By Matt Spencer, Account Executive
The Government has dialled back plans to meet the ambitious target of one million new homes in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc by 2050. The news is further recognition that Conservative backbenchers are increasingly concerned by development and its effect on their voters after the Chesham and Amersham by-election earlier this year.
Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher MP, sought to play down the change, insisting that the Arc project is about economic development and not just house-building. The Government had previously committed to the one million home target in 2017 after publishing their support on the recommendation, which was included in a National Infrastructure Commission Report.
The news comes off the back of the February announcement of a new Spatial Framework for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and would seek to make the Framework national policy. The Spatial Framework is expected to recognise housing and planning as a key issue and will identify the most sustainable locations for new residential development, focusing on brownfield sites and delivering affordable housing.
There is a possibility that the Framework will impact local planning processes in host districts, with Oxfordshire County Council still developing options for the Oxfordshire Joint Statutory Spatial Plan which runs to 2050. However, there is a concern that any such moves may be counter-productive, undermining existing support and potentially increasing delays and uncertainty for development in the Arc area.
A housing panel headed by development and regeneration expert, Emma Cariaga, has also been appointed to advise on issues such as design and sustainability in the Arc. The panel will stand for a period of six months and report to Christopher Pincher MP.
Whilst the Government will have a fight on their hands amidst local opposition campaigns to individual proposals, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc is a national opportunity and a driver for growth at a time of economic uncertainty. Whilst the Government may be easing away from its ambitious goals in the face of stiffening resistance, it is still a key plank of policy and will remain a focus for the MHCLG and BEIS. This is not one which will quietly go away.
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