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 and to enable development of up to a million new homes across the corridor. Right now we’re waiting for the Government to confirm whether or not this scheme is going to go ahead, following their announcement on 12 March 2020 that further work on the proposal would be "paused".
Thankfully, the Government has recognised the importance of the Otmoor basin for nature – including our own nature reserve – and excluded it from further consideration. However, the rest of corridor B still includes two internationally important sites and over 30 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, or "SSSIs", and numerous locally important sites including nature reserves managed by the Wildlife Trusts.
Of the three corridors originally proposed, we said Corridor B posed the greatest threat to nationally and internationally important sites in the parts of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire affected, so even though the threat to Otmoor has been lifted, the decision is potentially a disastrous one for nature.
This choice of corridor will make the chance of achieving Highways England’s own objective of "no net loss" of biodiversity much harder. And this is not just about a new road. The Government's preference for corridor B is clearly based on its alignment with East-West Rail, and the shared potential that offers to support major new settlements and urban growth in this part of the Oxford to Cambridge corridor. New settlements will bring their own challenges – direct land take and loss of locally important habitats, and likely indirect effects including impacts on air quality, water resources, and from increased recreational pressure.
Picture credit: Bittern by Paul Wyeth