To close a "missing link" in the strategic road network, the Government has proposed a new major road – an Expressway – to reduce journey times between Oxford and Cambridge. Between the A34 at Oxford and the M1 at Milton Keynes, different route corridors are under consideration. If selected as the preferred option, some of these could lead to a route that would be disastrous for nature. This is not just about a new road: statements from the Government and National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) suggest the preferred route is likely to be the focus for major new urban growth, perhaps including one or more new towns.
Sites that might potentially be affected by one or more of the options include our nature reserve at Otmoor, two internationally important sites (Oxford Meadows Special Area of Conservation ("SAC") and Cothill Fen SAC), numerous woodland and wetland SSSIs and rare lowland meadow habitats in the Ray Valley.
The area has been threatened by new roads before. Forty years ago, local people won an important battle to make sure the M40 went around this landscape. A lot has changed since: twenty years of work has turned the Otmoor nature reserve into a nationally important wetland full of breeding waders like lapwings and redshanks, with droves of golden plovers and wintering ducks in the colder months.
We are working with partners including the Wildlife Trusts and Butterfly Conservation to ensure that the historic M40 victory is not undone by this latest proposal.
Local people have started a #SaveOtmoor campaign and Parliamentary petition. We welcome the speed and strength of the local community’s reaction to the potential threat to Otmoor – it shows the depth of feeling people who live here have for this nature-rich landscape and believe Highways England should take note.