We, along with the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), the RSPB and Woodland Trust, welcome the Government's announcement that the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway has been cancelled.
As a group we have long opposed the proposed Expressway because of the environmental damage that would have been caused. We supported BBOWT's High Court legal proceedings against the plans.
The reason Government has given for cancelling the project is that it is no longer deemed to be “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.
News of the cancellation 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 Oxford-Cambridge 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 (EWR), and such projects should avoid any damage to irreplaceable habitats.
East West Rail can still be improved for wildlife and local people, and we fully support the local campaign from Cambridge Approaches for a northern route into Cambridge, following the A428 corridor and heading via Northstowe into Cambridge North, to be given equal consideration to the other proposed routes. Such a route would affect fewer important wildlife sites, have less impact on local nature recovery networks, and better align with proposed new developments as well as help support more sustainable options for the future long-term growth of Cambridge. The 'community based think tank' CamBedRailRoad are running a petition asking for this route to be considered. Add your name here.
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.