AN ‘expressway by stealth’ may result from road upgrades planned across southern Oxfordshire, a group of campaigners has warned.

Plans for the western section of a major new road between Oxford and Cambridge, dubbed the Expressway, were put on hold this year with the Government’s spring budget.

This followed months of speculation about the future of the new road, which would run from Oxford to Milton Keynes, after several political moves appeared to put the nail in the coffin of the proposed highway.

Now, a lobby group of planning and environmental experts called POETS (Planning Oxfordshire’s Environment and Transport Sustainably), has warned that a series of proposed roads linked to housebuilding at Chalgrove Airfield could fill the same role as the Expressway.

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Roger Williams, a member of POETS and a former chief transport planner for Oxfordshire County Council, said the roads, if built, would act as a southern bypass of Oxford.

The planned roads include bypasses at Abingdon, Clifton Hampden, Chislehampton/Stadhampton, conversion of the A415/A4074 (Golden Balls) junction to multi-level and “improvement” of the B4015 lane between Golden Balls and Chislehampton.

Oxford Mail:

The 'outer southern bypass' of Oxford. Picture: POETS

There are also plans for improvements to junctions of the M40 near Great Milton, as well as others near Bicester.

Apart from the Abingdon bypass, all of these road improvements are linked to huge new housing developments outlined in the South Oxfordshire Local Plan.

The plan is currently being considered in a series of public hearings by a government-appointed planning inspector.

READ AGAIN about what is in South Oxfordshire's Local Plan here

Mr Williams added: “It seems entirely possible that these proposals, taken together, could be adopted as the route for the paused Oxford to Cambridge Expressway – a motorway standard road which has aroused almost universal public opposition. This certainly seems to be in the minds of whoever added the improvement of M40 junctions at Bicester to the list of possible highway measures.”

Noel Newson, another member of POETS, said the proposals ‘flew in the face of both central and local government recognition of a climate emergency’.

Mr Newson added: “These proposals, if built, would serve to increase dependence on car travel at a time when all levels of government claim that they want the opposite, and undermine the credibility of any climate change strategy.”

However it does not appear there is a political appetite for reviving the Expressway.

England's Economic Heartland, a regional body which allows councillors from Swindon, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, and other nearby areas to discuss transport plans has recently published a draft of its future infrastructure plan.

This is mainly centred around walking, cycling, the East-West Rail Link and decarbonising freight.

There is no mention of a future of the Expressway in the draft plan.

The Expressway plan had proved unpopular among rural communities in Oxfordshire, as well as in other counties on the route, resulting in a campaign to oppose it.

Oxford Mail:

Several routes through Oxfordshire were proposed for the now paused Expressway. Picture: DfT

In December, transport secretary Grant Shapps said he would carry out a review of the road if the Tories were re-elected in the general election.

Then Oxfordshire County Council voted to oppose any route for the new road in January.

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South Oxfordshire District Council also took a similar stance last year to ‘oppose the Expressway project in all forms, including expansion of existing or new roads in the district to form part of it’.

As the government announced its budget in March, a document detailing future infrastructure plans for the UK said the Expressway scheme would be paused indefinitely.

A Department for Transport spokesman confirmed this was still the case currently.