#NoExpressway Alliance newsletter no 11
A coalition of individuals and groups opposed to all suggested corridors and routes for an Expressway between Cambridge and Oxford formally launched on 14TH September 2018 in Botley, Oxford. Website: www.noexpresswayalliance.org
Our member groups continue to expand:
Member groups: Buckinghamshire Expressway Action Group, Bullingdon Community Association (Oxford), Cambridge Friends of the Earth, Charlton on Otmoor Parish Council, Charndon Parish Council, Cowley Area Transport Group, Cumnor Parish Council, Extinction Rebellion Oxford, Fossil Free Oxfordshire, Friends of Lye Valley, Friends of Raleigh Park, Greenpeace UK, No Expressway Group (formerly known as: Horton cum Studley Expressway Group), Horton cum Studley Parish Council, Kidlington Parish Council, Low Carbon Oxford North, Low Carbon West Oxford, Marsh Gibbon Action Group, Need Not Greed Coalition – (41 member groups), North Hinksey Parish Council, North Otmoor No Expressway Group, Oxford Bioregion Forum, Oxford Climate Lobby, Oxford Friends of the Earth, Oxford Green Belt Network, Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, Radley Parish Council, Reading Friends of the Earth, Rethink Oxfordshire’s Economic Growth Plan, Sandford on Thames Parish Council, South Oxfordshire Sustainability, Sunningwell Parish Council, Sunningwell Parishioners Against Damage to the Environment (SPADE)(13 associated groups via the North and West parishes Expressway Group), Wendlebury Parish Council, Weston on the Green Parish Council, Westway Community Concern, Yarnton Parish Council.
HAS YOUR GROUP JOINED AND FILLED IN A FORM YET? IF NOT, SEE HOW TO JOIN using the membership form attached with this newsletter
VACANCIES FOR VOLUNTEERS IN THE NO EXPRESSWAY ALLIANCE:
VOLUNTEER JOBS AT THE NO EXPRESSWAY ALLIANCE
The No Expressway Alliance needs volunteers to help with the following Committee tasks:
Secretary: to attend Committee and General meetings, take minutes and support the Committee by helping with other tasks periodically.
Communications Officer (Social Media): to contribute to the NEA’s work in social media such as Facebook/Twitter in cooperation with the other Communications Officer who deals with Press Releases/the NEA newsletter and general communications/queries, to attend Committee and General meetings.
Treasurer: to attend Committee meetings and General meetings, to set up and run a bank account for the Alliance, maintain accounts and update each Committee meeting of the Alliance on the state of our funds and future liabilities.
Policy and Research Volunteer: We need a volunteer who can do further research on the routes/impacts of prospective specific Expressway route options. There will be a consultation on this in the autumn but we would like a volunteer in place before that to commence this work, obtaining information from involved groups and website sources. To attend Committee and General meetings when possible.
For all posts: apply to Dr Hazel Dawe, Chair, No Expressway Alliance – firstname.lastname@example.org with relevant details. For an informal chat about what would be involved, ring Hazel on 079444 71083
Postal communications: 53 Bulan Road Oxford OX3 7HU – 07747 036192
NEXT NEWSLETTER DEADLINE: 31st August 2019 please send in your news. Thanks to all who contributed to this edition.
Online signatures at change.org at: 8305 on 30th July 2019
Hard copy signatures at 30th July 2019: 1338
Request a copy of the petition by email for printing and use in your area by emailing Steve Dawe at email@example.com And return filled in petitions to him at 53 Bulan Road, Oxford OX3 7HU
There is a new parliamentary petition you may wish to sign and share as well: 2873 signatures at 30th July 2019:
See also this petition exclusively on a Green Belt issue in the Oxford area:
This event will include speakers/stalls/exhibitions on the Expressway. Full programme with timings will be sent to all NEA contacts and may be shared widely, as soon as finalised.
