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Seeking a vision for Oxford-Cambridge Arc spatial framework



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The government has launched a 12-week consultation to create a vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Spatial Framework to guide growth until 2050 – but questions have been raised about why it is still seeking a ‘vision’ for the much heralded project, and why it is consulting during the summer holidays.

A map of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Image: MHCLG (49734004)
A map of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Image: MHCLG (49734004)

The government says the framework will allow it to plan for growth to make the area a better place to live, protecting the environment, and building resilience to climate change. Over the last 20 years, the Arc has grown faster than any region outside London, with employment and wages above the national average.

The government said: “The framework will be a long-term strategic plan for the area, developed by the government, and informed by engagement with local communities and stakeholders. It will have sustainability at its core and guide planning decisions and investment under four policy ‘pillars’: the environment, the economy, connectivity and infrastructure, and place-making.”

Daniel Zeichner MP. Picture: Richard Marsham (49734862)
Daniel Zeichner MP. Picture: Richard Marsham (49734862)

This consultation – the first of three planned for the Arc – will last until October 12 but Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner said: “It is just ridiculous they are still asking what the vision is. It seems they were prepared to build a major road without knowing what this was about.

“Is it just about housing? Getting people to work where there are jobs in Cambridge and Oxford? How will people get around sustainably? They’ve dropped the road after a huge campaign but there still are no guarantees on electrifying East West Rail. We need some answers as this project continues to cost a fortune, and move at a snail’s pace.”

Sam Davies, Independent councillor in Queen Ediths. Picture: Keith Heppell (49734611)
Sam Davies, Independent councillor in Queen Ediths. Picture: Keith Heppell (49734611)

And Cllr Sam Davies, Independent councillor for Queen Edith’s on the city council, tweeted: “This is ridiculous. Zero attempt to familiarise local residents with this ‘ambition’, zero attempt to help them understand why it’s important that they should ‘engage’. And now – bang - here’s a 12-week consultation process running over the summer holidays.”

Anthony Browne MP. Picture: Keith Heppell (49734375)
Anthony Browne MP. Picture: Keith Heppell (49734375)

Anthony Browne MP said the scheme must bring “real tangible benefits to the residents of South Cambs, particularly in terms of quality of life”. He added: “It should have a ‘nature first’ approach, with environmental benefits baked in from the start rather than an afterthought. The OxCam Arc has to be a truly visionary project rather than having a focus on housebuilding and urbanising a rural area.”

The business community believes the spatial framework could help address some longstanding problems. Michael Jones, head of the commercial department at Cheffins, said: “As the level of demand for lab space around Cambridge continues at an unprecedented level, I think the focus for research and lab space will continue to be around both the city and Oxford.

Michael Jones, director and head of commercial at Cheffins (49734417)
Michael Jones, director and head of commercial at Cheffins (49734417)

“Where the Arc will come into its own will be in delivering primarily housing plus warehousing, factories and so on to underpin the development of Oxford and Cambridge themselves. The people that work in the two clusters will need to live somewhere and with house prices within easy reach of the two cities becoming increasingly unaffordable, the government will need to focus on providing reasonably-priced homes, along with its plans for placemaking. And this will need to be backed up by proper delivery of infrastructure.

“There has been a huge amount of hype around the OxCam Arc and we look forward to seeing the government’s draft spatial framework which will be open for consultation in autumn 2022.”

For more information, and to make a comment, visit government/consultations/creating-a-vision-for-the-oxford-cambridge-arc.

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