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About the Oxford-Cambridge Arc

The area between Oxford and Cambridge, incorporating the ceremonial county areas of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire forms a core spine that the government recognises as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is a globally significant place, home to world-leading technology clusters, two of the world’s leading universities.

The economic prospectus for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, published in October 2020, states that the area covered by the arc has 2 million jobs and generates over £111 billion of economic output per year.

The Government and local councils involved in the arc have also published a joint statement, which (amongst other things):

  • acknowledges the need “to deliver significantly more homes in the Arc”;
  • recognises need “to plan for and deliver substantial additional infrastructure”, and in particular “supports the delivery of transport links such as East West Rail and improvements to the strategically important roads network”; and
  • emphasises the need to “to meet our economic and housing ambitions while overall improving, rather than degrading, the environment”

Oxford-Cambridge Arc: Transport schemes

Transport is seen as a key aspect of the envisioned economic benefits of the Arc. As part of the Arc, there are plans for an East-West Rail scheme, which will re-establish a rail link between Cambridge and Oxford to improve connections between East Anglia and central, southern and western England. The proposed East West Rail route falls into three distinct sections. The latter two sections will be delivered by East West Railway established on 14 December 2017 as a non-departmental public arms-length body “to accelerate delivery of the project and bring new drive and focus.” Oxford-Cambridge Expressway

The Oxford-Cambridge expressway was proposed as a means to address the poor east-west transport connections between Oxford and Cambridge. The Government initially supported the project, but Highways England found there was no cost-effective option for the expressway. Consequently, the Government has decided to cancel the project.

Oxford-Cambridge Arc: planning

The Government’s February 2021 policy paper, Planning for sustainable growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, states that realising the Arc’s full potential “will require coordination of planning functions across the region.” It sets out a road-map for developing a long-term Spatial Framework for the Arc, to be prepared by MHCLG in consultation with local stakeholders.

Opposition to the Arc

Much of the opposition to the plans have been on the potential negative environmental impacts. Several environmental charities have combined to encourage the Government to ensure economic growth development does not come at a cost to nature. 

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