OXFORD CITY PLAN DELAY ON HOUSING FIGURES
The Inspectors of the draft Oxford City Plan have referred the Plan back to Oxford City Council. They are questioning the Council’s estimates of housing need. Clearly, this has implications for ‘overspill’ housing being added to the local plans of neighbouring local authorities. More on this when we have it.
BICESTER NO EXPRESSWAY ALLIANCE PUBLIC MEETING
David Rogers gave a fine presentation to a public meeting in Bicester on 10th July.
MOVING TOWARDS THE AUTUMN CONSULTATION ON THE EXPRESSWAY
We are expecting a consultation on routes for the Expressway in September. However, it seems this may be wider than anticipated. Pam Roberts notes:
“I received the news today that 3 Oxfordshire CPRE members “…had a good meeting on Friday [12/7] at the DfT with officials from transport, the MHCLG and Highways England. I doubt we changed their positions very much, but they did confirm that the principle (not just the details) of the Expressway would be up for discussion in the autumn consultation.”
NO EXPRESSWAY MARSH GIBBON MEETING
Melissa Wright indicates that the recent public meeting in Marsh Gibbon on the Expressway had over 300 people in attendance.
NON DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS
Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire DC and the Vale of the White Horse DC all have non-disclosure agreements signed with Highways England. The latter two signed up to such agreements under their previous administrations, prior to May 2019. Buckinghamshire CC and Aylesbury Vale have declined to sign such an agreement. It remains to be seen if SODC and the Vale wish to revoke their consent to such agreements that are inherently against the public interest.
RADLEY PUBLIC MEETING ON THE EXPRESSWAY
ON 8/7, Dr Hazel Dawe, Chair of the No Expressway Alliance, spoke to a 170-180 strong meeting in Radley. Hazel’s presentation can be found here: The case against the Expressway – presentation by Hazel Dawe. The meeting was chaired by Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.
NORTH AND WEST PARISHES EXPRESSWAY GROUP FORMALISED – Colin Thomas
Following meetings originally arranged by North Hinksey Parish Council a new group of Parish Councils and associated groups has been created. The North and West Parishes Expressway Group (NAWPEG) represent a number of parishes located, unsurprisingly to the North and West of Oxford. They are all associated with potential “B1” or Western Route Corridor as described in the Highways England Corridor Assessment Report. The overall position of NAWPEG is that the proposed Expressway together with additional housing and infrastructure in the associated Growth Arc could potentially do great damage to the environment and communities along its length, and that it has not currently been justified as either a strategic solution to major transport issues, or on a financial benefits vs. costs basis. Many of the individual parishes and organisations are individual members of the No Expressway Alliance.
Ø The strategic aims of NAWPEG are:
- To improve public awareness of the issue by providing accurate, detailed information about the Expressway and its associated Growth Arc to Parish Councils within potentially impacted areas, their parishioners, and the wider public.
- To encourage and facilitate members of the public to engage with and respond to future public consultations (e.g. the first route consultation programmed for Autumn 2019).
- To highlight the many significant environmental issues arising from this project.
- To question the business case for the Expressway and Growth Arc and also require justification of the project as a strategic transport solution.
- To become recognised as a formal stakeholder by Highways England, the Department for Transport, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and relevant local bodies (e.g. the Oxfordshire Growth Board / County and District Councils), and thereby to gain a seat at the table, allowing for full participation in subsequent consultations, and ensuring that all relevant factors are taken into account in the decision making process.
To contact NAWPEG please email:-
Chair – David Kay – CllrDavidKay@hotmail.com
Vice Chair – Colin Thomas – firstname.lastname@example.org
BRILL MEETING ON THE EXPRESSWAY – Pam Roberts
The Brill meeting, as at Oxford and Wendlebury, was unanimous against the Expressway and development arc.
The County Leader and District Cllrs from Bucks were there and Barry Wood Leader of CDC and the Arc Leader’s Group.
Barry Wood did his usual dreadful vague waffle and chose to major early in his speech that a primary aim of the project was to protect and indeed enhance the environment and get biosdiversity gain! People laughed out loud at that! He went on to say that they would make sure there was net biodiversity gain! What?!!!
