Oxford to Cambridge Expressway
Impacts of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway on the natural environment.
The Government has proposed an Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and associated 'Growth Corridor', between the A34 south of Oxford and Milton Keynes. Three different route corridors were considered for the Expressway and Corridor. In September 2018, the Department for Transport announced that Corridor B had been selected. In our opinion, this is the worst of the three options that were available. Our response is here.
Statements from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) indicate that at least one new town will be built along the preferred route.
Earlier this year, the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire participated in a closed consultation about the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Strategic Study and Corridor.
Senior planning officers and ecologists from both Wildlife Trusts 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.
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.
You can read and download the response from the Wildlife Trusts and the Executive Summary of the response from the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust by clicking the links below.
The Wildlife Trusts have major areas of concern for all the route options within the corridor.
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.
Why does it matter?
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 contain rare habitats and wildlife, including:
Ancient floodplain flower-rich meadows of a type so rare that only 1500 hectares remain in England
- Ancient woodlands, including those in the Bernwood Forest that support the Bechstein’s bat, one of Britain’s rarest mammals
- Rare fens, of a habitat type so rare that only 19 hectares remain in England
- Floodplain grazing marsh supporting some of the best remaining populations in lowland England of rare and declining waders such as curlew, lapwing, redshank and snipe
- Ancient hedgerow networks that are the UK stronghold for the rare black and brown hairstreak butterflies.
For more information about the potential impact of the Expressway on wildlife, please read the Wildlife Trust's full report.
What are BBOWT doing?
- 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.
- On 12 April 2018 we wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, about the lack of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) when selecting the corridor for the Expressway (read our letter).
- We have written a response to the corridor announcement of 12 September 2018.
- We are investigating a legal challenge to the government and Highways England because of the lack of due process in the selection of the corridor. We strongly believe that a SEA is required under EU law.
- We are collaborating with several environmental organisations, including the RSPB, in an effort to demonstrate to decision makers the value of the natural environment between Oxford and Cambridge.
Last updated 21 September 2018.
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