The Oxford-Cambridge Arc

A new "growth corridor" proposes development on a massive scale between Oxford and Cambridge. It’s essential that the project has nature at its heart.

Rethink the Arc

The Government’s ambitions for economic growth and development in the Arc have not adequately considered or prioritised the need to protect and restore nature and stay within environmental limits. This puts nature across the five counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire (which cover more than a million hectares, or nearly 9% of England) at risk from unsustainable and environmentally damaging growth and development.

With the Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants, Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, CPRE, and Friends of the Earth, we are asking Government to Rethink the Arc to make sure it protects the natural environment and supports nature’s recovery.

This is the only way we will be able to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and undo historic damage done to the natural environment in the Arc.

Creating a vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc: Government’s consultation on the future of the Arc

The Government has said they want the Arc to be a ‘world-leader for environmental sustainability’, but has so far failed to adopt any specific ambitions, goals or targets for protecting and restoring nature, achieving net zero earlier than 2050, or raising environmental sustainability standards in the Arc.

Between 21 July and 12 October 2021 the Government held a public consultation on the vision and priorities for the future of the Arc entitled ‘Creating a vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’.

In response to the lack of ambition and clear goals and policy objectives for nature recovery and climate resilience, we joined other nature conservation, countryside, and environment NGOs to call on the Government to Rethink the Arc.

Our vision for the Arc is one in which nature is in recovery, wildlife is thriving and people enjoy more and better access to nature and green spaces where they live.

What are the implications for nature?

For years, consideration of environmental impacts has been almost entirely absent from economic decision-making, but as the world wakes up to the stark realities of the nature and climate emergency, the need for change is becoming impossible to ignore. To halt biodiversity loss and reduce carbon emissions to prevent the worst impacts of the nature and climate emergency, we urgently need to change the way we think about and plan our economy. This was a key finding of the Dasgupta Review of the Economics of Biodiversity published in February 2021.

We also need to change the way we plan, design, and build new houses and communities and the infrastructure that serves them, to be better for nature and fit for the climate emergency. We need new jobs, houses, and infrastructure to protect and restore nature and help tackle climate change, not make things worse.

Read our guide to good spatial planning for nature, Planning Naturally, to see how better planning can protect and restore nature.

Nature’s Arc?

In June 2020, the RSPB jointly published a set of principles and recommendations for Government and local leaders in the Arc which, if implemented, it argued could help protect and restore nature and make the Arc environmentally sustainable and fit for the nature and climate emergency.

Local council leaders, universities and business leaders subsequently published (in March 2021) an ambitious set of shared regional principles for protecting, restoring and enhancing the natural environment in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, which include many of the principles and recommendations we had set out the previous year.

These principles put protecting and restoring nature and keeping development within environmental limits at the heart of local leaders’ ambitions for the Arc, but so far the Government has not said that it will support or help local leaders to deliver on these ambitions, which include:

  • Doubling the area of land managed for nature by 2050
  • Making the Arc net zero by 2040
  • Setting new high standards for environmental sustainability
  • Using natural resources wisely

It is still possible for Government to make protecting and restoring nature, tackling climate change, and environmental sustainability its top priorities for the Arc. Until then we will continue to call on Government to Rethink the Arc.

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