COUNCIL leaders have demanded clarity from the Government as they press for more details over the controversial Oxford-Cambridge Expressway. 6 comments
The Oxfordshire Growth Board – composed of all six of the county’s council leaders – will write to the Highways England and the Department for Transport calling for more certainty about the road’s route and construction. It could eventually cost £3bn.
Earlier this month, Highways England said potential routes to the east and west of Oxford are still being considered and consultation on them will start soon.
However it has dropped ideas of ploughing the road through Otmoor nature reserve between Oxford and Bicester.
City council leader Susan Brown asked the board to write to Highways England and the Department for Transport and attacked ‘a lack of clarity’ over current proposals. She was supported by her fellow leaders.
Ms Brown said it was critical highways chiefs considered links with public transport and the ‘continued uncertainties facing local communities and the difficulties for planning future housing and infrastructure’.
James Mills, leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said that clarity was ‘absolutely essential’ if the county was to deliver on the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal and plans for hundreds of thousands of new homes over coming decades.
As part of the Housing and Growth Deal, the Government and Oxfordshire councils have agreed that a joint statutory spatial plan (JSSP) is created for the county. That will need to be agreed by 2021 and will seek to develop integrated development plans between the city, four district council and county council until 2050.
Mr Mills said: “Clarity is absolutely essential if we’re going to deliver on the housing and growth deal. Part of that is the JSSP for Oxfordshire.
“It’s a bit difficult to do that if you don’t know where the road is going to go. I would support the suggestion that we write a letter making that point strongly because we need to get on delivering that JSSP.”
County council leader Ian Hudspeth said improvements to the A34 were critical in any further development – whether the expressway runs along the route or is built as a new road.
He said: “It is a controversial issue and some people have polarised views about it.
“But the way I look at it is the road that has the most impact on all 700,000 residents, all six constituencies, all city and district councils, is the A34.
“We only need to think back to Thursday, September 6, to the gridlock right across Oxfordshire after an accident that morning. There needs to be improvements to the A34.
“I think we have to say: if it’s relieving the A34, you’ve got to be in favour of the principle.”
The county council’s strategic director for communities said some councils have been irritated by proposals to build up to one million homes in the ‘arc’ between Oxford and Cambridge by 2050.
Bev Hindle told board on Tuesday that ‘quite a bit of tension across the corridor’ had formed because the Government has so far provided no solid commitment to fund many aspects of the project.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to provide further details in his Budget in the autumn.