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Arc residents are concerned for countryside, suggests poll

Words: Laura Edgar
Housebuilding / iStock

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has called for an inquiry into proposals that will see a million homes built across the Oxford-to-Cambridge Arc by 2050. This comes as a poll finds that 74 per cent of those living in the arc think the proposals will have a detrimental effect on the countryside and environment.

The poll, carried out by research company Survation on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), interviewed 1,500 people across the five counties that the Oxford-Cambridge Arc spans: Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

According to the campaign group there is support for new housing in the arc, but 59 per cent of residents don’t support the scale of housebuilding that is being proposed.

Research published last year by the CPRE suggested that the one million homes proposed would result in development on 27,000 hectares of greenfield and woodland – an area the size of Birmingham.

If plans for the arc proceed, 82 per cent of residents think the housing needs of local people must be the priority, while 74 per cent think social housing is what is most needed for the area.

However, based on current projects, the CPRE says no more than 18 per cent of the locally identified need for affordable homes would be met during this planned growth period. The organisation warns that without formal public consultation and an environmental assessment the impact of “the government’s growth at all costs” approach could have “catastrophic” consequences for the local countryside, wildlife and environment.

Paul Miner, head of strategic plans and devolution at the CPRE, said it is “unthinkable” that the government is considering such large development without assessing its impact.  

“Rather than ignoring people and the environment in a rush for economic growth, consideration of the full effects on communities and the environment must be given priority. Before the government takes these proposals any further it is imperative that a Strategic Environmental Assessment is carried out, along with a full public consultation on the proposals.”

Helen Marshall, director at CPRE Oxfordshire, added: “Many local and national politicians are hiding behind a network of bureaucracy and grand claims to push through a massive increase in development at whatever the cost to the environment, and without any guarantee that local housing needs will be met. There is clear support for greater transparency on these decisions and we challenge our MPs to respond appropriately.”

In a vision statement (pdf) about the arc published alongside the Spring Statement last week, the government stated it would hold a “broad, joint, public engagement exercise” this summer.

But the campaigners fear this will be “a meaningless box-ticking exercise and will fail to engage with the range of views that encompass the objections to the proposals”.

They want a full parliamentary select committee inquiry into the proposals to consider the potential impact on the local environment and communities, as well as the economies of other areas of the country.

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Image credit | iStock