I got more and more furious with the stupidity of the whole thing and spoke towards the end of the Q and A. I said that 2 facts hadn’t so far been mentioned in the meeting i.e. there is a climate emergency and there is massive biodiversity loss. I said that at Bicester where they were only just at the beginning of building out the Local Plan developments, that there was no sign of biodiversity gain and cited the loss of skylarks from Kingsmere, the loss of a proposed wildlife site at Skimmingdish Lane, and that Gavray Meadows Local Wildlife Site would have been lost, except we had managed to save it (so far).
I explained about the fallacy of getting biodiversity ‘net gain’ given the ability of the developers to fudge the calculations of net gain and that you couldn’t just switch habitats or create wild flower meadows from fertilised farmland as that actually takes 20 years or so to do. I said that the construction of the Ox-Cam arc would contribute massively to the UK carbon emissions.
Barry Wood then answered that they, “couldn’t necessarily guarantee there would be a biodiversity gain” and waffled on about improving the environment at Cherwell. So I stood up and interrupted him and said that CDC had just voted against putting solar panels on a warehouse roof at Banbury 15.
David Rogers did his usual brilliant talk showing Highways England’s plans for either thousands of jobs at Wendlebury and ‘south of Bicester’ if the arc goes west of Oxford, or massive job numbers somewhere ‘East of Oakley’ if the arc goes that side of Oxford…
There was a lot of anger that the Cllrs were not representing the public’s views to Highways England but putting forward their own. Anger that we had not been consulted but will be informed of the route.
2 interesting bits of info: Cllrs from Buckinghamshire has refused to sign a confidentiality clause with HE (I bet Barry Wood has signed one). Also Buckinghamshire have refused the Governments growth deal as they didn’t want to be tied down to more massive growth. Again, Oxfordshire have lapped up the Gov growth deal money!
Best Wishes, Pam
Save Gavray Meadows Campaign, Vice Chair Cherwell CPRE
OXFORDSHIRE 2050 – RESPONSE TO COMMENTS:
This response – showing many criticisms of the approach in the original consultation – is important as it can be used to demonstrate public hostility to growth plans in Oxfordshire
ROBERT JENRICK, NEW SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HOUSING AND COMMUNITIES And>>>>>>>>:
“Since January 2018, Mr Jenrick held a
junior ministerial role at the Treasury. His responsibilities included
overseeing plans for growth in the ‘Oxford–Cambridge Arc’, which
includes large new transport infrastructure and the building of
thousands of new homes. This has attracted opposition from the
Campaign to Protect Rural England.”
THE A34 AND ITS FUTURE – Colin Thomas
This information relates to news reports released in early July ’19 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-49070054) that announcements on the safety improvements for the A34 were imminent. See also https://www.noexpressway.org/news-updates/2019/7/23/news-bbc-south-today-july-22nd-2019 (play the video**). Whilst the official announcements from Highways England are still awaited, partial written information has been released via Richard Benyon’s (MP for Newbury) Facebook page (19th July 2019). See http://richardbenyon.com/richard-benyon-welcomes-the-announcement-of-safety-improvements-for-the-a34/?fbclid=IwAR3cHnc6K31jWFjWwLSQxk-bN4_7p510eJ3s0RfKOMCxczDLfWbt2srgl_s it follows the announcement in 2017 that Highways England were conducting a safety review of the A34. See – http://a34actiongroup.weebly.com/uploads/3/1/6/8/31683483/a34_safety_review_-_project_summary_.pdf
This states:- “Richard Benyon has welcomed the announcement from the Department for Transport that proposed safety improvements will now go ahead on the A34. Highways England will be putting in place many of the recommendations from its Safety Review with construction due to start in September 2019. The proposals in his constituency include:
- works to lay-bys north of the Chieveley M4 junction
- improvements to the East Ilsley junction
- signage improvements at Gore Hil
- enhanced road markings and LED studs at Chilton
further lay-by closures around Harwell
(Further proposals (not specified on Richard Benyon’s Facebook page) cover the area from Didcot to the M40).
