Oxford to Cambridge Expressway

Oxford to Cambridge Expressway

Bernwood meadows by Rhea Draguisky

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.

photo of curlew

Curlew by Damian Waters / Drumimages.co.uk

Further reading

Response from the Wildlife Trusts

Read the Wildlife Trusts' full response to the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Consultation. 

Read the report
bee on scabious

Bee on scabious by Kieron Huston

Further reading

BBOWT Executive Summary

Read BBOWT's Executive Summary of The Wildlife Trusts’ Consultation Response.

Read the summary

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.

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.

photo of a snipe

A snipe, one of the rare wading birds whose habitat the Expressway corridors threaten © Margaret Holland

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.
  • 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.

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