Tag Archives: Oxford


Expressway route revealed but still no certainty for Oxfordshire

By Daniel Fryd, Senior Consultant

It’s been an eventful month for the Oxford-Cambridge arc.

The route for the new Expressway was revealed, the Housing Minister embarked on a CaMKOx tour and called for “transformational” ideas to drive growth in the area, and the Communities Secretary changed planning rules in Oxfordshire so they can prepare the Joint Spatial Strategy for 2021.

Just when it looked like the future was becoming a little clearer for the Arc, dramatic new population projections suggested household growth across the corridor will be 57% lower over 10 years than previously thought.

The question now is how MHCLG’s revised housing need calculations, expected to be consulted on in the coming weeks, will continue to set out the continued need for “a million new homes” to help the area realise its full economic potential, despite the significantly reduced housing growth projections.

The importance of CaMKOx

Described by Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick as ‘one of the greatest opportunities for economic growth in Europe’, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc continues to attract significant interest and investment for its potential to provide a million new homes and a million new jobs by 2050.

While Government made a clear dedication to the arc in the Autumn Budget last year, the funding sources and most appropriate location for new homes and jobs has been a bone of contention for local authorities and the development industry ever since.

The fact there is clarity on the expressway route and new commitment from Government to build new settlements in the area will provide some reassurance for investors in the Arc, even if we are still left with more questions than answers.

Expressway route

After months of delay the route of the Cambridge-Oxford Expressway was finally announced with Corridor B, which has a route serving Bicester and Leighton Buzzard on its way to Milton Keynes, getting the go-ahead. The motorway will form part of the biggest road building programme in the country since the 1970s and pave the way for growth along the brain belt.

A public consultation will now be held in 2019 over whether the final Oxford portion of the route should be ‘B1’, to the north-west of the city via Kidlington, or ‘B3’, which runs around the east side of the city through Headington.

Given the final route is not agreed for the whole of the expressway, the announcement comes as little comfort to Oxfordshire local authorities still preparing their local plan. The fact there is still a question mark over the western part of the Expressway has led to frustration from Leaders at Oxford City and South Oxfordshire District councils about the way forward.

Their frustration comes as no surprise – the final route will have significant consequences for any areas it touches upon, considering it will bring up to 470,000 more people within commuting distance of the Oxford Science Park with it. With South Oxfordshire District Council still preparing  its Local Plan following months of delays and backtracking, the council need all the certainty they can get to plan their future growth.

Closing in on the Oxfordshire Housing Deal

There have been other positive noises from Government as well. In a sure sign of support for the Oxfordshire Joint Spatial Strategy for 2021, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire MP has allowed Oxfordshire councils to adopt a three-year pipeline of housing sites – two years less than the five-year land supply called for in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The move is designed to cut down on ‘speculative development’ and allow councils there to focus on preparing the joint statutory spatial plan rather than worry about a flood of applications coming in from developers trying their luck.

This change has come into effect now and remains in effect until adoption of the JSSP, set for 2021. There is no indication of whether, separately, Brokenshire will allow an extension of Local Plan agreements past March, although all the public rumblings from MHCLG have been that the March deadline remains.

What next for CaMKOx?

The reduction in the housing need growth projections issued by the Office of National statistics this month has come as something of a blow to growth ambitions in the area: Cambridge alone had its 10-year household growth projection reduced by 1,380, and local authorities have been quick to use this as an excuse to avoid meeting their housing need figures.

Given the clarity over the Expressway route and Government commitments to ensuring the potential of the area is realised, it seems like folly to row back and revise housing need numbers down when ‘one million homes by 2050’ is what should be expected for the area.

MHCLG recognise the need to keep consistency, and set out in their new Housing Need Assessment guidance in July that any new methodology will make sure “the plan-making process is… consistent with ensuring that 300,000 homes are built per year by the mid 2020s.”

The next month will be critical to future of the Arc: if the Communities Secretary maintains his commitment to the housing need figures which were consulted on last year for the CaMKOx corridor, it will send a clear message he really is dedicated to making it one of the greatest opportunities for economic growth in Europe.



National Infrastructure Commission

Two wheels good, four wheels bad for Cambridge-Oxford competition winner

A cluster of green, car-free villages connected by cycle routes, with swathes of common land and shared amenities to make sure communities interact with each other. This is future of growth in the Oxford-Cambridge-Milton Keynes corridor, if the winning entry to the National Infrastructure Commission competition is anything to go by.

Launched in June, the competition looked for inspirational visions for future development and new homes within the Growth Arc around Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford.

Led by Velocity – an all-female team of designers, planners and engineers from Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design – the team’s vision sees six new communities created along the planned East-West rail line, along with environmentally friendly new homes connected to shared amenities.

The team initially met each other through a women’s cycling event, and went on to work together through a shared interest in designing places that “put the pedestrian and cyclist first”.

Announcing the award last week, Bridget Rosewell, competition jury Chair, said she was struck by Velocity ‘commitment to ensuring new settlements would be communities from the get-go’, with large common land at the heart of each development providing a focus for residents to co-operate.

A striking vision for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc

The competition ties in with the NIC’s ‘Partnering for prosperity: a new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc’ report last month, which set out how Government investment would double housebuilding rates and deliver one million new homes and jobs by 2050. At the crux of the report is the proposal for the Government to fund a £1bn commuter service between Bicester and Bedford by 2023, and a new East West Rail line between Bedford and Cambridge by 2030.

The Chancellor subsequently backed the Commission’s vision for one million new homes by 2050, and announced plans to complete both a new East-West Rail link and an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway by 2030.

The Commission launched the competition in June, and received more than 50 first-stage submissions from teams across the country. Entries from Barton Willmore, Mae, and Fletcher Priest Architects were also shortlisted by the panel, and received an honorarium of £10,000. The next steps now are for VeloCity’s vision to be showcased, along with all earlier submissions, at a conference and public exhibition on the Growth Arc in early 2018. The National Infrastructure Commission are expected to release further details in the coming weeks.

With Government having committed to helping deliver significant growth in the Growth Arc area, developers and local authorities will now need to work together to demonstrate their ambitious visions to sustainably deliver a million new homes for the area.