Calls for urgent Government rethink on OxCam arc

Calls for urgent Government rethink on OxCam arc

Proposals for significant new housing and infrastructure development are bypassing critical safeguards for the environment. We are calling on Government to rethink plans

Government plans for rapid growth and development between Oxford and Cambridge, known as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, risk damaging impacts on nature and climate unless they urgently rethink their approach. We’ve joined forces with the RSPB, The Woodland Trust, Berkshire Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust and CPRE to take a stand.

Proposals for increased house building and infrastructure development – including new towns – are bypassing critical processes for safeguarding the environment. We are calling on Government to rethink their plans and asking people to respond to a public consultation on ‘the Arc’ to tell Government that we all want to see nature and climate prioritised and prevent unsustainable and damaging development.

Government plans for Oxford-Cambridge Arc must deliver for nature and climate: it's vitally important that economic growth and development do not come at the expense of nature.

Join our Rethink the Arc campaign


How is Government’s current approach to the Arc putting nature and the environment at risk?

  1. Government is bypassing critical steps and processes designed to protect nature by ensuring environmental impacts are considered. For example:
    • Proposals for new settlements between Bedford and Cambridge are being developed ahead of sustainability and environmental assessments of Government’s overall growth plans.
    • East West Rail is moving to choose a route for the new line between Bedford and Cambridge, which will determine where new housing is built, but has not been subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment of the options and their environmental impacts.
  2. The consultation does not support or even mention the environmental ambitions adopted by a majority of the Arc’s council leaders as well as many of its universities and leading business organisations.
    These ambitions include measures to reduce the environmental impact of growth and make a positive contribution to nature recovery and tackling climate change but have been ignored by Government since their publication in March this year.
  3. Government has yet to announce any specific commitments to or targets for restoring nature in the Arc or adopting higher standards of environmental sustainability in the new houses and infrastructure its proposals will see built.
    The charities say that Government must rethink its plans for the Arc to ensure that they protect the natural environment and respond to the linked nature and climate emergencies by restoring nature across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
    A Government consultation is asking people for their views on what the priorities should be for the future of the Arc. The charities are encouraging people to respond by highlighting the importance of protecting and restoring nature and sharing their concerns about the damage unsustainable growth and development could do if Government doesn’t rethink its approach.
    Ask Government to rethink their plans for the Arc to make them better for nature:
    Join our Rethink the Arc campaign


Matt Jackson, Conservation Director, Beds, Cambs and Northants Wildlife Trust: “There is a window of opportunity here to make a big difference for wildlife in one of the most nature depleted parts of the UK. The OxCam Arc was supposed to be an example of economic and housing growth planned with environmental sustainability at its heart, but what we’re seeing is a worrying lack of ambition when it comes to both protecting nature and creating new habitats for threatened species. We can’t continue to build homes, offices and roads for humans without thinking about homes, habitats and landscapes for birds, mammals, butterflies and bees.”

Emma Marsh, RSPB England Director: “If the Government’s plans for an Oxford-Cambridge Arc are to go ahead, they must deliver on their promise to protect and restore nature. It is extremely disappointing that Government’s current approach is bypassing processes to understand and minimise environmental damage and has failed to set ambitious goals for restoring nature.

“Nature is critical to the health of people and communities, the environment, and the economy. Protecting and restoring nature is vital for any transition to a greener, more sustainable economy. That is why we are urging Government to stop and rethink: to ensure their plans for economic growth and development also protect and restore nature.”

Estelle Bailey, Chief Executive, BBOWT: “The Government’s plans for the OxCam Arc do not properly consider the impact on nature. As long as this is the case, they are a failure. You cannot plan for sustainable growth without factoring in the costs to the environment. But even that is the bare minimum. As it stands, funds will only be created to restore nature across the Arc if development takes place. Funding for nature’s restoration cannot be solely dependent on development. We have taken and used so much of what nature offers for generations, without paying it back. Now is the time for ambitious plans to restore nature on a landscape scale, in its own right.”

Toby Bancroft, Woodland Trust Director for Central England: “It’s astounding that the Government has set out a draft vision for the Growth Arc which does not even mention the environmental ambitions which that have been agreed by a majority of the Arc’s council leaders as well as many of its universities and leading business organisations. At a time when there is urgency to act to start reversing the serious twin climate and biodiversity crisis we now face, plans for Nature should be front and centre, with vision and ambition – committing to the doubling of land managed for nature and an increase in tree cover from 7.4% to 19%, could be transformative if delivered sensitively and at scale. Government needs to rethink their vision for the Growth Arc to ensure that these vital environmental considerations are included.”

Andrew Wood, CPRE’s spatial planning lead: “It’s alarming that the consultation doesn’t mention the environmental ambitions that local leaders and stakeholders had previously published. In the midst of climate and nature emergencies the Arc vision must show how it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, restore nature, soils and rivers, enhance landscapes, enable sustainable farming and a countryside that works for everyone. If it doesn’t do so, then the Arc is set up to fail.”


Government Consultation

Government launched a public consultation on the vision and priorities for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc on Tuesday 20 July, running for 12 weeks, closing 11 October.

Respond to the consultation