* indicates required

Have your say on the future of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc growth corridor

‘A golden opportunity for businesses across the Arc to make the case for a highly innovative and environmentally sustainable future’

NOW is the time for business to have its say on the future of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc growth corridor.

The government has launched the first of three digital consultations on the development of the Spatial Framework for the area and is asking for people’s views to help shape the vision for the region up to 2050.

The framework will guide local planning and investment decisions affecting the economy, connectivity and infrastructure, place-making and the environment.

It will have sustainability at its core and aims to enhance the entire Arc region, which includes Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes as well as Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, North and West Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Ministers have set up an expert panel to advise on sustainable economic and housing growth in the Arc. The panel will be chaired by development and regeneration expert Emma Cariaga and will advise the government on issues ranging from design and sustainability to delivery and investment models. 

Businesses have been urged to become involved in the consultation.

SEMLEP chair Peter Horrocks said: “The spatial framework consultation is a golden opportunity for businesses across the Arc to make the case for a highly innovative and environmentally sustainable future for our area. I urge everyone to get involved to shape an ambitious vision.”

Peter Horrocks, chair of SEMLEP

The three consultations will take place over the next two years. The government expects East West Rail, reopening the rail line between Bicester and Milton Keynes before developing a new route via the Marston Vale line to Cambridge from Bedford, to play a major part in the Spatial Framework.

Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The East West Rail project plays an important role in enabling connectivity within the OxCam Arc and will help us build back better from Covid-19. 

“We have committed £760 million to the first phase of EWR which will support improved access to jobs and other opportunities in the area as well as boosting economic growth in the region more widely.”

Cllr Barry Wood, chair of the Arc Leadership Groups and leader of Cherwell District Council, added: “The bold economic and sustainability ambitions we have set out for our region need to be matched by well-planned, long-term and co-ordinated investment into our towns, cities and rural areas. Inclusive growth, with high environmental standards so that all our residents can benefit, remains at the heart of what we seek to achieve.  

“By progressing the Arc Spatial Framework, government will look at how and where we need to connect and build new infrastructure while enhancing our environment to deliver the sustainable growth that our region is capable of. To start, we must shape a shared vision for the type of growth we want to see. 

“This is why it is so important for every single resident to be able to have their say directly to government on what matters most to them. How we create opportunities for people to prosper, today and in the future is an important matter for everyone.” 

The arc is an opportunity for government to “think differently” on large-scale housing developments, said Clare Walton, chief executive of the charity Community Action:MK which supports the local voluntary and community sector.

“The success of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc will be measured by the experience of the communities who live there. The key to creating inclusive and sustainable communities will be partnership working and investment in community support.  

“The Arc offers great potential to innovate and embrace science and technology but our collective prosperity must be paramount.  We must create opportunities for all people regardless of income, gender, race, disability, age, and this requires commitment to social infrastructure.

“Enabling the voluntary and community sector to thrive in these new communities will help create vibrant sustainable places that people feel invested in and a part of.”

The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is set to play a central role in the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic and the voice of business will be significant in shaping a sustainable economy, said SEMLEP private sector deputy chair Neus Garriock.

She added: “The publication of the first phase of the Arc Spatial Framework is a key milestone for all of us in the region, residents and businesses alike.

Neus Garriock

“I would urge all local businesses to take this unique opportunity to have your say on the future of the Arc – you can set the agenda and clearly articulate what needs to be in place for you, as organisations, to deliver sustainable growth and opportunity for years to come.

“The Arc gives us all a once in a lifetime opportunity to positively shape our region through its built environment. With sustainability and green growth at its heart, it has the potential to play a pivotal role in local and national recovery post-Covid – I would like to encourage the business community to use its voice to good effect and clearly articulate what a successful, growing, sustainable local economy should look like.”

The consultation closes on October 11. To take part, visit https://placebuilder.io/futureofthearc  

The consultation is also seeking views on the work the government has done to set the scope of the Sustainability Appraisal. Visit https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/creating-a-vision-for-the-oxford-cambridge-arc

More from Bedford:

More bedford borough council articles: