This week Highways England revealed that the corridor within which an Oxford to Cambridge ‘expressway’ will be constructed is set to run through the heart of North Buckinghamshire, notably incorporating the town of Winslow.
Initially three corridors had been considered, the southern-most running close to Aylesbury and the Northern-most bypassing Buckingham. In the end, the middle option was chosen, meaning that residential areas such as Middle Claydon and Winslow, among many others, are likely to be affected.
The project was first proposed in 2015 as an attempt to plug a perceived missing link in the UK’s road network. By the autumn budget of 2017, the chancellor was ready to commit to delivering the 30-mile expressway, connecting the M40 to the M1.
Precise route options will not be revealed until the autumn of 2019, at which point public consultations are set to be undertaken, with the final route plan to be announced in 2020. Construction is unlikely to begin until 2025 at the earliest and the target for completion of the project is 2030.
Winslow and district councillor Llew Monger said:
“Highways England confirms that the road will run ‘via Winslow’ though the detailed route is yet to be agreed. The choice of this ‘corridor’, within which the detailed route will be designed, will bring little benefit to residents.
“This road is only being built to facilitate the building of vast housing developments as part of the government’s drive to deliver one million homes along the Oxford to Cambridge corridor. That’s the equivalent of building two cities the size of Birmingham stretched out across the corridor. The scale of development proposed is vast.”
The National Infrastructure Commission estimate that up to 1.1 million extra jobs could be generated across the corridor with annual output increasing by as much as £163 billion.
The new road, which will also act as a southern bypass for Milton Keynes, will broadly be aligned with the proposed East-West rail route, the intention being to give communities a variety of options on how they travel and to reduce car dependency.
Roads Minister Jesse Norman said in a statement:
“The Government is taking the big decisions on infrastructure, working to maximise growth and productivity across the UK. England’s Economic Heartland, as it has been called, already plays a crucial role in powering the UK’s growth, science and innovation, but there is no single route to connect Oxford and Cambridge. This Expressway will enhance both transport connectivity and growth across the region for the benefit of the UK as a whole.”
The leader of Buckinghamshire County Council Martin Tett has communicated his disappointment that the southern corridor option was not chosen, believing that to have been the most beneficial to the region. He added:
“We are also concerned at the potential environmental impact of the chosen route as it passes so many extremely sensitive and beautiful areas of the county.”
In their 27-page report released on Wednesday 12 September, Highways England stated:
“We are committed to finding solutions that have the least impact and avoid, minimise or mitigate the impact on the natural environment.”