Government plan aims to create global innovation powerhouse along Oxford-Cambridge Arc

Feb 18, 2021

THE GOVERNMENT has published an ambitious plan to unleash the economic and cultural potential of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, to transform it into one of the world’s premier growth corridors and a world-leader in sustainability.

The Spatial Framework plan will help to create thousands of jobs, drive investment, protect and enhance the environment and provide the infrastructure and new places needed to make the area – which spans the five counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire – an even greater place to live and work.

The results, due to be published in 2022, will give communities a chance to shape the long-term future of their area and will help to ensure the benefits of growth across the region.

Launching the plan today (Thursday), Housing Minister Christopher Pincher also announced the government’s plan to establish an Arc Growth Body that will champion the area as a global innovation powerhouse by promoting the Arc internationally.  

With the right interventions and investment, local analysis suggests that by 2050 economic output could double to more than £200 billion. 

Mr Pincher said: “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is already home to world-leading economic, cultural and scientific assets. We want to take this region to the next phase of its renaissance by unlocking its full potential and our plans will drive investment where it is needed and ensure, as growth happens, we create well-designed, inclusive and vibrant places and communities.

“The OxCam Spatial Framework will allow us to plan positively for growth and we look forward to working with our local partners over the coming months to strengthen our vision and approach to the Arc.” 

Local leaders of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc have welcomed the government’s announcement commencing development of a spatial framework and its plan to plan. They say the spatial framework will be a long-term plan to support sustainable economic growth and environmental improvements for the Arc region. 

It will be an official assessment of the infrastructure needed including digital and transport, green infrastructure, business space, homes and utilities, to support strong economic growth across the region. 

The framework will also reflect the Arc’s vision to enhance job creation, enhance green spaces and invest in people’s health and wellbeing – creating “exemplary” models of green development that will inspire communities around the world.

The Arc already is home to more than two million jobs and provides a place to live for more than 3.7 million residents. The government believes that the arc’s success is key to the UK’s national prosperity, international competitiveness and ability to meet the challenges and opportunities the country will face over the next century, including climate change and supporting nature recovery, technological change, fighting Covid-19 and preventing future pandemics. This regional success will build on the work of the government that has helped millions of people continue to provide for their families as part of its Plan for Jobs to protect, support and create employment.

The Arc Leadership Group, which brings together local authorities, business, transport groups and universities. It published an official prospectus in September last year, showing the potential to double economic output across the Arc region to more than £200 billion by 2050.

The group’s chair Cllr Barry Wood said: “We know this region has unparalleled strengths across research, technology, science and academia, already described by the Chancellor as “a key economic priority for the country”.

“The government’s latest commitment will supercharge our efforts to make the Arc the UK’s primary innovation region. The challenge now is to energise this fully in a post-Covid world so that we can ‘build back better’ and become the beating heart of the UK’s new green economy.”

The framework will be key in attracting long-term public and private investment needed to drive the growth. Jeremy Long, chair of the Arc Local Enterprise Group, said the group is ready to work with ministers to develop the Arc Growth Body.

“The Arc Leadership Group is committed to working jointly with the government to ensure its creation, to focus on promoting the Arc’s economic strengths on a global platform and co-ordinating major projects to upgrade our business infrastructure aligned to our regional ambitions,” he added.

More than £111 billion of economic output is generated within the Arc already and that figure will grow if the region capitalises on its strength in science, technology and high manufacturing, said Professor Sir Peter Gregson, chair of the Arc Universities Group.

Professor Sir Peter Gregson

“Often the toughest times can give rise to the biggest opportunities and the Arc Universities Group works with government and business to exploit our world-class science and research base, champion our incredible entrepreneurs and inventors, and develop the infrastructure we need to be at the forefront of the UK’s green recovery,” added Sir Peter, who is chief executive and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University.

“The Leaders are all committed to achieving a shared vision that supports ground-breaking ideas and innovation, drives sustainable economic growth and helps us to build greener, healthier and happier places to live.”

For more information about the Spatial Framework and the Government’s announcement, visit the government website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/planning-for-sustainable-growth-in-the-oxford-cambridge-arc-spatial-framework.

Cllr Wood, the leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “The spatial framework will enable local communities and businesses to contribute to the plans that will shape how the region grows sustainably and inclusively for all constituent communities. 

“Our goal is for the framework to positively influence national planning policy and drive wider government and investor engagement in the development of the Arc. 

“This will support our collective ambition for our region to be a Green Arc, one which can enhance the space for nature and which complements our local plans.” 

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