Oxfordshire Growth Board welcomes NIC report

Published: Friday, 17th November 2017

Oxfordshire Growth Board welcomes the publication of the National Infrastructure Commission’s final report on the Oxford – Cambridge Arc.

The report makes a series of recommendations to Government on how to maximise the economic potential of the 130-mile corridor that links the two cities over the next thirty years.

The Board will now study the report in detail and looks forward to the Government’s response to its findings.

The project aims to grow the knowledge-based economy across the arc so that it competes on a global stage with areas such as Silicon Valley in the US, while protecting the area’s high-quality environment, and securing the homes and jobs that the area needs.

The area is home to four of the UK’s fastest growing towns and cities, as well as globally-renowned centres of research expertise and advanced manufacturing. Oxfordshire already boasts concentrations of cutting-edge innovation, in particular the Harwell and Culham science parks, Oxford’s universities and medical research centres and the automotive and motorsport clusters particularly in the north of the county.

The NIC’s proposals seek to bring forward investment to harness the region’s economic potential, to benefit local people and boost UK plc in a post-Brexit landscape. It is proposing significant investment funding for new transport infrastructure. This includes strategic schemes - such as East-West Rail connecting Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes, as well as more localised projects - such as the opening of a Cowley Branch Line by end 2019, and improved cycle routes across the county.

The Growth Board has already published an Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy that identifies the county’s infrastructure needs up to 2040. It has also recently approved proposals to develop a joint strategic spatial plan for Oxfordshire to provide a county-wide integrated planning framework to support sustainable growth. And it has endorsed plans to develop a ‘Living Lab’ within the county to test and measure the impact of a variety of innovative approaches to improve health, mobility and energy generation.

Councillor Bob Price, Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board and Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Oxfordshire is at the centre of the UK’s knowledge-based economy. This region is already growing strongly and the Oxford-Cambridge ‘brain belt’ offers an opportunity to create a fourth economic powerhouse for the UK to rival those in London, the Midlands and the North. This economic growth needs to be matched by investment in infrastructure and provision of more high quality affordable housing, as well as social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, while protecting our high-quality environment.

“There are some eye-catching numbers in the NIC report that looks right out to 2050 and covers a wide arc. Our focus across Oxfordshire today and over coming years will be to ensure that development is properly planned, is sustainable and works in the interests of existing and well as future residents. In particular, we want to improve connectivity and tackle congestion to make Oxfordshire an easier place for everyone to travel around.”

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, the strategic planning authority, said: “As the transport lead for Oxfordshire we take great encouragement from the report’s call for Government to commit to and accelerate both East West Rail and the Expressway, to look at re-opening the Cowley branch line and to make Oxford `world class for cycling`.

“We have been calling for the right infrastructure to support growth and new housing for a while now. The recent short term announcements, including for Botley Road and the new slip roads from the A34 at Abingdon, have been very welcome but it is these longer term and major investments that will make the real difference for residents to get around more easily and for businesses to contribute to the UK’s economic success over the coming decades.”

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), said: “This announcement is extremely welcome news for Oxfordshire and the regions identified in this report.

“Just last week, PwC’s ‘Good Growth for Cities’ report announced Oxford as being one of the two highest-performing cities – in relation to growth – anywhere in the UK. This follows last month’s announcement from Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research who said Oxford had the second fastest-growing economy of any UK city.

“It is clear that Oxfordshire continues to reaffirm a position of having a world-leading economy and this report further identifies the global opportunities and strengths our region has to offer.”

The six councils represented on the Oxfordshire Growth Board are Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council, together with the OxLEP.