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Oxford-Cambridge expansion consultation criticised over lack of information

The Oxford-Cambridge Arc scheme has been criticised by local figures and environmental groups as the first period of consultation comes to an end.

The Arc is a government led development scheme designed to create sustainable growth in the region between Oxford and Cambridge.

Professor David Rogers, a professor of ecology at the University of Oxford, speaking on behalf of the Stop the Arc Campaign, said “Cambridge city will expand beyond recognisable limits.”

The Arc, he continued, would “destroy the reason why people like to live in Cambridge.”

It is thought that one million new homes could be built in the Arc in an attempt to double the region’s output to £200 billion.

The government is concentrating on the Arc region because it “has the potential to become a world-leading and globally renowned centre for business, innovation and investment in a variety of industries.”

However, Professor Rogers contends that many of the new houses will be bought by investors or people commuting into London. He pointed out that “in the OxCam Arc a quarter (of new houses) is earmarked for London commuters. So, the arc is going to partly be a dormitory for London because London isn’t building enough houses.”

Environmental concerns were also raised by many critics of the Arc.

The government claims that a key aim of the Arc is to encourage “clean growth and the creation of sustainable communities will support us in improving the quality of life for those that live and work in the Arc. While also helping us future-proof its businesses and communities against the effects of climate change.”

However, Stop the Arc campaign group, of which Professor Rogers is a representative, said that “adding (around) two million people to those already living in the area will put a strain on all existing infrastructure…and will threaten existing ecosystem services and wildlife areas.”

Toby Bancroft, Woodland Trust director for Central England, said: “It’s astounding that the government has set out a draft vision for the growth Arc which does not even mention the environmental ambitions that have been agreed by a majority of the Arc’s council leaders as well as many of its universities and leading business organisations.”

These environmental ambitions were published by the Environmental Working Group. The Environmental Working Group represents the environmental aspirations of the councils within the Arc.

Their aim is “for the principles to inform and become an integral part of developing plans and statements in relation to the Arc, local plans, local council activities and the plans and activities of activities and delivery programs for all bodies operating in the Arc.”

The principles the councils committed to include “achieving net zero carbon, climate resilience, biodiversity net gain, environmental net gain, doubling the area of land actively managed for nature, restoring, protecting and enhancing the natural environment and ensuring renewable natural capital.”

The environment was also the most important issue for the 2,892 residents who participated in the first of three consultation processes, which finished on Tuesday 12th October.

The first consultation process, which ran for twelve weeks between July and October, is intended to help the government develop concrete plans based on local concerns. This will then be published in the Spatial Framework, which is expected in Autumn 2022.

Regarding the consultation process, Cllr Sam Davies, Independent councillor for Queen Edith’s on the city council, tweeted: “This is ridiculous. Zero attempt to familiarise local residents with this ‘ambition’, zero attempt to help them understand why it’s important that they should ‘engage’. And now – bang – here’s a 12-week consultation process running over the summer holidays.”

Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, said:“It is just ridiculous they are still asking what the vision is. It seems they were prepared to build a major road without knowing what this was about.” The major road Zeichner mentioned was the Oxford-Cambridge expressway, which was cancelled due to popular outrage at its likely environmental impacts.

The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is a globally significant area between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. It is formed of 5 ceremonial counties: Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.

It supports over two million jobs, adds over £110 billion to the economy every year and houses one of the fastest growing economies in England.

 

Article originally posted by Varsity

The Institute cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

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