Today the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, has announced that the Ox-Cam Expressway has been cancelled. The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust have opposed the so-called Expressway, a major dual carriageway linking Oxford and Cambridge which would have put scores of precious wildlife habitats at risk, from the very beginning. We were engaged in a legal battle in the High Court with the Government over its plans.
Oxford to Cambridge Expressway cancelled
Whilst we will take a brief moment to welcome this decision, we cannot turn our attention away from the other threats to our area. We need to ensure that other road building projects do not amount to the Expressway in all but name. Plans for 'improvements' to the A34 west of Oxford could have a devastating impact on precious habitats and designated sites for nature, so the pressures on wildlife continue.
Despite this cancellation, it is clear that a huge level of development is still planned for the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. Any such development must put nature first.
Plans for the OxCam Expressway should never have got this far. Lessons need to be learnt going forward so the mistakes in failing to properly look at the environmental impacts of such proposals up front are not repeated.
Statement from the Nature's Arc partners (RSPB, Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants [WTBCN] and the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust [BBOWT]):
"The Nature's Arc partners have long opposed the plans for the Expressway because of the environmental damage that would have been caused, and BBOWT engaged in High Court legal proceedings against the plans.
"We welcome today’s announcement that the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway has been cancelled because, the Government says, the project is no longer 'cost-effective'. We have long said that the costs to nature would be too great and it is disappointing that the Government has not acknowledged the costs to the environment as a reason for the cancellation, particularly at a time when we need to be acknowledging and tackling the nature and climate emergencies. As a society, we can’t afford for the environment to play second fiddle to the economy any longer.
"Today’s news will mean ancient woodland and other precious habitats that fell within the proposed route corridor are safe for now. Yet the risks to nature from road “improvements” remain, including from potentially damaging plans for the A34 (west of Oxford) which could detrimentally impact important sites for nature.
"There are many lessons to learn from the Expressway’s failure. And action is still needed to influence other significant development and infrastructure projects across the Arc area. The financial savings of cancelling the Expressway should be applied to improve the environmental credentials of other projects, for example by electrifying East West Rail, and such projects should avoid any damage to irreplaceable habitats. Environmental impacts of development plans should be assessed up front as a priority, and any development across the Arc must put nature first and support the ambition of the recently published local leaders’ Arc Environment Principles. All future plans for the Arc must have the environment at their heart.”