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Government plan to transform Oxford-Cambridge Arc into UK’s fastest growing economic region

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Government plan to transform Oxford-Cambridge Arc

Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher has announced 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 beautiful 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 are felt across the region.

Capitalising on the globally renowned assets of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, the government also announced the intention to establish an Arc Growth Body to help unleash the area’s potential as a global innovation powerhouse by promoting the Arc internationally.

To realise the full potential of local economies and the Arc as a whole, the government is also considering how further investment could create jobs, support the delivery of more homes, and support local economic growth.

The Arc already is home to over 2 million jobs and provides a place to live for over 3.7 million residents. With the right interventions and investment, local analysis suggests that by 2050 economic output could double to over £200 billion.

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.

The spatial framework will set a plan and policies with the status of national planning policy. Based on a long-term, strategic approach to planning for growth across the area, it will help to unlock the long-term potential of the area sustainably, improving the Arc as a place to live and work. It will give communities a chance to shape the long-term future of their area and will help to ensure the benefits of growth are felt across the region.

The Government has published a policy paper, which sets out the approach it intends to take, including:

  • a timeline for developing the framework,
  • how we will engage communities and work with local partners, and
  • the high-level scope of the framework, including the approach it will take to planning for the environment, infrastructure, economic growth, and new homes and place-making.

Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP said: “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is already home to world-leading economic, cultural and scientific assets.

“We know for instance Cambridge’s rate of patent applications – a key indicator of innovation – is the highest in the United Kingdom, while nearby Milton Keynes is the fastest growing city in the country.

“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.”

Councillor Barry Wood, Chair of The Arc Leaders Group and Leader Cherwell District Council said: “We welcome the continuing commitment from government to the Oxford to Cambridge Arc through today’s announcements.

“We look forward to working together with local people and our local partners to deliver an economy that works for all, underpinned by a high-quality natural environment. This will include planning for and enabling development that is truly inclusive and sustainable which delivers real benefits for our communities and environment now and in the future.”

In response to the announcement, Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council on behalf of the Fast Growth Cities Group (Oxford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Swindon, Peterborough) released a statement saying: “We welcome the government announcement today setting out the next steps for bringing forward the Oxford Cambridge Arc underpinned by principles of economic growth based on environmental sustainability and a more inclusive economy. As a net contributor to the Exchequer, our area of the country is vital to the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The creation of a Spatial Framework should build confidence among communities across the Arc that development must deliver a net positive impact on the environment and that levelling up can be achieved for our more disadvantaged areas. A Green Arc is vital. We must ensure new developments are zero carbon, and we believe that we have the knowledge and innovation to help us met our zero-carbon goals. We also welcome the focus on affordable housing, including new council houses and other forms of social rented and intermediate rented homes.

“East-West Rail will also bring much better connectivity, but that should not stop at re-establishing the line between Oxford and Cambridge. We need to see rail connectivity extended beyond – to Swindon and Bristol in the West and Norwich and Ipswich in the East and will continue to press the government to reverse the cuts to this project and to electrify the line as originally promised.

“The Government has outlined the creation of a new Arc-wide Growth Body – that could become the equivalent to the Midlands Engine or Northern Powerhouse. Just as it is the case in those sub-regions, the achievement of the Arc’s objectives will be inextricably linked to the future success of the major cities within it – Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. Those cities should be given a clear voice within the new governance structure. Norwich, Swindon and Peterborough will also be integral to the Arc’s future success as collectively our cities will provide around half of the new jobs.”

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