The Government is proposing a new road, the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, between the A34 south of Oxford and Milton Keynes. Three different route corridors are being considered for the road. Highways England intends to announce the preferred route by July. Statements from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) indicate that at least one new town will be built along the preferred route.

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire have participated in a closed consultation about the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Strategic Study and Corridor.

Senior planning officers and ecologists from both Wildlife Trusts have scrutinised the available information about the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway to identify likely impacts of the three potential routes on designated ecological sites, nature reserves and important natural features within the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire.

The response created by the two Trusts was submitted on their behalf by Dr Sue Young, Head of Land Use Planning and Ecological Networks, The Wildlife Trusts (England) to Highways England on 12 April 2018.

You can read and download the Executive Summary of the response from the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust.  Download the Full Response document (2.5mb).

The Executive Summary includes tables and maps that show the designated sites, including Special Areas of Conservation and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, priority habitats, Wildlife Trust and RSPB nature reserves and other natural environment constraints between Oxford and Milton Keynes that will be impacted by any or all of the three corridors.

The Wildlife Trusts have major areas of concern for all the corridor routes.

Our most serious concerns are for the complex of designated sites and nature reserves in the areas of Cothill Fen, Oxford Meadows, the Otmoor Basin, the Upper Ray Valley and Bernwood Forest.

We are also very concerned about the lack of public consultation on the proposals. This includes: the lack of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), the lack of commitment by Highways England to achieving a net gain for biodiversity, and the lack of a Habitats Regulations Assessment on all three corridors by the Department for Transport.

If the SEA is not undertaken before a preferred corridor is selected, the opportunity to fully scrutinise the comparative impacts of all possible Expressway routes will be lost.

As well as taking part in the closed consultation and submitting our response to Highways England, BBOWT has also written to all the MPs whose constituencies will be affected by the Expressway. We have met with several of them to express our deep concerns for wildlife and the wider natural environment in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. We will continue to meet MPs and other decision-makers to ensure they are fully aware of the impacts of the Expressway on the natural environment.

We also wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, and are currently waiting for a reply. Read our letter.

BBOWT is collaborating with several environmental and other organisations including the RSPB which has restored the reserve at Otmoor during the last 20 years to a wetland oasis, which now has breeding bitterns and marsh harriers, recently returned after an absence of centuries.

This web page will be updated when BBOWT is able to comment on additional information from Highways England, especially when the preferred corridor is announced, by July.