The Department for Transport has selected ‘Corridor B’ that extends from South Oxford and in a north easterly direction, which will be used to accommodate the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and associated housing development. In our opinion this is the worst of the three options that were under consideration (see table 1 below). The Department for Transport has yet to decide whether the expressway would pass west or east of Oxford City.
In BBOWT’s submission to the Highways England consultation in April 2018 we detailed our concerns about the three routes that were then being proposed, including the impact of building the Expressway and associated housing. BBOWT has also attended numerous stakeholder workshops to help inform decision-makers about the impact the Expressway will have on wildlife.
BBOWT has publicly voiced its concerns about Highways England’s failure to commission a Strategic Environmental Assessment as part of the process of selecting a Corridor. This is required under European Law for plans or programmes of this size. This means the public has been denied the opportunity to fully scrutinise the comparative economic, societal and environmental impacts of the options. Several local MPs, councillors and pressure groups share our concern about the lack of consultation.
Estelle Bailey, Chief Executive BBOWT, said, ‘In our opinion Corridor B is the worst of the three options. We told Highways England that the potential impact on biodiversity of Corridor B is so serious that the route should have been discounted entirely. The only way to avoid exceptionally serious impacts on biodiversity would be to develop a road route that is so convoluted that it would fail to qualify as an expressway.
‘Our most serious concerns are for the designated sites and nature reserves in Cothill Fen, Oxford Meadows, the Otmoor Basin, Upper Ray Valley and Bernwood Forest.’