research funding for the £3,500m proposed Expressway.

CPRE believes there is no good case for a road-based Expressway.

We believe any new links between Oxford and Cambridge should be based on enhanced public transport.

If road-based solutions are provided, they should be facilitated by “on route” improvements, focussed on pinch points, rather than new roads, and should certainly avoid designated landscapes including the Green Belt, AONBs and green field sites.

Detailed analysis of the available information indicate that the main purpose and use of the expressway is not the quaintly worded “knowledge corridor”, but will in reality be long distance Southampton to Felixstowe freight movements.


Expressway will irrevocably change rural Oxfordshire

There are three potential Oxford – Cambridge Expressway core routes with several sub options around Oxford (see map showing the area of search for the proposed routes below). These include one across South Oxfordshire south of Oxford from the A34 to the M40. 

This route would cut through open countryside and Green Belt from the A34 to the West to Thame in the East, having an enormous impact on local residents and irrevocably changing the rural nature of the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire.

The original remit for the NIC included ‘protecting the area’s high quality environment’. This report talks about the built environment, but the natural environment? Not even a passing mention. Despite the fact that the proposed Expressway will pass straight through the Oxford Green Belt!

Despite the clear threat to South Oxfordshire, the recent consultation on the District Council’s draft Local Plan failed to adequately draw attention to the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway – which were it to occur would be the most significant development in the Plan period.

We believe this issue should be fully addressed in SODC’s draft Plan, so local people are aware of what is being proposed on their doorstep!


What about local democracy?

The NIC is currently consulting on ‘Strategic planning and governance’ in the Cambridge – Oxford corridor (the consultation closes on 31 May).

This consultation, as the name suggests, is limited to Strategic Planning and Governance and is predicated on the basis that a decision to proceed with the growth ‘corridor’ has already been made and arrangements for planning and governance are now being considered.

The consultation is seeking answers from key stakeholders, such as the non-elected and non-accountable Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), based on prescribed questions.

We believe the issue of local democracy is key. There is little public awareness of what is being planned, let alone any serious attempts by local authorities at consultation or engagement. Making Local Enterprise Partnerships key players in the picture will do little to reassure all those who have seen the recent rise in power of these unelected and unaccountable quangos.


“One CPRE” position

CPRE has created a “cross corridor” Branch, Region and National Office Working Group to respond to the consultation. It questions the appropriateness of the need for a supra-level of strategic planning and governance currently proposed by the NIC as unjustified.

Summary of “One CPRE” consultation response:

  • Rejects the concept that a “unified” corridor exists in reality
  • Supports early completion of East West rail
  • Rejects the need for a supra-level of strategic planning
  • Believes that future transport development should be nodal, centred on existing urban centres and existing routes
  • Prioritises public transport solutions rather than private car based inter-urban travel.

See “One CPRE” full consultation response below.


What next?

It is anticipated that the next publically available information will be a further report publication by Department for Transport and the National Infrastructure Commission as part of the Chancellor’s 2017 Budget, expected in Nov / Dec 2017.

It is anticipated that the next documents may provide greater route details, but are not expected to include a preferred route, although this cannot be guaranteed.


CPRE Oxfordshire, 30 May