OxCam Arc Introduction
Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
“I very much welcome the government’s announcement of a 12-week public consultation on the future of the Ox-Cambs Arc Spatial Framework.
The Combined Authority Leaders and I urge residence to take this as an opportunity to tell the government what vision and priorities they have for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough so we can create a better place for all Arc residents from our market towns and cities, from the Fens, to Peterborough and Cambridge. We have an opportunity to shape a strategy focused on our vision of a green Arc, a skilled Arc and to create a world class place to live, work and learn.”
What is the OxCam Arc?
The Oxford-Cambridge Arc (the Arc) is a globally significant area that is formed of five ceremonial counties: Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire,
Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire. This forms an ‘Arc’, which provides a place to live for approximately 3.7 million residents and supports over 2
million jobs; adding over £110 billion in economic output every year it is home to one of the fastest growing economies in England.
It is a unique place, home to cutting-edge research, globally renowned science and technology clusters, and some of the most productive towns and cities in the country. It contains a vibrant natural environment, world-leading universities, and a rich cultural heritage.
The ambition for the Arc is to build a better economic, social and environmental
future for the cities, towns and rural communities across the area. With high-quality, well-connected and sustainable communities making the Arc an even more beautiful place to live, work and visit.
What is the Spatial Framework?
The Spatial Framework will be a long-term strategic plan for the area to 2050 and
beyond, which will set national planning policy and national transport policy. At a
strategic scale, it will coordinate and focus investment in the area and shape future local planning decisions on: how land is used; how the environment is protected and enhanced; where and what type of new development happens; and what infrastructure is provided.
It will guide local planning and investment decisions under four ‘pillars’: the
environment; the economy; connectivity and infrastructure; and place-making.
The Spatial Framework will provide us with an opportunity to plan for growth in a way that: brings benefits to existing communities by making the area a better place to live and work; leaves a long-term legacy by protecting and enhancing the Arc’s built and natural environment and beautiful places; and supports contributions to the national effort on combatting and building resilience to climate change.
What does a vision for the Spatial Framework mean?
For the Spatial Framework to work best, we think it is important that its content is informed and shaped by those who live, work and have an interest in the area.
The purpose of a vision is to bring the policy outcomes to life and illustrate the kind of place and future that together the policies are aiming to achieve. The vision will act as the core from which policies are developed and framed. Good visions are simple and easy to understand in a way that allows everyone to visualise the future of that place.
We think the vision for the Spatial Framework should be ambitious, aspirational, and be unique to the Arc and reflect its people, places and potential. We think it’s
important to also think big in terms of potential opportunities for transformation. The world will be a very different place by 2050, and we want to ensure that the vision for the Arc and the Spatial Framework helps make the area an even better place to live, work, travel in and enjoy for existing and future communities alike.
To help build on our ambitions and develop the vision we are asking for your views in our public consultation.
What stage of the process are you currently at? When will the Spatial Framework be ready?
The government recently launched a consultation paper, ‘Creating a vision for the
Oxford-Cambridge Arc’ which kicked off the first phase of consultation for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Spatial Framework.
This consultation is the first phase of formal public consultation taking place and will last for 12-weeks. We want everyone from the area to get involved to help shape a vision for the Spatial Framework. Two further phases of public consultation, over a two-year period, will follow:
- Towards a Spatial Framework: Using the vision as a foundation, the
government will develop options for delivering its objectives based on
engagement, initial evidence gathering and analysis. This is expected in
- Draft Spatial Framework: The government hope to publish the draft Spatial
Framework, and its Sustainability Appraisal Environmental Report, for
consultation in Autumn 2022, with implementation of the final framework
- It is also highly likely that in parallel to the Spatial Framework consultations, the government will hold other consultations on further proposals for the Arc.
Who is going to develop the Spatial Framework?
Working closely with local partners, including Local Authorities and Local
Enterprise Partnerships, the Spatial Framework will be developed by the
government across a number of departments, led by the Ministry of Housing,
Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
What are the key themes and the focus of the Spatial Framework?
The Spatial Framework will strategically guide planning decisions and investment
under four ‘pillars’: the environment; the economy; connectivity and
infrastructure; and place-making.
The Environment: We want to support growth in our communities in a way that is sustainable – including by protecting, enhancing and recovering the natural
environment, therefore sustainability will be at the heart of the Spatial Framework. The government will be undertaking a fully integrated Sustainability
Appraisal, which will incorporate a strategic environmental assessment and be
informed by other statutory assessments and regimes such as a habitats regulations assessment. Strategic opportunity areas will also be identified.
The Economy: A priority for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc is sustainable economic growth. We have an opportunity to create more jobs and improve the standard of living for local communities across the Arc, and to help the area to be one of the most productive in the world.
Connectivity and infrastructure: We want to see our communities better connected – including by making it easier and more sustainable to travel for work, education, and leisure, so that walking, cycling, and travel by rail and bus, can be the first choice for everyone in the Arc. It will also mean creating places that reduce the need to travel in the first place and improving communities’ access to the services they need.
