Why I am campaigning against the OxCam Arc
I take enormous pride in representing one of the fastest-growing economies in England, something the Arc may once have been designed to support and encorage. But it has become all about housing.
We not have the infrastructure to support more housing. We also do not have enough of the most fundamental natural resource - water - to support such growth. It will take decades to address the water shortage issues. As I have said to the local Liberal Democrat councillors, who are seeking to concrete over our countryside, their planned 49,000 new homes would be the very embodiment of irresponsible and unsustainable planning.
I have given a very clear message to the government that the arc can’t be about concreting over swathes of the countryside with new homes. To be acceptable, it needs to bring clear quality of life benefits to our communities and businesses, as opposed to the bland and meaningless ‘pillars’ that currently hold it up.
What does South Cambridgeshire need? Not yet more new housing, but a better quality of life for our current and future residents. We must find innovative to manage growth without destroying South Cambridgeshire in the process.
What is the OxCam Arc?
The Arc called for a huge increase in growth accompanied by new, improved rail and road links between Oxford and Cambridge, taking in Milton Keynes as part of an “arc” of science and technology, innovation, and entrepreneurial activity.
One of the key problems with this project is that the Government has yet to define what that means in real terms. Is it about building as many houses as possible, or simply allowing better connectivity between existing settlements? Are we looking to have companies move into our area, promote the ones we have, or incentivise workers to help grow new and old enterprises alike? Is this designed to work alongside existing plans by our local councils? What say will residents get? There are still more questions than answers.
The government has given no clear indication of that strategy beyond four policy ‘pillars’: the environment, the economy, connectivity and infrastructure, and place-making. No one can disagree with a focus on any of these areas, but there is nothing radical or visionary to be found here. Enhancing these pillars should be the responsibility of any local authority.
So far, I have:
- Co-ordinated a campaign to get more information about the Arc
- Met with the Secretary of State to discuss the project
- Met with officials from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (and previously the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) to make the case against the project
- Worked with other MPs within parliament to form a pressure group against the scheme.
- Wrote to and met residents from villages north of Cambourne concerned about the proposals.
- Met with local and national groups concerned about the proposals, such as the RSBP
- Succesfully lobbied to ensure the project was not included in the 2022 budget
- Written publically to first seek information on the Arc, and then call for its cancellation
The government has listened. I am glad the OxCam Arc appears nowhere in the Levelling Up White Paper, and is no longer a government priority. Those community groups who fear the consequences of the OxCam Arc on their villages can breathe a little easier.