Nature charities welcome cancellation of Oxford-Cambridge Expressway
The RSPB, Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants (WTBCN) and the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) welcome Government's announcement that the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway has been cancelled.
The charities have long opposed the proposed Expressway because of the environmental damage that would have been caused. The RSPB successfully campaigned to prevent a proposed route that threatened RSPB Otmoor nature reserve (pictured above), and supported BBOWT's High Court legal proceedings against the plans.
The reason Government has given for cancelling the project is that it is no longer deemed to be “cost-effective”. We have long said that the costs to nature would be too great and it is disappointing that the Government has not acknowledged the costs to the environment as a reason for the cancellation, particularly at a time when we need to be acknowledging and tackling the nature and climate emergencies. As a society, we can’t afford for the environment to play second fiddle to the economy any longer.
Today’s news will mean ancient woodland and other precious habitats that fell within the proposed route corridor are safe for now. Yet the risks to nature from road “improvements” remain, including from potentially damaging plans for the A34 (west of Oxford) which could detrimentally impact important sites for nature.
There are many lessons to learn from the Expressway’s failure. And action is still needed to influence other significant development and infrastructure projects across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc area. The financial savings of cancelling the Expressway should be applied to improve the environmental credentials of other projects, for example by electrifying East West Rail, and such projects should avoid any damage to irreplaceable habitats. Environmental impacts of development plans should be assessed up front as a priority, and any development across the Arc must put nature first and support the ambition of the recently published local leaders’ Arc Environment Principles. All future plans for the Arc must have the environment at their heart.