Good morning Dorchester Residents
We have heard that things are moving fast in Government re the Expressway.It seems a decision could be made very soon on the route and a “sham” period of consultation would
follow. In effect, the decision will be made and local views will count for nothing.
I attach a letter which has been sent on behalf of the Expressway Action Group (EAG) which has been set up to fight our cause.The letter makes the key points on the disadvantages of the Southern route, which we need to communicate to major players in Government, particularly the National Infrastructure Commission, BY MONDAY MORNING if we are to influence discussions in time. I have sent letters on behalf of the Parish, but letters from as many residents as possible ARE VITAL!
There is a target list as well, giving both email and postal addresses of people in government to whom you should write. In view of the short time available , we suggest you send your letter by both email and post. Not all letters may get read, but I have been assured that “volume”of letters is as important as “content” in this case – a sort of online petition via email.
The text of the EAG letter can be used as a template and need not be changed, although if you want to vary it or add something in your letter please do. But time is of the
essence here so please get your emails off ASAP.
To: The Lord Adonis
Chair, National Infrastructure Commission
5th Floor, 11 Philpot Lane
London EC3M 8UD
25th October 2017-10-25
Dear Lord Adonis
I am writing to you on behalf of the Expressway Action Group in regard to the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway (OCE) and its routing around Oxford.
The Group represents 19 villages and parishes across Oxfordshire, with approximately 20,000 residents, who are gravely concerned regarding the risks that this project poses to our communities and the environment.
We are especially concerned that at a Highways England seminar on the 18th October, they announced that once their studies are complete there will be no Public Enquiry to provide an open assessment of the merits of each Expressway route around Oxford, and only one route will be subject to any consultation process.
There has been no public or democratic consultation whatsoever on the Oxford routes for the Expressway, in spite of the efforts of individual Councillors and others to extract information: FoI requests have been rejected, no documents released, and there have been no public meetings or press statement by Councils.
We are concerned that some senior Council officers and councillors have been actively promoting a new Southern expressway route leaving the A34 near Abingdon and passing Oxford to the south and on to Thame and Aylesbury, rather than supporting the original Northern route shown in earlier studies. (*see Note 1 below) (** Map: see note 2)
It is difficult to understand the logic of this when there is a better, cheaper and quicker option to the North along the existing dual-carriageway A34.
The Southern route for the Oxford section of the Expressway has the following key disadvantages:
1. The ‘Southern Route’ costs £400 millions more than the Northern option (see NIC / Highways England Stage 3 Report p 47 *** see note 3)
2. It would have major drawbacks for the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Corridor’s development, as well as causing huge damage to communities, wildlife habitat, amenity and local transport links.
3. It would run along the southern edge of the Growth Corridor rather than down its centre, separating Corridor cities & towns like Coventry, Northampton, Banbury and Bicester from the growth uplift which fast access would provide.
4. The Southern route separates the Expressway from the East-West Rail Link:
a. It would prevent easy transfer from road to rail, keeping commuters in their cars:
b. It would impact first/last-mile access into Oxford city centre and into other Corridor towns, and increase in-town road congestion.
5. The Southern route via Aylesbury runs through the edge of the London commuter belt:
a. New housing developments there would attract London-facing residents and further increase pressure on road traffic into and out of London:
b. The growth, revenue and employment uplift intended from the OxCam Growth Corridor and Expressway investment would be reduced if new residents were commuting to London instead of seeking new local or in-Corridor employment .
6. A Southern route for the Expressway away from existing Oxfordshire growth towns with developed infrastructure (industry, shops, surgeries, schools etc.) would have the following effects:
a. It would instead route towards proposed new greenfield development sites and smaller towns without the infrastructure and growth plans needed, and so
b. Growth and employment in the Corridor would be seriously delayed until all that new infrastructure can be built.
c. This would in turn delay Treasury revenue growth for years compared to the original plans.
7. It would ruin 10 miles of Oxford Green Belt, causing massive & permanent damage to rural lands and wildlife: it would change the character of the area for ever. We cannot envisage any circumstances in which forecast economic growth could outweigh the certain environmental harm an Expressway and associated development through the Green Belt would cause, especially when there is a clear and better alternative.
The Northern route runs close alongside the OxCam East-West Rail link past new rail stations at Oxford Parkway and Bicester: it runs through the centre of the western OxCam Corridor close to expanding growth towns: it would not draw extra London traffic along its length: and it would do far less environmental and habitat damage. It would also generate more growth and Treasury revenue, more quickly, than the alternatives.
We ask that you take action to ensure that these key issues are properly debated within Government, with the NIC, Highways England and Oxfordshire Councils, and that debate takes place with effective Public involvement and consultation before any decision is made on this motorway-standard road and its associated housing developments.
Peter Rutt / Co-ordinator, Expressway Action Group
*Note 1: Growth Board minutes (Growth Board Executive Officers’ Group 11th July et al) show that the Growth Board and its Councils have been collaborating with the NIC and Highways for months on detailed ‘workstreams’ to facilitate these plans. However at no time have our County or District Councils consulted with our member Parish Councils, press or the wider public. All Freedom of Information requests to the NIC and Highways England have been refused.
**Note 2: NIC Corridor Ideas Competition Invitation / Map showing possible routes and also route of the East-West Rail Link.
*** Note 3: NIC / HE Stage 3 Report table of costings for Expressway options p47 :
Background / Expressway Action Group
The Expressway Action Group includes members from 19 villages and parishes including Baldons, Cuddesdon & Denton, Dorchester on Thames, Garsington, Great Haseley, Horspath, Little Milton, Newington, Radley, Sandford on Thames, Stadhampton, Tiddington, Warborough, Waterperry, Waterstock, and Wheatley. It was set up in summer 2017 to raise awareness of the Expressway issues.
Statements of Support:
Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Wheatley Division, Dr. Kirsten Johnson:
“This is the most important infrastructure project for our region in a generation, and it is happening behind closed doors without any input from the residents it will affect most. People are just not aware of the huge and adverse impact the Expressway would cause to our environment if a Southern route is selected. We need to have an open debate on the merits of each route.”
South Oxfordshire District Councillor Elizabeth Gillespie:
“Upgrading the A34 and the current roads to Cambridge seems the only rational route for a new Expressway, if one is justified at all. It is hard to see what case could be made to go through the Green Belt and countryside South of Oxford instead, with all the environmental damage that would inevitably cause. I fully support the aims of the Expressway Action Group in opposing any such route”.
Steve Harrod, Cabinet Member of Oxfordshire County Council and Councillor for Chalgrove & Watlington “Please could you add my name to the EAG as an active objector to the lack of transparency being shown in the development of these plans. It is essential that local residents have a say in the formation such wide-ranging and drastic changes as are being discussed behind closed doors. The impact on the character of the countryside of the proposed southern route would be devastating to the villages and their residents in the path of this draconian suggestion. Whilst I am in principle supportive of the concept of the O2C Expressway, to consider a route with such extraordinary repercussions, without consultation, undermines the very core of democratic local government. I am in agreement with those who suggest the existing A34 as the preferred route as it would be far less damaging to virgin countryside and would no doubt cost significantly less to the public purse.”
Posted on October 27, 2017 in Events in and around Dorchester