Earlier this month, the Government took a few minutes off from the Brexit discussions and published a declaration agreed with local authorities regarding the Oxford/Cambridge “Growth Arc”.
This follows a project monitoring report, published by the government's infrastructure advisor the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) last week.
The report said: "It seems unlikely that a joint spatial vision will be produced by summer 2019 ... Without the spatial vision, local authorities do not have the clarity required to make plans capable of ensuring transformational development."
As you will know if you are a regular reader – the Oxfordshire Growth Board is currently consulting on the vision for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050. So they are preparing a vision for Oxfordshire without the larger “Growth Arc Vision” being in place.
The Joint Declaration states that the government will "work with local authorities to consider what planning approaches and flexibilities may be appropriate to better support planning and increased housing supply over the long-term".
It goes on to say that “We acknowledge that meeting this economic potential will demand our collective determination, over the long-term, to deliver significantly more homes in the Arc, of the right quality and in the right places to meet its needs. We recognise that this could include the development and expansion of existing, as well as new, settlements. This will be needed both to address the housing affordability issues already felt in many parts of the Arc, and to provide places to live for future communities attracted by the Arc’s economic opportunities.”
“We know that meeting our long-term economic and housing delivery ambitions for the Arc will require long-term commitments to provide the enabling infrastructure, in the widest sense, that communities and business will need. We support the delivery of transport links such as East West Rail and improvements to the strategically important roads network, and remain committed to involving local communities and businesses in helping to decide where and how infrastructure is built.
“We recognise the need to plan for and deliver substantial additional infrastructure ahead of the arrival of new communities, including necessary transport infrastructure, utilities, digital connectivity, health and education.”
The most important word is “ahead”.
Delivering substantial additional infrastructure ahead of the arrival of new communities would be a first and, if it happens, might make this growth strategy being imposed on us more bearable.