Place-making: We have an opportunity for our communities to lead the way in
sustainable place-making and community living. The Spatial Framework can help
ensure new homes and places are great places to live by being more sustainable,
beautiful and green, and better served by the services and infrastructure they need. It will aim to make sure that developments in the Arc grow sustainably, and that they’re places communities will cherish for decades and centuries to come.
What status will the Spatial Framework have?
The Spatial Framework will not be a statutory development plan. Instead, the
government intend to implement the Framework as national planning and transport
policy, which will mean it will have legal weight in local statutory plan-making
and be capable of being a material consideration in planning decision-making –
as per the National Planning Policy Framework.
How can local residents and stakeholders have their say?
In February the government committed, with the support of local partners, to
conduct wide and meaningful engagement to give as many people as possible the
opportunity to influence how the Spatial Framework is designed. To achieve this, on the Spatial Framework there are three planned phases of public consultation over a two-year period.
The first opportunity for public consultation to shape the Spatial Framework has just been launched, with two further public consultations planned. A newly launched digital platform will provide anyone from the Arc, or interested in the Arc, with the opportunity to respond with their views on the approach to the vision.
Alongside the platform, the government, supported [by ourselves] and other local
partners, will be hosting a series of workshops for under-represented groups and
What is the government doing to reach X group?
[Re under-represented / seldom heard groups: respond about the digital
engagement platform] Reaching those who don’t usually respond to consultations of this sort is one of ours, and the governments, key ambitions for this consultation. To do so, alongside a social media campaign to drive awareness to those who may not usually engage with government consultations, the government has launched a brand-new digital engagement platform which has been designed to ensure residents can share their views on the Spatial Framework in an accessible, simple and quick manner.
[Re digitally excluded: respond about workshops]: To be receptive to the needs of
those who may be digitally excluded or who otherwise may not be able to respond
through the digital platform, alternatives to digital methods may include providing information in printed newspapers and newsletters, and copies of the Creating a Vision document and Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report being made available in local authority offices.
What will you do with the responses to the vision consultation? Will they be properly taken into account?
All comments received to this consultation will be properly considered, and will,
alongside other considerations, help to create the Spatial Framework’s vision for the
Arc to 2050.
The government will publish a summary of comments received and their response as part of this consultation, so you can see how your views helped to shape the vision.
What is the government doing to support affordable and social housing within the Arc?
The government’s policy paper ‘Planning for sustainable growth in the Oxford-
Cambridge Arc: an introduction to the Spatial Framework’, launched in February,
recognises that housing affordability in many of our areas is poor and that the Spatial Framework for the Arc will need to ensure housing needs are met in full, including the delivery of much -needed affordable housing.
The Spatial Framework will be evidence-based and go beyond the typical local
planning horizon by planning to 2050. It therefore presents the opportunity to set
future expectations for affordable housing, including social housing, that can be
delivered in a way that meets the needs of local residents.
Won’t more development and growth damage the Arc’s natural environment?
Sustainability is at the heart of the approach to the Oxford-Cambridge Arc –
including by protecting, enhancing and recovering our natural environment.
The Spatial Framework offers a unique opportunity to preserve and enhance our
green Arc and support nature recovery, improve air quality, reduce flood risk and
improve access to our much-loved nature and green space across the area.
We think there is an opportunity for our area to become a world-leader for
environmental sustainability over the coming decades. The natural environment does not fit within administrative boundaries, so a cross-boundary approach will
make it easier for us to join together to deliver against environmental priorities across the whole area.
The government has committed to support this, including by developing policy to
take a more integrated approach to the environment, and by setting policy to:
support retention of, and investment in habitats; improve access to nature and
accessible green space whilst ensuring nature conservation; set high standards for
new development; support an integrated water management approach; support
clean air outcomes enhance natural capital across the Arc.
How does this link to the government’s planning reforms?
Planning for the Future reform proposes significant changes to the focus and
processes of planning – to secure better outcomes including improving our precious
countryside and environment alongside increasing the supply of land for new,
beautiful homes and sustainable places. The Spatial Framework will be
prepared alongside wider planning reforms, and will support the transition to a
planning system fit for the future.
Will the Arc be building 1 million homes/number of homes specified in the NIC’s Local Housing Need consultation?
The development of the Spatial Framework is at a very early stage, it therefore does not currently include any policies or specific targets for 1 million homes or otherwise. In preparing the Spatial Framework the government has committed to going through a robust process of building its evidence base to understand the most sustainable approach to housing growth for the Arc. Whilst the National Infrastructure Commission recommended a one million homes target in their report ‘Partnering for Prosperity’, this was an advisory recommendation that will be kept under consideration as the evidence base develops.
If the government is committed to levelling up, why is it focusing on the Arc?
Inequalities within regions are even larger than those between regions. That is
true of areas within the Arc; Economic growth among many of our towns and cities
has been high, but ensuring adequate provision of high-quality affordable housing is
key to helping our communities thrive while protecting our residents against rising
costs and the threat of anyone being priced out.
We need an urgent intervention to improve long term outcomes and ensure
sustainable development across the wider area. Prosperity across the Arc is not felt
evenly, and inequalities between and within the Arc’s towns and cities are acute. As
growth happens, it is important that opportunities and outcomes across the region
are ‘levelled up’ to address the specific challenges the Arc faces.