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.

Nature's Arc

Nature is in crisis. Over 40 million birds have vanished from UK skies in just 50 years and 56% of our species are in decline.

As we look to address these generational challenges, we cannot continue with past models of environmentally harmful and unsustainable growth. Development, whether for domestic housing, industry or infrastructure like roads, often leads to biodiversity loss, as well as an increase in carbon emissions. These problems increase over time, stretching far past the actual construction phase.

We have a chance with the Oxford to Cambridge Arc to do things differently: to demonstrate an approach to growth and development that results in more nature not less, and that helps mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

Together with our partners Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire and The Woodland Trust, we are calling on the Government and all local decision makers to put nature at the heart of the Arc by adopting and implementing three basic principles for growth and development in “Nature’s Arc”:

  • Protect existing nature
  • Restore nature across the Arc
  • Set new standards for sustainable development

Our position

The Oxford to Cambridge Arc (or OxCam Arc) could dramatically change the landscape of south-central England. Large-scale housing developments connected by new and expanded road and rail links have all been proposed to aid “transformational economic growth”.

The RSPB is not opposed to the principle of the Arc - providing it adheres to our three priniciples above:

  • Protect existing nature
  • Restore nature across the Arc
  • Set new standards for sustainable development

In the face of a climate and ecological emergency, nature and sustainability must be prioritised in any plans, creating benefits for people and communities, as well as the wider environment.

What are the implications for nature?

To support economic growth in south-east England, the Government has proposed substantial new infrastructure, business and residential development in an area stretching from Cambridge to Oxford.

This includes new and expanded roads, a new railway and one million new houses by 2050.

The Arc proposals include a Government commitment to increase biodiversity, and protect and enhance the environment, in line with the ambitions of the 25-Year Environment Plan.

Done well, this presents an almost unprecedented opportunity to deliver transformative, positive environmental change through development. Done badly, these proposals could lead to further damage to nature, and significant emissions increases, undermining UK commitments to rapidly decarbonise our economy, transport and housing and to restore our degraded natural world.

The RSPB and our conservation partners believe that securing real and significant gains for nature and zero carbon development in the Arc are achievable goals. They are also critical ones.