On 13th March 2017 the National Infrastructure Commission opened a consultation into the opportunities presented by the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Corridor, asking for responses from the industry on how we might capitalise on this opportunity area.
We have collated a response to this consultation, as this is a strategically vital opportunity for the UK to deliver transformational growth, which links infrastructure and economic growth, to ensure investment is delivered and managed into the future, outside of our political cycles. The Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford Corridor is already a net contributor to the UK economy, but with few national constraints such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, etc. Previous attempts to plan this corridor have failed due to the area crossing the fringes of a number of regional development agency areas, and subsequently has never been a key focus for any one authority/body.
Some of the key challenges we have identified within the region, that strategic integration could tackle, include a lack of integration across labour markets, brain drain to London and subsequent skills shortages. Much of this is a result of poor connectivity and challenging affordability, but there also remain pockets of deprivation which would also need to be tackled in any strategic approach. Our response shows how by simply mapping some of these challenges we can begin to build up a greater spatial understanding of the corridor and its opportunities and challenges.
The submission sets out how a co-ordinated, long term (50 year) but realistic plan could deliver a solution to these challenges while also enabling the region to contribute high and sustained GVA benefits to the UK. To deliver this transformational change we believe that:
- Authentic involvement is essential to secure a bottom up process, driven by all parties being actively involved in analysing scenarios, planning, generating visions and monitoring outcomes.
- All local plans in the region must take account of and connect with/support the wider strategic plan.
- The plan must be supported through a series of evidence, scenario analysis and appraisals that inform the level of growth to be planned and its distribution. Developing this evidence base will enable understanding and confidence, while also in turn generating open source data that can support wider coordination of planning.
- The plan must identify broad locations as well as specific sites for growth, alongside an investment phasing and delivery strategy
- Accountable implementation and governance arrangements must be secured via independent leadership, accountable to Central Government.
Making this proposal work within localism is challenging but within our response we set out how this could work, through a structure of Strategic Planning Board, Sub-regional boards and a Strategic Delivery Board. Fundamentally however the Government needs to ensure that whatever approach is taken to strategic planning the corridor that it can survive political cycles. Whilst empowering a bottom up joint approach, Government must be heavily involved to bring their expertise but also their role as broker when inevitably situations become challenging and key decisions need to be made.
Download our full submission here.
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Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Infrastructure, NIC