10 MAY 2018

Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Arc

First, let me say that in my opinion the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Expressway is very unlikely to affect Otmoor or other SSSIs in the constituency. The proposed Expressway is part of a wider project currently referred to as the Oxford - Milton Keynes - Cambridge Arc. It is a major project but one which is at an early stage. Much of the preparatory work for this was completed by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). This work is not Government policy and the Government has made no response to the NIC on its proposals. What it has done is to ask my colleague Iain Stewart MP, who has been appointed Government champion for the project, to make recommendations which is why I organised a meeting with him and 25 of my potentially most affected parish councils so that they could make their points directly to him. In addition, I hope to be making points on behalf of the constituency at a meeting with Highways England shortly.

For my part I have already had discussion also with the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that he is aware of the local issues and have also put these concerns in writing to him. I have also written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to try to include the A420 to Swindon within the project and I have pointed out the extent of Green Belt around Oxford. I am of the firm opinion that the route should utilise existing roads wherever possible rather than carve a new path through Green Belt land or damage other areas of environmental interest and I have suggested it needs to be routed to the west of Oxford,

I am sure you will be pleased to know that I have also raised concerns about the transparency of the work on this project. A project of this magnitude should have ready access to as much information as possible in the public domain. I accept that some competitive data needs to remain private but feel that the lack of information is adding to speculation. I have asked the Secretary of State to intervene so that as much information as possible can be immediately put into the public domain with explanation as to what is being held back and why. I have also asked him to ensure that there is full public consultation before a route is decided and not just on the preferred option. One of the recommendations of Iain Stewart MP is that the project needs considerably more public buy-in before it goes ahead.

I understand that Highways England are currently looking at possible 'corridors' for the road. They will decide which in the summer – no date has yet been given. Once the actual corridor is chosen work will begin to determine the route but this is unlikely to take place before the mid to late 2020s.

I would also encourage you to make your views known to the Leader of the County Council, Ian Hudspeth (ian.hudspeth@oxfordshire.gov.uk) and Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Local Economic Partnership (chiefexec@oxfordshirelep.com). Although both say that they have not decided on a preferred route, both have influence on this through their work as part of the Oxfordshire Growth Board. It is important that they are aware of the views of our local communities. I understand too that other councils along the route have already engaged in public consultation.

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