Government plans for a spatial framework for the Oxford – Cambridge Arc and a growth body to drive it have been given a big thumbs-up by Thames Tap partners.

And UK Property Forums is to report regularly on the developments under our new ArcWatch section as the long-awaited link between the cities moves closer to becoming reality.

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher announced the launch of the spatial framework plan on Thursday (February 18) and a draft is due to be published next year.

The Arc is likely to create thousands of jobs and drive investment across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

The Government also announced its plan to create an Arc growth body which will help promote it internationally. By 2050, economic output across the Arc is expected to double to more than £200 billion.

The Government sees the Arc’s success as key to the UK’s national prosperity and international competitiveness.

Our experts have been encouraged by the announcement.

David Bainbridge, director in the planning team at Savills Oxford, said:

“We welcome clarity on the route map and that local authorities in the Arc should continue to progress their Local Plans. This is especially relevant given the timescale involved, with the draft of the spatial framework due in Autumn next year and the final publication being two to three years away.

“There is currently little detail on governance arrangements for identifying the scale and location for new development and environmental improvements but this is unsurprising at this stage.

“The policy paper acknowledges more needs to be done and we consider the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government should be commended on their willingness to engage at this early stage.

“Government will want to avoid being seen as a de-facto planning authority and so, have a tight line to walk when it comes to setting-up a new Arc growth body.

“It is refreshing to see mention of the word ‘regional’, which has been missing from planning for development since the bonfire of regional spatial strategies in 2010.

“We should be encouraged by the opportunity to engage with Government and local partners in shaping of the vision for the Arc and the emphasis on sustainability, climate change and biodiversity enhancement.”

Steven Sensecall, head of planning and development for the South and South West, for Carter Jonas, said:

“The recent announcement is a significant endorsement for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and will hopefully provide the required impetus to ensure its delivery.

“While the concept of a cohesive area is welcomed, it will undoubtedly be a challenge to coordinate 23 local planning authorities and the other statutory bodies that have jurisdiction and influence across the Arc.

“The Arc concept, originally launched in 2003, is now over 18 years old but it has perhaps been held back by the absence of an organisation to steer its development – the creation of the Arc growth body could be the answer.

“In the meantime, it is important that the Oxfordshire authorities continue to support the delivery of housing and employment-generating development identified in the existing (full suite of) Oxfordshire Local Plans; and that they and the Oxfordshire Growth Board continue to progress the next round of Local Plan reviews and work on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.

“The current planning policy framework in Oxfordshire is facilitating unprecedented levels of housing and employment development, which is consolidating Oxfordshire’s position as an engine for growth, especially in the science and technology sectors. It is important for the local, regional and national economy that this momentum is maintained.”

Rob Allaway, managing director of DevComms, said:

“The policy paper is welcomed and needed if the full potential of the Arc is to become reality. It is over three years since the National Infrastructure Commission published its report on The Arc but we know that Government leadership on strategic policy has always been needed in order to provide the necessary momentum, status and vision.

“The spatial framework is needed in order to set any coherent vision into policy and the prospect of a growth body, which has been mooted for some time, can only help to deliver this.

“The first core principle listed in the approach to the framework is collaboration. I applaud this. Another core principle is to be inclusive, with benefits for existing communities and all places within the region.

“Both of these principles, together with a compelling vision, which is effectively and repeatedly communicated, will be important to getting the buy in from local authorities and their constituents. This, in turn, will be key in order to meet the required pace and scale of change.”

Chris Holdup, associate at mode Transport Planning, said:

“Needless to say, we are all keeping track of the Ox-Cam Arc and like many in the industry, mode is supporting clients with various development opportunities that stand to directly benefit from it.

“Of course, there has for some time now, been an abundant and enthusiastic debating of philosophy surrounding how the Arc ought to be and what it could achieve.

“Like most with an interest here, however, we have been eagerly awaiting news of concrete steps being taken by Government to help shape such ideology into a policy driven, yet practical reality.

“Perhaps more than before the Arc was first conceived, connectivity along the length of the corridor will need to remain centre stage. This has always been a fundamental and universally accepted principle of the Arc vision.

“Nevertheless, as we continue to ride the wave of a monumental paradigm shift in remote communication, surely the need to physically travel along the Arc will now be lessened. That could have clear and significant implications for the quantum of new infrastructure needed; both green and not so green.

“We will be fascinated to hear how that may be debated by the Arc growth body, in and around sustainable travel and smart technologies, and to what extent that may then materialise in the announced preparation of a spatial framework plan.”

In line with the renewed emphasis on the Arc, Thames Tap consultant Hugh Blaza has set out how ArcWatch will be bringing you regular news of its progress.

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