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£1bn investment urged to ensure prosperity of one of the most economically important parts of the country

17 November 2017

Today, 17th November 2017, the National Infrastructure Commission published its final recommendations to Government on the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Arc.

Partnering for Prosperity: a new deal for the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Arc highlights opportunities to create well-designed, well-connected new communities, and deliver one million new homes and jobs in the area by 2050, adding an extra £160bn per year to the national economy.

The NIC emphasises that this area contains some of the UK’s most productive, successful and fast growing cities with a skilled workforce and cutting edge research facilities. To realise the full economic potential for this area though, currently contributing £90bn per year to the economy, it is vital to strengthen east west links. 

The report recommends that Government should deliver new transport infrastructure to unlock transformational development and provide mechanisms and resources to enable wider housing growth.

The transport investment will include £1bn to deliver:

  • the infrastructure necessary for a high quality and resilient rail commuter service between Bicester and Bedford, accelerating delivery of this section of East West Rail to a target date of 2023;
  • work on the development of the new East West Rail line between Bedford and Cambridge, and commit to open the line by 2030;
  • the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, accelerating development work to deliver a clearly-defined and agreed route by 2025, enabling construction to begin as part of the next Road Investment Strategy (RIS 2) and be complete by 2030.

This will be in return for local areas’ commitment to defining a long term vision for the arc, with a doubling of the rate of housebuilding to attract the talent and skills that businesses need to grow.

Dr Ann Limb CBE DL, Chair of SEMLEP said: “We welcome the Commission’s report that recognises the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge growth area as one of the most economically important parts of the country. As a £50bn, fast growing economy, SEMLEP has identified priorities to grow businesses, grow people and grow places to ensure that our economy remains highly productive, resilient and continues to stimulate innovation to deliver growth. Maximising the opportunities that will result from stronger East-West links is integral to helping us to achieve our vision of the South East Midlands as the commercial core of the Growth Corridor.”

“There are a number of challenges, which need to be overcome, to increase the rate of delivery of new homes, which include the need for additional infrastructure, particularly electricity capacity as well as road, rail, broadband and mobile phone connectivity.

“There is much to consider in the document and as a Local Enterprise Partnership we will be working with our local authority partners and our neighbouring LEPs to respond to the challenges and the opportunities that have been set for us by the NIC in this exciting Report.”

The report is welcomed from businesses across the area.

Pete Winkelman, Chairman of MK Dons/Stadium MK said:  “I am fortunate to live in the most successful new town in the UK, the direct result of forward planning and infrastructure investment, and I am excited that this nationally significant report recognises the pivotal role Milton Keynes can play in the future as we look to leverage our expertise in delivering new communities across the Oxford-Cambridge arc.

“The MK: Futures Commission, of which I was a Commissioner, identified improved transport infrastructure as absolutely key to achieve the step change needed in delivery and by implementing the recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission the full potential of Milton Keynes and the vibrant region in which it sits can be realised.

David Bell, CEO of SBD Automotive said: “As we continue to grow in automotive technology research worldwide, we are constantly looking to recruit more of the industry’s best engineers, as well as the next generation of talent that will help shape SBD Automotive in the future. The linking of these hubs of innovation, and the increased access to talent pools and universities, will likely create a globally acknowledged tech corridor that will act as a magnet for new investment and jobs.

Alex Burns, President of Millbrook said: “I am delighted that the NIC has recognised the strength of the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge arc. It is a vibrant high-technology cluster with a particular focus on developing the future of transportation. At Millbrook we are investing heavily in new test facilities for the development of low carbon, low emission, connected and autonomous vehicles. Our business growth is currently constrained by our ability to relocate talented individuals to the area and this new deal has the potential to solve housing and transport infrastructure issues. This could add significantly to the capacity of the area for economic growth.”

Comments from Councils in the South East Midlands include:

Councillor James Jamieson, Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council: “We have already delivered spectacular levels of economic growth in Central Bedfordshire. We are committed to realising the economic potential of our area and sustainable growth. We agree with the Commission’s views that development should not be to the detriment of existing communities and to ensure this we need investment in critical infrastructure up front.”

Leader of Milton Keynes Council Cllr Pete Marland said: “We welcome the National Infrastructure Commission’s view that Milton Keynes should once again become a project of national significance. We also strongly support the recommendation that to enable growth, local authorities require certainty on the timing and funding for infrastructure delivery.

“The Commission’s report matches our ambitions for the next stage of Milton Keynes expansion, as outlined by the MK Futures 2050 Commission, of inclusive growth, better access to affordable housing, a new technological university and the creation of thousands more highly skilled jobs.

“Milton Keynes now looks forward to working with Government and our neighbours on how we can meet the challenges of delivering significant extra growth across the corridor. The Commission’s report is a strong starting point for an open dialogue on how we can best achieve the requirement for growth while meeting the aspirations of local people.”

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