Oxford-Cambridge Expressway: Letter to Chris Grayling from Beckley & Stowood PC

Rt. Hon. Chris Grayling MP

Secretary of State for Transport

 

Dear Mr Grayling,

On behalf of the parishioners of Beckley and Stowood we wish to express our opposition to Route S2 in Corridor B for the proposed Oxford Cambridge 6-lane Expressway and additional 320,000 + houses, which accompany it.

This route which leaves the A34 south of Oxford, cuts through the Green Belt, somehow circumnavigates Shotover Hill with its Nature Reserve, SSI and Park with a Grade 1 listed building and cuts through more Green Belt land running very close to Sydlings Copse and College Pond, a SSSI and nature reserve and our villages of Forest Hill, Stanton St John, Elsfield and Beckley.  These villages are currently protected from being subsumed by Oxford City by the Green Belt.  The village of Beckley is a Conservation Area with a Grade I listed church and 24 additional listed buildings.  Route S2 would then pass very close to an important medieval triple-moated hunting lodge, Beckley Park, Grade I listed with a number of other listed buildings surrounding it and rare flora on nearby land.   Then the Route would cross Otmoor, a SSI and RSPB reserve with rare flora and fauna.  (Please see our detailed submission on the environmental impact on Otmoor and other important, sensitive sites [1] )  The route is very similar to a proposed route across Otmoor for the M40, which was rejected at Public Inquiry.

Our concerns-

  1. Lack of Consultation, Assessment and Local Democracy – Contrary to reports from NIC there has been no consultation at all with Parish Councils or the community in Oxfordshire on this project and no Strategic Environmental Assessment.  There has also been no public inquiry for this major development.  Furthermore, the NIC proposes the destruction of local democracy by concentrating all local planning decisions with the Oxfordshire Growth Board, rather than the current District Councils, to push these unpopular proposals through.
  2. No Local Buy-In - While there is serious congestion on A34 and M40/A34 junctions and a need to upgrade the roads between Oxford and Milton Keynes and Oxford and Swindon there is no local ‘buy in’ for a new 6-lane Expressway across Green Belt, SSIs, unique and internationally important habitats for fauna and flora, which would also destroy communities and have a serious detrimental effect on the health of our community. (Please see our detailed submission opposing Route S2 [2])
  3. Protection of the Green Belt – Sajid Javid, when Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government, pledged in the Housing White Paper in February 2017, to maintain protection of the Green Belt.    This is particularly important for the villages of Beckley, Elsfield, Forest Hill and Stanton St John on the outskirts of Oxford where we need ‘to preserve the setting and special character of our historic towns’ and ‘safeguard the countryside from encroachment’.
  4. Doubling the Housing in Oxfordshire - Possibly even more damaging than a new Expressway route is the 320,000 - 340,000 new houses in addition to the 100,000 new houses already agreed for Oxfordshire.  This would more than double the housing supply and would be equivalent to 6 new towns the size of Oxford.  This is unsustainable and unacceptable and is not grounded in reality.  The housing is more likely to attract London commuters than galvanise local people to start new enterprises locally.
  5. Blight – The Plan is to make a decision on one of three very broad corridors this July and then the route by 2020.  Construction will not begin until 2025.  We have seen with HS2 the terrible effect on house owners near the route of housing blight, where they cannot sell their homes and do not receive adequate, if any, compensation.
  6. Cost – The financial cost for constructing any of the ‘southern routes’ including Route S2 across Otmoor would be £400 million more than Route S1 [3], enhancing the A34 and junctions.  This does not include the considerable environmental costs, and costs to communities and individuals.

Beckley and Stowood Parish Council supports the choice of Corridor B to the west of Oxford, excluding the corridor to the east of Oxford, i.e. Route S1.   Route S1 widens and improves the A34, improves all junctions and could develop the A420 to at least a dual carriage to Swindon and open up this area. Please see our earlier detailed submission on this. [4]

This route is the most cost effective, has the least, worst environmental effects and affects the fewest number of people.  It will also open up communications with the industrial areas of Swindon and give an alternative route, particularly for goods to the southern A34 and access to development land.

Yours sincerely,

 

Sue Cox

Parish Clerk

On behalf of Beckley and Stowood Parish Council

 

References

  1. https://www.beckley-and-stowood-pc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Otmoor%20-%20The%20Environmental%20Impact%20of%20the%20S2%20Route%20-%20Submission%20to%20Highways%20England%20-%20Expressway%2010.4.18%20-%20final.pdf
  2. https://www.beckley-and-stowood-pc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Beckley%20and%20Stowood%20Case%20Against%20Route%20S2%20-%20Expressway%20Submission%2010.4.18.pdf
  3. NIC  /  Highways  England  Stage  3  Report  p  47) 
  4. https://www.beckley-and-stowood-pc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Submission%20from%20Beckley%20and%20Stowood%20to%20Highways%20England%20on%20Oxford%20Cambridge%20Expressway%20-%20final%2010.4.18.pdf