Good stuff from the Infrastructure Commission – I remember three years ago trying to revive Councillors interest in Cambridge in the ”Arc’ no interest, they thought government wasn’t interested and it would simply attract development.
The corridor connecting Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford could be the UK’s Silicon Valley – a world renowned centre for science, technology and innovation. But its future success is not guaranteed. The Commission’s central finding is that a lack of sufficient and suitable housing presents a fundamental risk to the success of the area. Without a joined-up plan for housing, jobs and infrastructure across the corridor, it will be left behind by its international competitors…
The Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor faces a chronic undersupply of homes made worse by poor east-west transport connectivity. Two of the least affordable cities in the UK lie within the corridor, and the area as a whole has consistently failed to build the number of homes it needs….
Investment in infrastructure, including enhanced east-west transport links, can help to address these challenges, but it must be properly aligned with a strategy for new homes and communities, not developed in isolation. This means local authorities working in partnership, and with national government, to plan places, homes and transport together. Current governance mechanisms are not sufficient to deliver the step-change in strategic leadership and collaboration needed….
This corridor is a national asset, that competes on the world stage and can fire the British economy – but only with an integrated and ambitious strategy to deliver new homes, connectivity and opportunities can it realise its full potential.
The report itself is very good and shows some good examples of inconsistent thinking which weakens the spin off benefits of new infrastructure – giving examples of restrictions of development at Kinglington and Haddington despit good stations because of Green Belts.
Great – but….
- Who will do the strategic plan they are rightly itching for? Now a non statutory body the Commission ironically may now be in the best position
- The corridor covers Northampton – essential- but Northampton – and the opportunities presented in terms of spare capacity on the WCML from HS2 not mentioned once.
- In the Long term it needs east coast ports connections and links southwards connecting to Heathrown that bypass London – with those no need for costly purpose built London Orbital freight lines
- The issue is not just joining up Oxford and Cambridge but their sub regions – for example the key opportunity now for Cambridge is the release of Military sites at Lakenheath and in Huntingdonshire
- It is not just joining up the three cities but linking these connected cities to other cities, airports and high speed rail for national and international connections
- It is not just local growth needs but the unique potential this area offers to meet overspill needs from both London and Brum, that means a focus on potential large garden cities in the WCML, HS2 former Great Central Railway corridor – I have suggested three locations in this corridor. Indeed three of my suggestions have already been taken up elsewhere in England
- There are relatively low cost means of better connecting to large towns on the fringes of this corridor such as Aylesbury and Peterborough.
- Excessive focus on transport – in infrastructure terms the key constraint is water. This is what needs earliest study.