Wildlife Trust hosts Debate on Housing and Expressway in Oxford to Cambridge Growth Corridor

How can we have hundreds of thousands of new homes in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and an Expressway road, as well as a wildlife-rich environment and a happy and productive society?

This is the question the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust is asking of councillors from several local authorities within the Growth Corridor who will be taking part in a hustings on Wednesday 18 April at St Edburg’s Church in Bicester, starting at 6pm.

Tom Beckett, the Wildlife Trust’s Director of External Affairs, explains the importance of this debate: “There is broad agreement across the political spectrum that we need new homes, especially affordable homes. The question is where and how should they be built?

“The Wildlife Trusts believe that the natural environment and wildlife can be incorporated within new developments to enhance the aesthetic of our surroundings, improve our quality of life, as well as our resilience to a changing climate, but in the first instance we must select the right places to develop.

“We welcome everyone to bring questions to this debate so they may gain an understanding of how political parties intend to approach the positioning and demands on housing within our area.”

The speaker panel includes: Cllr John Cotton (Con), Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, Cllr Richard Webber (Lib Dem) from Oxfordshire County Council, Cllr Rev Dick Wolf (Green) from Oxford City Council, and Cllr Sean Woodcock (Lab) Cherwell District Council.

The meeting will be chaired by Dr Tim Marshall, Emeritus Professor, School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University.

The hustings on Wednesday 18 April in St Edburg’s Church, Bicester starts at 6pm. The event is free, but people are asked to register atwww.bbowt.org.uk/hustings18

Oxford to Cambridge Expressway

The Wildlife Trust is very concerned about the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway road with its associated proposed new towns and other infrastructure developments across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

“Three proposed routes have been published; but arrows on a schematic map do not show which village greens, meadows, woodlands and rivers will be impacted by a new dual- carriageway with all its associated access roads, roundabouts and bridges,” said Tom Beckett.

Each of the three proposed routes has the potential to have devastating impacts on the natural environment and nationally-important wildlife. The Wildlife Trust is now scrutinising the information available, collating information on the potential ecological impacts of the routes, and will submit its opinions to Highways England very soon.

The Wildlife Trust is also calling for a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to be carried out now, as part of the research work Highways England is doing before a decision on the preferred route is made in July.

Tom Beckett explains: “From our experience when we campaigned for wildlife and the natural environment along the route of High Speed Rail 2 (HS2), we know how important it is for infrastructure planners to have the most up to date information about the local and rare wildlife habitats, including ancient woodlands and floodplain meadows so they can be avoided or potential harm mitigated.”

This month the Wildlife Trust is lobbying MPs with constituencies that will be affected by the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Corridor, calling on them to make sure the Department for Transport carries out Strategic Environmental Assessments on the Expressway routes now.

CPRE Oxfordshire, Layla Moran MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Keith Taylor MEP and Cllr Bob Price from Oxford City Council and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership have all called for public consultation and Strategic Environmental Assessments on the Expressway routes before Highways England selects a preferred route.