17 November 2017

Our reaction to the National Infrastructure Commission's final report into the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge growth corridor.

England's Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance Chairman, Cllr Martin Tett, said: "There is much to welcome in this report.

"We have long argued that the Heartland area stretching from Oxfordshire through to Cambridgeshire offers the opportunity to be a 'Silicon Valley' for the UK with the growth of major new technologies and industries.

"With economic growth will come the need for new housing. It is critically important that growth is enabled by the provision on new infrastructure. However, to be truly successful this must be more than just transport and include, for example, new utilities, high speed broadband, health services, education, parks and open space and skills. We also welcome the NIC's view that the identification of areas for growth should be led by local authorities, not imposed 'top down'.

"This should include objective evaluation of the options for transport routes, growth locations and the most effective governance arrangements".

"Lastly, it is important that Government realises that The Heartland is not just a 'Transport Forum' but is an existing, proven governance vehicle of councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships. It is actively developing a comprehensive economic and industrial strategy for the area, including communication and utilities, in partnership with government departments.

"The Heartland Alliance therefore clearly presents the base on which to build new, strategic, cross corridor planning and delivery vehicles. The Government does not have to start from scratch and risk losing the momentum already developed. We will take our time to fully digest the implications of the NIC 's report.

"It is important to remember these are the NIC's recommendations, not directives. The Government will clearly want to consult with all stakeholders before deciding whether and how to adopt them."

Cllr Heather Smith, chairman of England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum, added: "Growth on such a transformational scale must have the right strategic transport infrastructure delivered at the right time. That is why, through our emerging Sub-national Transport Body, we are producing a Transport Strategy which will provide a blueprint for the Heartland's requirements for the decades to come.

"The priority is improving east-west connectivity through a 'multi-modal transport spine', and East West Rail and the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway are integral to this".

"The Transport Strategy will also identify a Major Road Network, and we will work closely with Government to secure additional investment in this network. We are already building on the Commission's good work on improving first mile/last mile journeys, ensuring that our transport hubs are easily accessible as places to work and live.

"The region is currently hamstrung by poor east-west connectivity and the NIC re-iterates the importance of the 'multi-modal transport spine' to remedy this. It is absolutely essential that there is confidence around the delivery of the full East West Rail scheme and the expressway, and that these come online at the earliest opportunity."