Oxford to Cambridge Expressway
The Government wants to see up to a million new homes built by 2050 between Oxford and Cambridge, with a new dual carriageway (expressway) and railway to connect them. But important woods and trees could be damaged and destroyed.
The Government believes this development will help maximise economic growth, so the area is often referred to as the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Arc.
This ambition requires investment in major transportation projects to support delivery of the plan, particularly in the significant new road and rail infrastructure – the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and the East-West Rail link, respectively.
We are concerned because significant amounts of ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees lie inside the Arc, including 383 known ancient woodlands within 2km of the expressway route corridor.
The area covered by the Arc is already home to rare species like the black hairstreak butterfly, which occurs in a narrow area between Oxford and Peterborough.
What does the Arc mean for woods and trees?
We want to avoid adverse impacts, such as loss or damage. But we recognise the potential opportunities such investment in this area represents, such as:
- delivery of major tree planting and woodland creation
- the construction of wildlife bridges and green corridors
- the restoration of damaged ancient woodland.
The potential to provide more for nature is immense. But this must not make up for or offset any destruction of ancient woodland elsewhere.
The three major projects are at different stages of delivery:
- Housing: some house building has already occurred or been allocated within local plans. Government funding has been earmarked to accelerate 100,000 new homes in the area before 2031.
- Rail: EWR has already started construction of the first of its three sections.
- Road: a large route corridor was selected in autumn 2018. A consultation on possible routes is set to take place in autumn 2019.
Over 3,200 of you responded to our consultation in early 2019. You highlighted the importance of ancient woods and ancient and veteran trees to EWR, and called on them to protect these precious irreplaceable habitats. Thank you for your support.
Responding to the consortium's flawed and secretive approach to ‘consultation’ on these route options was vital. It also lays down a marker that the discussion process must be more open and collaborative in the future.
What are we doing?
We’re working with other conservation organisations including RSPB, National Trust and Wildlife Trusts to develop a vision for nature within the corridor.
We plan to use our collective vision to influence government on delivering the best possible outcomes for the natural environment in this area.
We’re also watching out for and engaging on specific schemes as and when opportunities arise.
Highways England will consult on route options for the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway in autumn 2019 and then announce a decision on a preferred route.
You can help
We may have to campaign against certain elements of the Growth Arc as it develops, so we may need your help again. We’ll keep you updated.
In the meantime, we need your help to make sure every single ancient tree in the Growth Arc is identified. We can’t protect them if we don’t know they’re there.
If you know of any ancient or veteran trees in the area, please take a few minutes to add them to the Ancient Tree Inventory.