THE Government has not yet shelved plans for the Oxford-Cambridge (OxCam) Arc, with a recent report suggesting doing so could see the Arc miss out on £50 billion of growth.

The Arc, seen as the UK’s version of California’s Silicon Valley, could see improved connectivity with a new rail line between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.

It would possibly see track laid along a disused railway line between Bicester and Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire.

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A report by think tank Radical Capital states ditching the project could see the Arc miss out on £50 billion of growth.

Meanwhile, environment campaigners say the plans should be squashed.

Oxford Mail: Helen Marshall, director of CPRE Oxfordshire. Picture: Denis KennedyHelen Marshall, director of CPRE Oxfordshire. Picture: Denis Kennedy

Helen Marshall, director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said: “This year will be a critical year for Oxfordshire’s future and the protection of our countryside and rural character.

“CPRE Oxfordshire is concerned that local authorities will be tempted to incorporate the Arc’s theoretical growth targets into emerging Oxfordshire plans.

“There must be no Arc by stealth – a piecemeal plan to deliver the proposed Arc development and infrastructure while avoiding wholesale consultation and scrutiny.”

A CPRE Oxfordshire statement added that the environment charity would ‘like to see the Arc Spatial Framework buried’ with local authorities focusing on climate action, nature recovery and ‘truly affordable housing’.

Oxford Mail: The Oxford-Cambridge Arc mapped. Picture: OxCam ArcThe Oxford-Cambridge Arc mapped. Picture: OxCam Arc

Writing in the Cambridge Independent last month, South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne said: “I have given a very clear message to the Government that the Arc can’t be about concreting over swathes of the countryside with new homes.

“The Government has listened. I am glad the OxCam Arc appears nowhere in the Levelling Up White Paper, and is no longer a Government priority.”

When quizzed by this newspaper on suggestions the Arc has been shelved, a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “The OxCam Arc is a globally renowned hub of innovation, with businesses and universities that are leading the way in life sciences, space and green technologies.

“In October last year, the Government ran a public consultation gathering views to shape the vision for this unique area.

“We continue to work through next steps, and will provide more information in due course.”

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The Radical Capital report states ditching the project will see the Arc miss out on £50 billion of growth by 2030.

Co-authored by property consultancy Bidwells and policy advisory firm Blackstock Consulting, the report brings together a think tank of 60 academics, investors and developers to propose policy recommendations which will ‘help deliver a science and tech supercluster’.

University of Oxford professor of medicine, Sir John Bell, who worked on the AstraZeneca vaccine, wrote in the foreword to the report that investing in the Arc would ‘supercharge’ its potential.

Nick Pettit, senior partner at Bidwells, said: “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is the lifeblood of our life sciences industry and the home to world-leading innovation in sectors like advanced manufacturing, AI, robotics, and renewable energy that is internationally renowned.”

Andrew Teacher managing director at Blackstock Consulting, added: “Right now, Cambridge and Oxford are bursting at the seams and as a result, growth is going abroad rather than to other UK regions.

“Our thriving life sciences sector has been in the spotlight on the world stage for two years.”

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