Cancellation of Oxford-Cambridge Expressway plan welcomed
Wildlife campaigners have voiced their relief and delight that plans for an expressway between Oxford and Cambridge have been axed.
Posted on 19 March 2021
The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) had issued a legal challenge to a new corridor route with a highway and new homes between the cities.
The Department of Transport announced this week that the decision to build the road has been cancelled.
They said analysis showed the benefits the road would deliver are outweighed by its costs.
Matthew Stanton, Head of Planning, Policy and Advocacy at Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust said:
“We are delighted that the OxCam Expressway has finally been officially cancelled. The Government must learn from the Expressway’s failure, in particular that the environmental impacts of infrastructure plans and proposals need to be properly assessed up front, as we made clear in the legal action. Development and growth will continue across the OxCam Arc, but future plans must have nature at their heart.”
Leigh Day solicitor Carol Day, who represented BBOWT in its legal challenge to the road, said:
“We are relieved that economic realities have finally put paid to this road plan which would have had disastrous impacts on wildlife along the length of the route between Oxford and Cambridge. It is vital that the government now pauses to consider in full what has gone wrong here in order to ensure that biodiversity and climate impacts are properly considered before any further travel infrastructure plans for the region are developed and pursued.”
The road was intended to increase connectivity between the two university cities and contribute to growth in the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge region. The government ran a closed consultation on three options for the Expressway and on 12 September 2018 announced that it had accepted the recommendations of Highways England and had selected Corridor B1 and B3.
BBOWT challenged the decision with a judicial review, claiming that the expressway could be a disaster for wildlife, the route chosen containing 51 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), two internationally important Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and 234 local wildlife sites.
BBOWT argued that the decision to choose Corridor B1 and B3 for the development was unlawful because Highways England failed to commission a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) as part of the process of selecting one of three Corridors. However today the court agreed with the Secretary of State, who argued that the decision to choose Corridor B did not constrain future decision-making.
BBOWT was represented by Carol Day and Tom Short of Leigh Day solicitors, and barristers Ned Westaway and Merrow Golden of Francis Taylor Building.
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