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Expressway – EAG to be Consulted by Highways England

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Expressway – EAG to be Consulted by Highways England

Highways England have agreed that the Expressway Action Group will be given stakeholder status in the forthcoming ‘stakeholder engagement process’ to decide the route of the expressway.

This follows pressure from the EAG to be included in the decision making process, and approaches to Highways England, the Department for Transport and Jacobs (the contractors for Highways England). Concerns from all the local communities and members will now be heard early on in the process. The EAG is eager to have a meeting with Highways England in December, and will be pressing for a proper Public Inquiry into the choice of routes and the impact each route will have on our communities in Oxfordshire.

There is little doubt that all the letters written to the decision makers have had a big impact.

 

NIC Report Published

 The NIC report has been published and you can view it here.

The report does not give a view on the preferred routing of the expressway round Oxford, but it implicitly says that it favours the north western route.

It emphasises that close co-ordination between the expressway and east-west rail routes is extremely important in order to maximise growth potential and promote transfer of traffic between road and rail, and minimise congestion. The  Bicester to Bletchley axis is regarded as being of prime importance for growth: they talk about it providing the opportunity for 'the first New Town in a generation’. Also, better transport links to Northampton are regarded as important. A southern expressway route from Oxford to Aylesbury would not satisfy any of these key aims.

The report anticipates house building in Oxfordshire of 320,000 more homes by 2050 (currently there are 270,000 houses in the county) and a population increase of 520,000 (the population is currently 500,000).

Part of the evidence base behind the NIC report came from 5th Studio and you can see their report here.

 

Meeting Held with the Department for Transport

During November, Peter Rutt had a meeting with the special adviser to Chris Grayling, the Transport Minister, to press for an Inquiry and to find out as much as possible on their current thinking. The special adviser said that the Department for Transport is determined to consult properly on the Expressway, and to make sure that stakeholders are in the process throughout.

A meeting is also being sought at the Treasury to see what their views are and to make the EAG’s case.

 

Liz Truss MP agrees There should be Public Consultation

Liz Truss, Minister of State at the Treasury, has said that the Expressway project is a nationally significant infrastructure project and so it needs to be examined by an independent Planning Inspector. See her letter here.

 

Councillor Confirms that OCC do not have a Preferred Route

OCC Councillor Steve Harrod has written to confirm that the County Council has not decided on their preferred route for the expressway. See his letter here.

 

Some Radio Links

Lord Adonis, (Chairman of the NIC) and Trudi Elliot (Chief Executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute) appeared on the Today programme when the NIC report was published, and you can hear them here, at 1 hour 50 minutes.

Peter Rutt has been on Radio Oxford talking about the NIC report and you can hear him here six minutes into the programme.

John Cotton, head of SODC, was also on the programme at 1 hour 9 minutes. He gave qualified support to the idea that the route should go to the north-west of Oxford by improving the A34.

 

 John Howell MP Opposes Southern Route

John Howell has written a positive letter to the Expressway Action Group about the routing of the expressway.

In the letter he says:

I appreciate the concerns that the proposals are raising and indeed share some of them. However there is also much speculation at present. 
 
I have had discussion with the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that he is aware of the local issues and have also put these concerns in writing to him. I have also discussed the matter with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government due to the potential issues of housing to be built along the route. 
 
I am of the firm opinion that the route should utilise existing roads wherever possible rather than carve a new path through Green Belt land to the south of Oxford. Given that there are alternatives I believe that it is inappropriate and unnecessary to use Green Belt land for this. Further, with the requirement for housing to help fund the new road there is even greater reason to avoid a route through the Green Belt. 
 
I have also raised concerns about the transparency of the work on this project. A project of this magnitude should have ready access to as much information as possible in the public domain. I accept that some competitive data needs to remain private but feel that the lack of information is adding to speculation. I have asked the Secretary of State to intervene so that as much information as possible can be immediately put into the public domain with explanation as to what is being held back and why. I have also asked him to ensure that there is full public consultation before a route is decided and not just on the preferred option.
 
With thanks again for raising your concerns on this project with me.

John

 

John Howell has also written to Chris Grayling, the Minister for Transport, recommending that the expressway should be built by upgrading existing roads, such as the A34, rather than by building new roads through the green belt. Read his letter here.

John Howell also argues for a public consultation before the expressway’s route is decided.

 


Route Decided by July 2018

Peter Rutt attended the Highways England meeting in October where it was stated that the decision on choice of corridor, including routing round Oxford, will be made by July 2018 without public consultation or a public enquiry. Highways England will sift and weigh the evidence to reach their conclusion on the route in July 2018.

There will only be closed meetings with business leaders, local councils, landowners and environmental organisations. The Expressway Action Group is trying to get invited to one of these meetings as stakeholders on behalf of all the local communities.

After the route is decided, there will be public consultation on the detailed alignments within the chosen corridor, concluding with a public inquiry in Autumn 2019. The detailed route will be announced in Autumn 2020. It appears that there will be no opportunity to revisit the rejected routes during this part of the process.

So the only opportunity to influence the choice of basic route is up to February 2018.

Jacobs Consultancy Team who will be doing the work to decide the best route.

 


Facebook Page Launched

The Expressway Action Group has launched a Facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/expresswayactiongroup/


Even if you are not a Facebook user you can take a look but you will not be able to post or share material on the site.
 
It would be great if you could encourage your village residents, friends, family and other people who might support the campaign to help us spread the word by taking a look and ‘liking’ the page and also sharing the link with friends and family, colleagues and other potential supporters. The aim is to keep it updated with regular information, news and photos.  Please ask people to reference the page perhaps in their parish newsletter, and to share any posts they like as the more we can let people know about the issues the better.  Please also consider adding a link to your village Facebook or websites, and any supporting organisations you link to, like wildlife trusts etc.   We are also keen for people to post photos of our lovely countryside that would be affected by the southern routes.

 

EAG Membership

There are now more than 23 villages within the Expressway Action Group, and more are joining, particularly since the publicity gained from being on the front page of the Oxford Times.

 

Vale of White Horse District Council View

At a meeting, the Vale of White Horse District Council discussed the Expressway and,  unsurprisingly, decided they prefer a southern route over one through their patch, though they would expect to be consulted if a northern route was chosen. This is almost an exact mirror image of SODC’s position, who prefer a Northern route but would expect to be consulted if a southern route was chosen.

  

Press Release Hits the Front Page

 The Expressway Action Group issued a press release, which formed the basis of the front page story in the Oxford Times on 26th October.

 The paper's editorial agreed that residents should be included in the planning process and there were also some letters opposing the southern routing of the expressway.

Read the press release here.

 The two maps mentioned in the press release are here and here.

 

Some Other Links

There is an NIC document including a map showing possible routings for the expressway. You can see the document here, with the map on page 9. The southern routes include the one near us as well as one joining with the A34 south of Abingdon.

 The government's Expressway Study Report can be seen here, with a map indicating possible routes on page 39.

 County councillors have had a briefing on the expressway options and a copy of the notes on the briefing can be seen here.

The Parish Council has commented on the District Council's Local Plan with regard to the expressway and you can read their comments here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 04 December 2017 15:47 )