Bev Hindle and Hilary Chipping on the Spatial Framework for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc

Date: 22 Apr 2021
Time: 18:30 to 20:00

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Oxford-Cambridge Arc to lead national recovery

The Government has set an aggressive timeline for the delivery of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. With the final spatial framework due to be published in 2023, the Arc is set to lead national recovery.

The framework will create a blueprint for the region and transform the area into a premier growth corridor and a world-leader in sustainability – with GVA expected to double by 2050 to over £200 billion.

Addressing business leaders for the first time since the launch of the Government’s policy paper in February, Bev Hindle, Executive Director of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Leadership Group, and SEMLEP Chief Executive, Hilary Chipping updated Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership (MKBLP) members last week.

Both called for greater business collaboration across the entire region, signalling the opportunities for growth across life science, aviation, green and connected mobility and innovation.

The policy paper, which sets out the approach and timeline for developing the aspirational spatial framework, was a positive step forward with Bev commenting: “I believe the elements of this vision is coming together, and the Government are repeating our ideas back to us. They agree with the underpinning principles of the Arc, which include sustainable and digital first, and believe the Arc will add real value.”

The spatial framework is also set to bridge the gap between national planning policy and local planning, a radical step in planning terms, signalling an acceptance by the Government of the benefits of cross-authority spatial planning.

While expected to deliver 1 million new homes and 1.1 million new jobs by 2050, Bev pointed out to the large group of Milton Keynes business leaders: “We need to move away from housing, while still fundamental, as we will be creating places to live and work, it’s much more about sustained economic growth.”

To ensure that this growth is on track, the Government is now establishing a ‘Growth Body’ for the Arc, which will be overseen by an independent chair and there is a call for local businesses to collaborate: “The Growth Body will incorporate a strong business voice, we are now moving away from the conversation, and making things happen.”

As a test bed for AI, Milton Keynes, and its surrounding areas including Cranfield and Millbrook, will play a fundamental role in driving innovation, which will unleash the full potential of the Arc becoming a global innovation powerhouse.

“We are building on the work which is already happening,” commented Hilary.

Historically, much of the life science work has been created within Oxford and Cambridge, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is testament to this, but the Arc will promote collaboration and spin off companies across the entire region. “We’re starting to see this happen already, there are huge opportunities for growth.”

Hillary went on to stress how the Arc is critical to future green and connected mobility solutions. Referencing the work being done at RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) and the growing need for businesses and local universities to get involved in championing low carbon engineering, the Arc is at the forefront of pioneering new technologies and testing. Cranfield, with its unique global research airport is spearheading developments in the future of flight and working towards Net Zero aviation.

“The entire area is already tackling climate change, and helping to solve major economic, environment and social challenges. We now need more businesses to get involved.”

The environment will play a major fundamental part with the ‘Green Arc’ way of thinking integrated into all strategies, to reach the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

“Although the policy paper has a very clear development angle, it includes explicit commitments to delivering positive environmental outcomes across the region, including biodiversity net gain, reducing flood risk and ensuring communities have greater access to green space.”