CAMPAIGNERS are calling on the Government to urgently rethink plans for a multi-billion-pound rapid growth and development plan between Oxford and Cambridge.
The Oxford-Cambridge (OxCam) Arc is the name given to an area identified by the Government as a key economic priority.
New plans aim to boost the economic output of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire to £200bn a year by 2050 in a strategy akin to the Northern Powerhouse.
The scheme aims to build one million new houses, create 1.1 million additional jobs, and see the East-West Rail being built between Cambridge and Oxford, making the area economically significant both on a national and global scale.
A survey conducted by campaigners, however, has revealed that nine out of 10 people reject these plans to develop the arc.
The results come after South Oxfordshire District Council asked Michael Gove, the new minister for ‘levelling up’ to pause the arc project calling the project ‘an arbitrary geographic construct’.
Stop the Arc campaign group and Planning Oxfordshire’s Environment and Transport Sustainability (POETS) conducted the survey asking whether people supported the plans for the region.
The survey had over 3,800 responses, from people in Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
90 per cent of survey respondents told the campaign groups they reject government plans for the region.
When asked if there were a referendum on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc 93 per cent said they would not vote for the proposal, whereas only 4 per cent said they would.
The campaign groups said they decided to create the survey to offer an alternative consultation to find out ‘people’s priorities for the future’.
Speaking on behalf of POETS, Noel Newson said “POETS is highly critical of the framing of the government consultation on the Spatial Framework for the Arc.
“Issues which need addressing include the lack of democratic involvement in the NIC and central government promotion of the Arc; the inattention to the climate change, biodiversity and ecosystems crises; the vagueness of the boundaries of the so-called Arc; the inconsistency with effective levelling-up policies; and the boosterish role of major development interests in the promotion of the Arc.”
David Young, a member of Need Not Greed Oxfordshire, said: “There has been no proper assessment of the logic of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc as a sub-region for ‘transformative growth’, and it is impossible to see how international obligations on Climate and Biodiversity and national obligations on levelling up can be anything other than seriously harmed by continuing this approach.
“The public are right to be concerned.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is a globally significant area, and our plans will help build a stronger economic future for the area, while protecting and enhancing the environment.
“Two further rounds of consultation will let the public comment on detailed options – and their responses will help guide local planning of the scheme.”
The department received over 5,500 responses to its first round of public consultation.