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Expressway - Ecology Report Submitted to Highways England

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Expressway – Ecology Report Submitted to Highways England

The Expressway Action Group has submitted an ecological appraisal to Highways England.

The area studied in the report is south of Oxford, following the route of the expressway southern corridor from Abingdon to Thame.

The objective was to locate key biodiversity features within the area and identify the ecological network of the area.

Professional ecologists undertook a field survey during February 2018. Additionally, data obtained from Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre was used as well as information freely available on the internet.

The study revealed multiple non-statutory conservation sites within the area. There were 9,739 records of protected and notable species.

See the ecology report here.


Expressway Timetable

The key dates set by Highways England for the expressway are:

Summer 2018 - Corridor decision

Autumn 2018 - Commence route option analysis

Autumn 2019 - Route options shortlist for public consultation

Autumn 2020 - Preferred route announcement

2025 - Commitment to construct

2030 - Road opened

Read the briefing note here.


Action Group Facebook Page

The Expressway Action Group's Facebook page is at

It is updated with regular information, news and photos.


Meeting with Highways England

The Expressway Action Group had their first meeting with Highways England in December at Ripon College in Cuddesdon.

Highways England and contractors Jacobs brought a full team of people to the meeting, led by Matt Stafford who is heading the Oxford to Cambridge project at Highways England. The meeting only lasted for two hours, which was not nearly enough time for all the issues and points to be raised, but it was a useful start. Highways England have undertaken to meet the group again in the new year to continue the process.

The EAG gave a presentation of the key concerns and the objections to any southern route for the expressway. Louise Bowe of the River Thame Conservation Trust gave a shortened presentation on examples of wildlife impact risks, using extensive data from over two years of wildlife surveys. Martin Harris of the Oxford Green Belt Network and Mike Tyce of the Campaign to Protect Rural England raised key objections to the southern routes on behalf of their organisations.

The EAG was very concerned about the timescale before the preferred route is decided. There would be no possibility for a proper environmental study within that time.

The EAG also emphasised their determination to press for a proper public inquiry into the selection of the corridor, with proper public scrutiny by an independent planning inspector.

Click here to see the EAG’s presentation to Highways England.

The EAG has been given stakeholder status in the ‘stakeholder engagement process’ to decide the route of the expressway. This followed pressure from the EAG to be included in the decision making process, and approaches to Highways England and the Department for Transport.


County Council Calls for a Public Inquiry

At a full meeting of Oxfordshire County Council in December, the Council voted in favour of a public inquiry into the Oxford Cambridge-Expressway. The motion called for Ian Hudspeth, leader of OCC, to write to the government requesting an inquiry. The motion was passed overwhelmingly, with 49 votes in favour and 5 against.

Councillor Lynda Atkins’ motion read:

"The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway has been the subject of much comment and concern within the County. The process which is proposed means that Highways England will select a route with no opportunity for members of the public or their representatives to comment on the assessment of need for the road or the local impact of any particular proposed route. This Council calls on the Leader of the Council to write to Highways England, the National Infrastructure Commission and the relevant government departments calling for a Public Enquiry into the need for the road and the selection of a route, so that everyone involved has the opportunity to have their views properly taken into account, and to set up a cross-party Committee to look at all aspects of the impact of the Expressway.”

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


Meeting at the Department for Transport

In December, Peter Rutt of the EAG had a meeting with the special adviser to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State at the Department for Transport. Peter pressed for an inquiry and tried to find out as much as possible about the government’s 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 involved in the process throughout.


View the NIC Report

 The NIC report can be viewed 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.


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 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 is in favour of a public consultation before the expressway’s route is decided.


Action Group Facebook Page

The Expressway Action Group's Facebook page is at

It is updated with regular information, news and photos.


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 ( Thursday, 01 March 2018 10:45 )