Our MP talks about the Oxford Cambridge Expressway after a visit to the Bucks Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England..
"Last Friday I popped in to visit the Buckinghamshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
"The CPRE has a deserved reputation as a formidable campaigner for the English countryside.
"While my visit was long-planned, it turned out to be the day after the Transport Department had announced its preferred corridor for the Oxford/Cambridge expressway, so I was expecting to discuss this and the wider impact of development along the arc between the two university cities.
"It soon became clear that the Bucks CPRE had been doing a lot of thinking already about the impact on our county of this project. We talked about the inevitable impact that it would have on the rural environment and on those towns and villages in Aylesbury Vale that will see significant expansion over the next 20 or 30 years.
"But what I found striking was that the CPRE wasn’t in what might be termed NIMBY mode. They were concerned, and determined to fight their case, but also understood the reasons for the Government’s decision to support the development of the corridor. It’s probably the best prospect for economic growth anywhere in Europe, with two world-class universities, two teaching hospitals, life sciences, Cambridgeshire’s “silicon fen”, Oxfordshire’s expertise in nuclear and space research, the cluster of cutting-edge automotive businesses at Silverstone and the business hub that is Milton Keynes.
"The new East/West railway and the expressway will also open up the opportunity for large-scale housing development. While this is controversial, I think it is needed. Many readers will have children or grandchildren who are in good jobs but struggling to get a foot on even the bottom of the housing ladder.
"The CPRE wanted to discuss but how to achieve development that put human needs at the heart of planning. How can we get the best design for new buildings? How do we ensure that we build new settlements with a genuine sense of place and local identity? How can we design development that takes account of biodiversity? It’s a debate that I look forward to continuing."