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14/09/2018

Wildlife charity expresses concern over ‘Ox-Cam Expressway’

Words: Laura Edgar
Bernwood Forest / Jackie Harman

The Wildlife Trusts group has voiced its concerns about the government’s preferred choice for the missing link in the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway between Oxford and Milton Keynes, saying it has ignored ‘expert ecological advice’.

Dr Sue Young, head of land use planning and ecological networks at the charity, said the preferred route would lead to the destruction of thousands of hectares of England's finest wildlife havens.

“It is vitally important that we protect what remains of our natural heritage at a time when so many wild animals and plants are declining. The government has promised to leave the environment in a better state than they found it. Surely the proposed new expressway goes against this aspiration.”

On 12 September, roads minister Jesse Norman said the government’s chosen route was Option B, which would see the road go along the east-west rail corridor.

The government has judged the route to offer greater benefits to the region, such as better links to jobs, education and health services. Additionally, it is expected to take up to 40 minutes off the journey between the A34 south of Oxford and the M1.

In Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust’s (BBOWT) submission to the consultation in April this year, it discussed its concerns about the three suggested routes, the impact of building the expressway and any associated housing would have on wildlife.

Estelle Bailey, chief executive at BBOWT, said: “In our opinion corridor B is the worst of the three options. We told Highways England that the potential impact on biodiversity of corridor B is so serious that the route should have been discounted entirely. The only way to avoid exceptionally serious impacts on biodiversity would be to develop a road route that is so convoluted that it would fail to qualify as an expressway.

“Our most serious concerns are for the designated sites and nature reserves in Cothill Fen, Oxford Meadows, the Otmoor Basin, Upper Ray Valley and Bernwood Forest.”

BBOWT says that if the A34 is widened west of Oxford the increase in traffic and pollution could affect sensitive areas such as Oxford Meadows, Cothill Fen and Wytham Woods. An alternative route around the south and east of Oxford would potentially impact on important areas for nature conservation including Bagley Wood, Sandford Brake, Brasenose Wood and Shotover Hill.

The route would also affect the former Royal Hunting Forest of Bernwood, a wetland RSPB nature reserve at Otmoor, the Upper Ray Valley, ancient woodlands in the vicinity of Calvert including Finemere Wood, and the River Ouzel to the south-east of Milton Keynes, the organisation explained.

BBOWT added that it would continue to work with other NGOs and community groups to lobby for a Strategic Environmental Assessment.


Do you have a view on the preferred route for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway? Let The Planner know by emailing editorial@theplanner.co.uk.


Image credit | Jackie Harman

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