Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Oxford Cambridge Expressway - Update

In recent months, the Parish Council has been represented at meetings of the No Expressway Group (NEG) ‘Stronger Together’ group, whose membership includes a significant number of village communities in Oxon and Bucks, who will be affected if the plans for the Oxford Cambridge Expressway come to fruition.

All were all heartened by the news just prior to the December election, as the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced that an incoming Conservative government would carry out a review of the plans for the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway (OCE). In addition, the recently elected MP for Buckingham, Greg Smith, formally declared his opposition to the scheme and that he would campaign for an abandonment of the project.

The NEG have tried to establish timings for the formal review of the OCE project and have also sought a meeting with Grant Shapps but with no success to date.

They have also had no further information from Highways England (HE) about the promised consultation on their more detailed recommendation on potential routes. The latest information received indicated that HE would publish six possible routes for consideration in Corridors B1 and B3.

In these circumstances and bearing in mind the experiences of the HS2 programme, it is essential that the NEG and other groups continue their campaigning efforts without any let up for the time being.

The NEG will be staging a ‘Westminster Event’ in a room at the House of Commons on the afternoon of Wednesday 26th February, which will provide an opportunity to brief invited MPs ‘face to face’. Following this session, a group of NEG delegates will present a petition to 10 Downing St and seek to gain as much publicity as possible for the cause.

If any Chearsley parishioners would be interested in supporting or attending this event, please contact John Howard (jnh@dbmc.co.uk or 07970 651326)

The NEG have also asked that as many as possible of those opposing the OCE plans should sign their petition to give maximum leverage to the campaign, by visiting this link:

The NEG have also suggested the following ‘template’ for those wishing to write directly to Grant Shapps at this email address - TransportSecretary@dft.gov.uk

Dear Grant Shapps

I am writing to you to ask you to make time to meet with the No Expressway Group as a matter of urgency.

I am incredibly concerned about the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and its associated over-inflated target for one million new houses across the Ox-Cam Arc.

This scheme would be devastating to the environment, wildlife and communities all across the Arc.

During the election campaign you said you would conduct an Oxford to Cambridge Expressway review, should the Conservative Party be re-elected to Government.   So far, we have heard nothing more about this.  When will this happen?  How long will it take?  Who will be involved?  How will the review be conducted?  What will be done to make sure any such review is transparent to all?

Given that you yourself said before the elections that the review was a priority, I am disappointed to hear that you have now indicated that you are too busy to meet with the No Expressway Group.  In announcing the review, you said that the expressway scheme would go ahead only if it has “local support”.  How do you propose to measure such local support, given that no effort has been made by any Local Authority across the entire Arc to engage with any of the affected communities?  The No Expressway Group has now talked with or given presentations to more than 35 communities from Oxford in the West to Woburn Sands in the East, and so is in a much better position than any other group to inform you of the public opinion about the expressway proposals across a very wide area.

I therefore ask that you agree to meet with the No Expressway Group as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely

The more support we are able to give the NEG campaign, the greater their lobbying powers in putting over the message at this crucial stage.