The Oxford-Cambridge Arc – A Quick Update

What we have learned since the budget announcements – the Aecom study etc.

  1.  The Expressway – timetable now clearer, corridor B chosen, whether North or South Oxford  – specific route consultation on options next year.
  2. East-West Rail, consultation on route options for central section (Bedford to Cambridge) early next year, will this be integrated with consideration of potential new Settlement  locations in the assessment/SEA. CBA – of course not that would be far too much like good practice or common sense to be considered.
  3. Oxfordshire- launch of JSP process in January.
  4. South Oxfordshire – now about to agree local plan (last in Oxon – which includes GB sites around Oxford).  That deals with growth to 2035 ius – now that is ‘agreed’ JSP can begin to look at longer term options.
  5. The 1 million chancellors target is out of date – as then the arc didn’t include South Bucks or North Northants – both are now in.  The Budget documents didn’t mention a housing target.
  6. There are submissions to the Garden Communities proposal – but they are small.  Nationally only add up to half a million, average 5,000 each. No sign of the large settlements of 50,000+ favoured by Homes England, no way forward suggested of how these will come about other than through JSPs.
  7. Cambridgeshire is stalling.  Crazy combined authority events  are slowing everything as the post 2035 JSP wont conclude until the infrastructure plan till 2035 is agreed, and James Palmer v Cambridge/South Cambs has become a soap opera.    He ran against a busway, is now in favour of a busway with tunnels (no budget for tunnels and sacked the finance director for saying that) and complains against Greater Cambridge Partnership for saying that as he is now backing a busway lets build a busway to Cambourne.  yes its that petty and silly.  The leader in the Arc is now the laggard.
  8. Northamptonshire – broke – going to two unitaries. So nothing happening strategic wise, consumes everything
  9. Bucks – going to one Unitary – which makes it interesting as any plan will now have to consider the 15,000 overspill from Slough and the Western edge of Heathrow
  10. Milton Keynes – announcement on expansion to 400k delayed after intervention from local mps.  They seem to have an ambition to grow to 500k also which seems just to be a number plucked from mid air
  11. Central Beds – got there submission in which if adopted will give them 5 years under the HDT.  What incentive do they now have to contribute to teh ARC wider aspirations and SOAN – none.  Good example of lack of joined up government thinking.
  12. Heart of England – the real driver and leagues above any similar partnership in England.

So lets sum this up, joint planning by sector is none existent or now dysfunctional everywhere in the Arc except Oxfordshire – who would have predicted that  two years ago when peace breaking out in Oxfordshire would have been as likely as an Iran-Saudi Arabia friendship agreement.  Four key roadblocks now to progress:

  1. Strategic Infrastructure corridors disjointed from strategic planning
  2. Local Government is unstable – unstable local government cannot plan
  3. Combined Authority – introduction was a big step backwards disrupting joint working in South Cambridgeshire that was at last working well.
  4. No real incentive for anyone to put forward large new Garden Communities to meet larger than local need.


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