The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is a national economic priority area. The Government believe it has the potential to be one of the most sustainable economic areas in the world and can make a major contribution to national economic upturn as we seek to recover from the impact of COVID-19.
To deliver on this ambition, the Government is developing a Spatial Framework which will set national planning policy and transport policy for the areas of the Arc, namely the ceremonial counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Cambridgeshire.
In February 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published a paper to set out how they were intending to develop this Framework to support growth in a more sustainable and strategic way.
As part of this paper, the Government highlighted that, to allow an effective and efficient Spatial Arc to be developed, it should be shaped by those who live, work, and have an interest in the area. As such, three public consultations have been planned to take place, with the first one running from the 20th of July 2021 until the 12th of October 2021.
The Government have now published a new paper titled ‘Creating a Vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’, which outlines both the purpose and the ambition of this 12-week consultation.
The Purpose of the Consultation
The consultation is being undertaken to inform the Government’s approach to the future of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and to seek views to help create a vision for the Framework, to guide the future growth of the area to 2050. This is in line with the commitment the Government made at the launch of the Spatial Framework in February 2021.
Alongside this consultation and since the purpose of the Spatial Framework is to support the delivery of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc in the most sustainable way, the Government are also undertaking a fully integrated Sustainability Appraisal (SA). This will be informed by other statutory assessments and regimes such as a habitats regulation assessment pursuant to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. As part of the current consultation, the Government are also seeking views on the initial work that they have done to set the scope of the Sustainability Appraisal.
Key Themes of the Spatial Framework
The key “policy pillars” of the Framework, are as follows:
- To preserve and enhance a ‘green arc’ and to improve access to green space, reduce flood risk, and improve air quality.
- To provide sustainable economic growth and create more employment and attract businesses.
- Improve east-west connectivity in the arc – east-west rail project.
- Provide more homes and affordable homes to support sustainable growth.
Once the consultation period has come to an end, the Government will consider the responses received which will contribute to the Spatial Framework’s vision for the Arc to 2050 and inform the development of the Sustainability Appraisal. Whilst exact dates are yet to be confirmed, the Government has announced that in Spring 2022, they expect to publish the vision and to carry out further public consultation on options for the policies in the Spatial Framework.
The development of the Spatial Framework will be supported by two further public consultations:
- Towards a Spatial Framework – the purpose of this consultation will be for the public to have their say on the published options for delivering the Framework’s objectives; and
- Draft Spatial Framework – the aim of this consultation is for the public to have their say on the draft Spatial Framework along with the Sustainability Appraisal Environmental Report.