By Ruby Burdett, Consultant
In his budget in spring last year, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced the Government’s growth plans for the area connecting Oxford and Cambridge. Almost a year later, after near radio silence on the matter, the Government has revisited the subject and has announced their ambitious plans.
MHCLG’s recently issued spatial framework could potentially see out the creation of one million new homes. Plans to inject £20b into what is known as the ‘OxCam Arc’ could produce new opportunities for employment, housing, connectivity, and infrastructure in the region.
According to the Government, under the new framework, the already thriving area, could see massive growth over the next 50 years. MHCLG intends to form a new Arc growth body to help unlock major economic opportunities in the area. Kris Krasnowski, the OxCam Arc portfolio director at MHCLG, suggested that the body will involve a range of leaders, including local politicians and suitable people from the local area. We expect to hear more detail on this in the coming months.
It seems the plans for the OxCam Arc have the potential to provide a plethora of benefits for the area. The area is, however, already home to distinguished universities, a thriving science industry and is a recognised hub for innovation. Considering that the Arc is already successful, sceptics might question why the Government is not targeting other regions, perhaps in the north, for investment.
Part of the Government’s agenda is to improve connectivity across the Arc. Initially, the ‘Oxford to Cambridge expressway’ project was drawn up to link Oxford with Milton Keynes and Cambridge. This project was recently canceled after analysis proved it would not be financially viable for the taxpayer. A decision arguably made a little late, if you consider the £28million that was spent on the plans prior to them being scrapped. It will be interesting to see what will replace the expressway, as Grant Shapps, transport secretary, claims the government remains “committed to boosting transport links” across the Arc area.
There will inevitably be some practical issues with the delivery of the Arc. The area includes three county councils, 17 district councils and six unitary authorities. The plans are currently in early stages, therefore, the ability of these authorities to work harmoniously together has not yet been tested. Only time will tell whether these authorities, each representing unique local interests, can collaborate and agree on a shared vision.
There are many remaining questions about how the Arc will be implemented. Climate change is arguably the most pressing issue of today. The Government will have to set out an innovative green sustainable scheme to address public concern surrounding the climate emergency.
Only in time, as further details of the plan emerge, will we be able to tell if the plan can simultaneously execute the needs of the local people and consider the environment, while driving economic growth and housing development.
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