The one million new homes needed in the Growth Arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford will not be delivered without continued and concerted Government involvement, the National Infrastructure Commission warned today.
Commissioners supported measures announced at the Budget to promote further development of the Growth Arc, which are in line with recommendations made by the Commission last year – but chairman Sir John Armitt warned that the area desperately needs the delivery of new homes and transport links and that today’s announcement “while welcome will not achieve that on their own”.
Instead, the Commission argued that continued leadership both from central Government and local leaders, as well as support from the wider communities, would be required to make maximum possible use of opportunities from the planned East-West Rail and Oxford-Cambridge Expressway to deliver the much-needed new homes.
Today’s announcements from Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond include that there will be a new Ministerial Champion for the area, and a new private sector chair to be appointed to offer advice, and secure support from the business community.
There are also plans to lift current restrictions to enable funding across the Arc collected through Section 106 contributions from developers to be pooled between authorities, and for new governance structures across the Arc to be in place by Spring 2019: these will take account of existing democratic accountabilities including the Cambridge-Peterborough Combined Authority as well as district and county councils.
The Chancellor also announced a further £20million development funding for the central section of East-West Rail.
But the National Infrastructure Commission is clear that all of this would be need to be underpinned by an increasing focus on integrating the planning of the new transport schemes and housing, to ensure sites are unlocked for new developments through the new rail and road links provided by East-West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.
The Commission will continue to closely monitor progress, including through the Government’s commitment to provide updates on progress on an annual basis.
Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said:
“The arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford has enormous economic potential, and today’s announcement from the Chancellor will help towards meeting that.
“However, the Growth Arc is in desperate need of new homes and improved transport links, for the benefit not just of local residents but to the country as a whole. These things won’t happen without continued and concerted effort from Government, and today’s measures while welcome will not achieve that on their own.
“As work continues to deliver the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and East-West Rail, I hope to see more being done to make the most of these opportunities to deliver new homes as part of new thriving communities – or the economic opportunities that the Growth Arc offer will be missed.”
Commissioner Bridget Rosewell said:
“The Growth Arc contributes £90billion to our national economy – and yet there is potential for it to be even more successful than that.
“A lack of homes and strong transport links hold the area back, and while today’s measures go some way towards tackling that, they don’t go far enough.
“There needs to be strong leadership from both central and local Government and as we move towards Spending Review next year, I hope to see more being done to help make the most of all that the Growth Arc has to offer.”
Commissioner Professor Sadie Morgan said:
“While today’s Budget measures are welcome, they still fall short of what is needed to continue the Growth Arc’s success long into the future.
“There is a chronic shortage of homes for local residents, a problem that is only set to get worse. Integrating plans to improve this, and local transport links, could create vibrant communities that attract the brightest and best into the area.
“For that to happen, it needs a strong effort from both Ministers and local leaders – to deliver these projects and the new homes, and to secure the support of people who love to live and work across the Arc.”
Notes to Editors
The Commission’s report, Partnering for Prosperity, was published in November 2017 and can be found here