This is part of a wider package covering improvements as part of the A34 Oxford Enhancements Scheme. In welcoming these initiatives, Richard Benyon said:
“This is really good news. I have worked hard with Ed Vaizey and other MPs who represent constituencies on the A34, together with West Berkshire Council, Oxford County Council, the LEPs, Thames Valley Police, the A34 Action Group and other local residents and businesses. I do share the frustration that this has been a long time coming, since the fatal accident in 2016 and there have been a number of other serious incidents since. But now the Government has agreed to invest millions in the road we can at last move forward.”
2 further pieces of information are currently available:-
- A letter to Ed Vaizey (MP for Didcot and Wantage) see – http://richardbenyon.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/190717-Michael-Ellis-Ed-Vaizey-MP-A34-improvements.pdf Notably, the letter claims that “…construction to start on 1st September 2019. Pre-works for the scheme are due to commence in early August 2019. The work will take an estimated 12 months to complete. The proposed safety improvements will include improved junction layouts, speed limit changes, improved signing, the installation of technology and the closure of a number of laybys…” and
- A high level plan showing the various safety improvements which are envisaged by Highways England. See – http://richardbenyon.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Annex-A-Master-Location-Plan-A34-Safety-Improvements.pdf
Several potential options proposed in the 2017 report (e.g. the installation of Digital Enforcement Camera System (DECS in North Hinksey) commonly referred to as average speed cameras) have not been chosen which is very disappointing. Our overall assessment is that Highways England have chosen not to progress the more expensive options despite these being potentially essential to improve safety. The proposals, with one exception, all are focussed on the northbound carriageway. Both these aspects are extremely disappointing. People promoting public transport will be concerned regarding the proposed removal of bus stops at South Hinksey Village and 2 further stops adjacent to Westminster Way in North Hinksey / Botley. Those concerned over the proposal for a Lorry Park at Lodge Hill (in the Green Belt) may have concerns over the proposals to close 6 lay-bys where potentially some of them could be upgraded to current safety standards or where the extension of the 50mph speed limit would allow existing lay-bys to comply with current safety standards.
N.B Proposal #17 Install Speed Limit VAS with ANPR means a Vehicle Activated Sign with Automatic Number Plate Recognition functionality – i.e. a sign that will display the number plate of an individual speeding car. We understand that this system is not currently used for speed enforcement under the fixed penalty ticket process (regrettably). SPADE’s position is that fixed average speed cameras may be the best way to enforce speed restrictions, enhance safety and would reduce air and noise pollution.
** Note that in the video, Richard Benyon says that he expects more (improvements) because if they build an expressway it will bring more traffic and the A34 will have to be upgraded… so much for the Expressway relieving traffic on the A34!
We now await the publication of the A34 Enhancement Programme Level Value Management Summary Matrix and the A34 Road Safety Review Report for more information. We understand that publication is imminent.
Colin Thomas, SPADE, Sunningwell Parishioner’s Against Damage to the Environment.
THE ENVIRONMENT LOSES OUT IN EXPRESSWAY JUDICIAL REVIEW
A High Court decision against Berks Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) means the government can press ahead with its plans for a new Expressway between Oxford and Cambridge without looking at the potentially devastating impact their corridor selection may have on the environment and wildlife. The ability of the government to get away with delivering a plan of this size without strategic environmental assessments and proper consultation, shows our planning system is broken.
BBOWT is taking advice on appealing the decision and making a reference on a key point of environmental law to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
BBOWT challenged the government for its failure to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) – requirements under European law – before it chose a preferred corridor for the Expressway. This failure excluded key stakeholders, including expert ecologists, from the decision-making process, and the government chose the corridor that evidence shows to be the worst option for wildlife.
Our legal challenge has taken place against the backdrop of work beginning on the High Speed 2 railway. There were no environmental assessments for this project either, and the clearance of sites prior to construction work has resulted in destruction of wildlife habitats. We raised our concerns about HS2 from the beginning, and are dealing with the consequences of the government’s failure right now at our Calvert Jubilee site.
