CPRE Oxfordshire is calling for a public inquiry into the Ox-Cam growth corridor and Expressway, so that decisions are open and transparent.
In a report published last week, the National Infrastructure Commission backed the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Corridor of a million more houses, and job creation to justify them. Meanwhile Highways England will begin work this month to decide the route that the Expressway, which supports this growth corridor, should take.
Both these issues are highly contentious, but the intention is nevertheless that both should be decided behind closed doors. It is essential that there is a statutory public consultation and Public Inquiry into both, so that at the very least justice will properly be seen to be done, says CPRE.
Dr Peter Collins, Chairman, CPRE Oxfordshire, said:
“The public rightly expect such life-changing and long-lasting decisions to be made with full transparency. The Expressway and growth corridor would completely change the character of Oxfordshire and there must be absolute openness when considering how any potential economic benefits could possibly outweigh the enormous environmental damage.”
The Coalition has written to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) objecting to the concept of the proposed Expressway between Oxford and Cambridge and raising concerns about the lack of accountability / transparency around the whole corridor development process.
The NIC is currently looking at proposals to build an Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and is due to issue a report ahead of the Autumn Budget on 22 November. It will set out the case for the Expressway, but it is unlikely to specify an actual route – our understanding is that this will won’t be announced until July 2018.
See the Oxford to Cambridge expressway strategic study: stage 3 report by the Department of Transport (November 2016), which outlines the high level case for a strategic link to connect the cities of ‘the brain belt’ together.
The intention is to support the new road by building one million houses along the route – which works out at an average of 10,000 houses per mile.
As far as NNGO is concerned, it is no more than a ribbon developer’s charter!
Need not Greed Oxfordshire has submitted its response to the Government consultation on the new methodology for working out housing numbers (or OAN – Objectively Assessed Need).
The consultation closes tomorrow (9 November).
The Oxfordshire 2014 SHMA set a target of approx. 5,000 houses per annum (100,000 new houses over the SHMA period of 2011-2031) equivalent to a 37% increase in housing stock. This figure bore no relation to any previous delivery rates and was generated by an aggressive growth strategy promoted by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and our local authorities, although never subject to any public consultation or environmental evaluation.
NNGO has consistently argued that these figures were vastly over-exaggerated and not based on local need, but over-blown calculations of demand.
Theoretically, Oxfordshire could benefit from the new methodology.
Need not Greed Oxfordshire has for some time now been promoting the idea of a joint planning framework for Oxfordshire.
We believe a joined-up approach to planning on an Oxfordshire-wide basis could resolve many of the planning issues which we are currently facing in the county and allow the overall environmental and social impacts of development to be taken into account.
We therefore welcome the recent announcement by all our Oxfordshire local authorities that they will work together to create a ‘Joint Spatial Plan’ for the county as a whole.
On 30 October, the Oxfordshire Growth Board tabled its Business Case for a Joint Spatial Plan. According to the report ‘Having full development plan coverage for Oxfordshire would provide a strong foundation for development to happen in a planned and sustainable way, aligned with infrastructure provision’.
NNGO attended the Board meeting and took the opportunity of tabling a question – we were keen to know more about the Board’s plans for public engagement at the relevant stages of the emerging document.