Breakfast Briefing: Oxford-Cambridge Growth Corridor

By Kasia Banas, Consultant

Chelgate Local and Bidwells teamed up to deliver a timely debate on delivery of housing and infrastructure in the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Corridor. Last month, over 40 delegates gathered in Milton Keynes to hear from politicians and planning consultants from across the arc. With one million new homes promised, new east-west road and rail links, the Government view the arc as being of national importance and is providing some assistance to bring it forward.

Liam Herbert, Chelgate’s CEO, kicked off the discussions by remarking on results of recent local elections and correlation between the changing demographics in councils across the south east and declining electoral prospects for Tories in the region. Councils which have seen high numbers of Londoners moving into their areas in the last four years saw significant losses for Conservatives and gains for Labour, Lib Dem, Green and Independent candidates in the recent local election. Delivery of housing and infrastructure along the Growth Corridor has therefore potential for dramatically changing its political landscape, which is already being seen today.

Cllr Barry Wood, the Leader of Cherwell District Council, shared the ambitions that the Arc Leaders Group have for the project. He said that they see it as much more than housing, it’s about infrastructure and all the councils working in partnership, not against each other.

He was followed by Cllr Van de Weyer deputy leader of South Cambridgeshire District, and Stephen Kelly, joint director of planning and economic development at both Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire councils. They outlined their councils’ views on placemaking, connectivity, productivity and environment at the eastern end of the arc and stressed that there is a need for understanding what communities need and to focus on those outcomes in terms of placemaking. They also suggested that the arc should extend further eastwards along both the A14 and A11 corridors to Harwich and Norwich respectively.

David Bainbridge from Bidwells closed the proceedings with a presentation of the planning perspective on delivery of the housing and infrastructure across the corridor. He underlined the arc’s national significance and talked about the challenges ahead. One of them is the lack of a legal status behind the project, and the lack of political leadership. These are the issues that the Government needs to address if it wants to see the arc evolve in the coming years.

The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A debate during which the panellists discussed issues surrounding cooperation between the authorities in the region and relationships between the local leaders and their colleagues in Westminster.

These discussions will be continued at our next event in June where we will address growth in Oxford and Oxfordshire and the impact of the upcoming Oxford-Cambridge Expressway. Further details are available on our website.