Matthew Stanton, Head of Policy, at Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, said: ‘This could spell disaster for the environment. It seems no lessons have been learned from HS2. The government is riding roughshod over environmental law. National planning policy requires a net gain for biodiversity, which demands vision from developers and those who approve planning applications. The Expressway is a 20th century solution to a 21st century challenge. We do not need more congested roads and air pollution – especially as we face the urgent task of reducing the nation’s carbon footprint. The Welsh Government understood this and rejected the proposed M4 relief road which would have destroyed the Gwent Levels.’
Carol Day, Solicitor at Leigh Day, the firm that represented BBOWT in the legal challenge, said: ‘The court’s judgment will be a disappointment to many who believe that proper assessment of the environmental impact of large infrastructure projects should be assessed from an appropriately early stage – at a point where alternative options are genuinely still on the table.
‘It is unfortunate that decision-makers have ignored the concerns of specialist wildlife organisations and local people and pressed ahead without such strategic assessment, particularly for a scheme described as a project of a magnitude not undertaken in the UK for some 30 to 40 years. We will be carefully reviewing the judgment with our client, who is considering whether to appeal the decision.’
BBOWT will continue to scrutinise the government’s plans for the Expressway, including the scope and content of any future public consultations. We need to ensure that the potential impact of this concrete corridor on the environment and wildlife is fully assessed and the public are made aware. We will engage with planners and developers and use our expertise and local knowledge to provide evidence about how the expressway plans will impact on local wildlife.
The Expressway is only one part of the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc being promoted by the government. As well as a new concrete corridor, this will include up to one million new homes, industrial estates, railways and utilities infrastructure. We demand that the government carries out an SEA on its Growth Arc vision. The idea that the environment can be ignored in such a huge project is reprehensible.
We thank all the people who have supported us in this legal challenge – BBOWT members and supporters, donors to our campaign, other concerned organisations including those who provided statements to back our case, and local councils.
Notes to editors
- In November 2018, BBOWT issued a claim in the High Court, challenging the government. In January 2019 we were refused permission for a judicial review, but that decision was then overturned in the High Court in February. The judicial review hearing was on 19 and 20 June and written judgement was received from the High Court today.
- BBOWT has denied HS2 contractors access to Calvert Jubilee nature reserve to carry out clearance works until they produce a scheme of works and mitigation that addresses our concerns and respects the needs of wildlife. Their works to create new habitat to compensate for habitat that will be lost as a result of HS2 should take place well in advance of any clearance works. The risk is that habitat is destroyed, HS2 is scrapped, no new habitat is created and we will have lost precious habitat and species for nothing. BBOWT strongly opposes HS2’s plans as they currently stand.
- The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is one of 46 Wildlife Trusts across the UK working to achieve the shared aim of securing a better future for wildlife. BBOWT’s vision is to create a region rich in wildlife and appreciated by all. BBOWT manages 87 nature reserves across the three counties, works with other agencies and individuals to help safeguard the wider countryside, and aims to inspire people to take action for wildlife. BBOWT has over 25,000 memberships. Find out more at www.bbowt.org.uk
- The Wildlife Trusts is a partnership of 46 local Wildlife Trusts across the UK, plus the Isle of Man and Alderney. The vision is ‘an environment richer in wildlife for everyone’ and it is the largest UK charity dedicated to conserving all our habitats and species, with a membership of more than 850,000 people including 135,000 junior members. The Wildlife Trusts campaign for the protection of wildlife and invest in the future by helping people of all ages to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of wildlife. Collectively, the Trusts also manage more than 2,300 nature reserves spanning over 102,000 hectares. For further information please visit www.wildlifetrusts.org.
