Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc
The Government wants to see up to a million new homes between Oxford and Cambridge, with a new railway and roads 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, namely in the for of the East-West Rail link.
Plans for a significant road project, known as the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, have now been cancelled by the Government as the proposals are no longer considered cost effective. While this is great news, we know that several smaller road options will now be explored instead. We will need to keep our eyes peeled for any adverse impacts on irreplaceable habitats.
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. The preferred corridor for the central section of this rail line has now been identified and route alignment options within this corridor are currently being consulted on.
- Road: plans for the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway have thankfully been cancelled but other potentially damaging road options are still being explored.
Over 3,200 of you responded to our campaign on the EWR corridor 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.
East West Railway has now published a number of route alignments within its preferred corridor. We are currently assessing the impact of the various options on irreplaceable habitats and will update you once we have concluded our analysis.
What are we doing?
We have been working with the Wildlife Trusts and RSPB to develop a vision for nature within the corridor. Our Nature’s Arc principles set out what we want to see adopted at a local level to restore and increase nature in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
East West Rail is consulting on route alignment options for the central section of the scheme between Bedford and Cambridge. View the consultation.
A number of ancient woods, veteran trees and Woodland Trust-owned Toft Wood all fall within the selected corridor. We're currently assessing the impacts on these habitats and will update you in due course.
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.