Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Campaign to Protect Rural England

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Legal challenge issued over the Ox-Cam Expressway

Monday, 26 November 2018 11:35

Near Guilden Morden Near Guilden Morden Photo: © Alan James

Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust has issued a legal challenge against the government over its failure to carry out environmental assessments for the Oxford-to-Cambridge Expressway.

Their claim highlights the failure of Highways England to commission a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA), as required by European law. 

Support from CPRE

CPRE nationally supports this claim, given the lack of open consultation and public discussion about the route options and the damage they will cause to the countryside. We also believe there should be a national debate about the wisdom of pursuing major development like this in the south-east when other areas of the UK are desperate for investment.

Paul Miner, head of strategic plans and devolution at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

"That the government has accepted the NIC’s recommendation for growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, without formal public consultation or an environmental assessment, is a devastating blow for local democracy and the countryside.

“It is imperative that a Strategic Environmental Assessment is conducted. The assessment must look at the impacts of both the proposed 1 million homes and major new road on the countryside, people’s health and well-being, and climate change in a holistic manner."

Potential environmental impacts in Cambridgeshire

Near Croxton Village

Alan James, chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

“In Cambridgeshire we are faced with the potential upgrade of the A428 from Caxton Gibbet to the A1 and the reinstatement of what used to be the “Varsity” rail line to Bedford. Both these developments could do considerable damage to countryside and wildlife if their routes are not chosen carefully. The South East Claylands of Huntingdonshire and the Western Claylands of South Cambridgeshire remain unspoilt, open, productive, countryside. Expansion along the existing road line risks woodlands and nature sites as well as the heritage parkland of Croxton Park.

“Yet to date, we have seen virtually no local public debate of the wisdom of building additional road capacity at a time when the UK Climate Change Committee chaired by Lord Deben is calling for a major reduction in road transport use. There has been no upgrade to the Ely-Soham rail line around Ely, which would take 1,000 lorries per day off the roads west from Felixstowe (A14/A428). There has been no publication of the route options for road or rail and both Network Rail and Highways England are refusing requests for information. We have all just seen the secrecy with which Highways England has built the A14 expansion to motorway standard and then announced it as a done deal. Cambridgeshire countryside is not just an open space on a map across which lines of destruction can be drawn at will, it is also a major contributor to national food production which must be protected for that purpose.

“Therefore, CPRE believes the secrecy with which these major infrastructure developments are being planned is an affront to local democracy and not in the local or the national interest.”

Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust issued its claim in the High Court on 21 November 2018. You can help by donating to the Ox-Cam Expressway legal challenge.

The Ox-Cam Expressway is part of the government’s plans to build one million houses in the area spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford by 2050.

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