WHY DID THE ATTEMPTED JUDICIAL REVIEW FAIL: AN ANALYSIS
THE EXPRESSWAY IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS
These questions follow from conversations between Hazel Dawe as Chair of the NEA and Baroness Deech, crossbencher, House of Lords at the Radley public meeting reported earlier in this newsletter:
Answers to questions Baroness Deech raised in the Lords answered by Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Department for Transport June 2019.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the combined impact of (1) the planned Oxford to Cambridge expressway, and (2) their ambition to build up to one million homes along the Oxford–Cambridge Arc, on the UK’s 2050 target to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels; and whether this assessment is based on (a) electric, (b) petrol, or (c) diesel vehicles using the route. (HL16088) Tabled on: 05 June 2019
Baroness Vere of Norbiton:
Highways England is in the process of identifying potential routes within the preferred corridor for the Oxford to Cambridge expressway for a non-statutory public consultation in the autumn. This work will include an assessment of environmental impacts, including carbon emissions using the Defra forecasts for emission rates.
Conserving and enhancing the natural environment is at the heart of the growth ambitions for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Any housing development in the Arc will be subject to assessments as appropriate in line with legal requirements.
Date and time of answer: 18 Jun 2019 at 14:08.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out for the planned Oxford to Cambridge expressway; and if so, what were the results of that analysis. (HL16089) Tabled on: 05 June 2019
Baroness Vere of Norbiton:
The Government published a strategic outline business case for the construction of the ‘missing link’ between Oxford and Milton Keynes in September 2018 (available on the Department for Transport website). This showed a benefit cost ratio of 1.2 or 1.3 for the preferred corridor B.
Highways England is in the process of identifying potential routes within the preferred corridor which will enable a more thorough assessment of benefits and costs.
Date and time of answer: 18 Jun 2019 at 14:07.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the planned Oxford to Cambridge expressway on air quality affecting schools close to the proposed route options. (HL16090) Tabled on: 05 June 2019
Baroness Vere of Norbiton:
Highways England is in the process of identifying potential routes within the preferred corridor for the Oxford to Cambridge expressway for a non-statutory public consultation in the autumn. This work will include an assessment of air quality impacts.
Date and time of answer: 18 Jun 2019 at 13:30.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when a Strategic Environmental Assessment will be undertaken in relation to the choice of a preferred corridor of land for the construction of the planned Oxford to Cambridge expressway. (HL16188) Tabled on: 10 June 2019
Baroness Vere of Norbiton:
The preferred route for the Oxford to Cambridge expressway, anticipated to be announced in autumn 2020, will be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment. A Strategic Environmental Assessment will not be required.
Date and time of answer: 20 Jun 2019 at 15:32.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when a Habitats Regulation Assessment will be undertaken in respect of the ancient woodland, wildlife and conservation areas which will be affected by the planned Oxford to Cambridge expressway. (HL16189) Tabled on: 10 June 2019
Baroness Vere of Norbiton:
A Habitats Regulations Assessment will be completed if a preferred route has the potential to cause a significant effect on habitats specified in legislation.
Date and time of answer: 20 Jun 2019 at 15:25.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they plan to carry out an assessment of the effect of the proposed Oxford to Cambridge expressway on flood risks and watercourses. (HL16190) Tabled on: 10 June 2019
Baroness Vere of Norbiton:
Highways England is in the process of identifying potential routes within the preferred corridor for the Oxford to Cambridge expressway for a non-statutory public consultation in the autumn. This work will include an assessment of environmental impacts, including flood risks and watercourses.
Date and time of answer: 20 Jun 2019 at 14:59.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effect of the one million extra homes planned for the Oxford to Cambridge Arc on traffic in that area; and whether they will recalculate any estimates of faster journey time that would result from the Oxford to Cambridge expressway as a result of any such increased traffic. (HL16191) Tabled on: 10 June 2019
Baroness Vere of Norbiton:
The Expressway traffic model estimates the predicted traffic demand and volume up to 2045. It takes into account planned development based on planning applications and permissions, and allocated development in Local Plans. Traffic speeds and journey times are calculated accordingly. The impact of any new housing developments in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc on the transport network will be considered as part of the appropriate planning process.
Date and time of answer: 20 Jun 2019 at 15:31.