AECOM Commissioned by @Kitmalthouse to Carry Out Growth Arc (nee #CaMkOx) Study on ‘New or Expanded Settlements’

Not yet public though mistakenly published on one obscure corner of one LPA we site before being made GDPR safe i.e. giving the project PMO client side private email address (which would instantly have to close if made public.)

So i wont publish a pdf, not wanting to be on the Brandon Lewis information commissioner naughty step hope, until the LPA in question, you know who you area, redacts the three pieces of GDPR unsafe data.  The text below is a letter to a arc CE with names and emails redacted.

Dear Chief Executive
We are writing to tell you that we have commissioned consultants AECOM to explore the contribution that new or expanded settlements could make to maximising the economic potential of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. In his letter to council Leaders in July, the Housing Minister signalled the Government’s plans to undertake such analysis and commitment to working closely with local partners. We want to work in partnership with your authority and others, and the Local Economic Partnerships, so that the analysis is informed by the work you are doing locally to respond to the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations.

We are writing to all council, Combined Authority and LEP Chief Executives within the Arc to ensure you have clarity on the scope and purpose of this work: our teams are available to answer any questions you may have.
The overarching objectives of the commission are to first test and evidence the strategic case for delivering significant new housing in realising the economic potential of the Arc. Second (subject to the earlier findings) explore the potential opportunities for employment and housing growth in new or expanded settlements across the Arc. The analysis will consider both infrastructure opportunities and requirements. It will consider the potential environmental, ecological and biodiversity effects of options for housing growth and explore opportunities for net gain, at a pan-Arc scale.
This work builds on the Government’s discussions with a number of councils in the Arc about housing deals. The Housing Minister has invited local authorities to begin a conversation on new and expanded settlements to better understand what would need to be in place and by when, to realise local ambitions. We see this work providing an evidence base that can help inform our ongoing discussions with you on a shared vision for the corridor and the action that needs to be taken to implement that vision.

We and the AECOM team would like make contact with individual local authorities to take forward this work. If you would also like to meet and discuss this subject as a group of partners, or in some other configuration, then please do let us know. In the meantime, you or your team can contact our contract managers for the work on our dedicated email
address: redacted


redacted Senior Figure MHCLG

Redacted Senior Figure Homes England


This is an interesting, long awaited  and rare for the Ministry well written letter.  Its text of a markedly more sensitive and partnering tone than the infamous  ‘give us your New Towns’ letter over summer.

It clearly has had a lawyers eye over it in terms of prdetermination, SEA, HA issues etc.

Aecom is no surprise, it was a surprise they wern’t on the ‘architectural prize’ competition run by the NEC, which though had some great ideas in winner and shortlist none of which quite had the scope of specialisms and big Consolidated Engineering Firm wheft of expertise globally to draw on.

Was it clsoed no tender?  The chance for that missed almost certainly under an existing Homes England OJEU framework.  Given that it is important that the contractor team do not see it as an opportunity to rack up billable hours profited in Los Angeles but  are open to wider expertise on the Arc, regional planning methods developed around the world etc, especially know the risks with every new style JSP/regional plan continuously right on the edge between triumph and failure.

The big issue has been whether anyone would get the scale issue, and readers of this blog will be aware.  Only one of the 4 NIC finalists really did.  Only in 2016 was Nick Clegg was talking about 4 x 15,000 in the arc, at least it now has the old name it had 10 years ago and when, nearly 5 years ago,  when I was presenting the ‘strategy’ chapter of the Cambridge local plan to the then cllrs almost all but two described the Arc as a government fad, which they quickly lost interest in,  designed to increase housing and destroy what made Cambridge  special without the government getting its hands in its pockets to spend to fix the big infras problems.  How far have we come.

Of course as readers of this blog will be aware 4-6 x 50,000-150,000 is what is needed and what is possible, if done in the right way and with vision.  Lots of work my people like Prof Tom Holbrook and others, my own modelling strongly indicates a small number of large settlements is optimal.  As was Treasury and Ministry of Housing modelling in the late 60s when the design size of Milton Keynes was set.

So off we go, what about the uncertainty regarding the route of the expressway, what about public engagement, what about stopping Highways England wide lines scaring the bejeezus out of middle England villages in Bucks and Oxon, what about the ‘half million’ number vis a vis the Oanishambles.  There seems to be an emerging plan for that if you read the runes in recent documents.  I’ll blog about that tomorrow maybe.

Now just wait for the Budget for all this to be officially announced.

One thought on “AECOM Commissioned by @Kitmalthouse to Carry Out Growth Arc (nee #CaMkOx) Study on ‘New or Expanded Settlements’

  1. Pingback: BBC on the Oxford-Cambridge ‘Megaplan’, where is the Government’s Engagement and Media Plan? @kitmalthouse @RHarrabin | Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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