Oxford-Cambridge Expressway: Timing of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Dear Ms Foxcroft,

Thank you for your email dated 22 May 2018.  It has been passed to Highways England from Martin Tugwell from the England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) at this stage of the corridor selection is premature. This early stage of the process does not give rise to a SEA obligation.

The decision at this time is between corridor options which are simply a decision on which corridor to pursue. This indicates that the SEA would not be considered this early in the process because at this time we are not seeking consent.  We are currently appraising the environmental constraints for all corridors which is far more sensible and cost efficient at this time.

We are at a very early stage of development of this project.  During the next stage, commencing in Autumn next year, Highways England will conduct a full consultation on a number of route options in order to make a recommendation to the secretary of state of a preferred route.

The earlier stage of this options process does not give rise to a SEA obligation.  A decision between options is simply a decision on which option to pursue and cannot attract an SEA obligation for the Expressway alone, as it does not set the framework for future decisions as to whether or not to grant development consent. A choice between options ultimately requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which Highways England expect will be required. Given the scale of investment required across the region, the requirement for a SEA will be considered by government as part of the emerging government strategy.

The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway is in the process of setting up a project specific webpage giving information about the scheme, including a timetable of activities and how to sign up for the alerts to receive the latest updates.  This will be live very soon. 

We hope this information is helpful.  If you have any questions or would like more information on the scheme we would be pleased to hear from you.  We can be contacted via OxfordToCambridgeExpressway@highwaysengland.co.uk

Kind regards

Oxford To Cambridge Expressway Team

National Infrastructure Programme

Highways England  | Woodlands | Manton Lane | Bedford | MK41 7LW

Web: http://www.highways.gov.uk

Oxford-Cambridge Expressway: Response from Victoria Prentis, MP

Dear Sarah,

Many thanks for getting in touch about the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. While I am conscious that Horton-cum-Studley Parish Council isn't in my constituency (as you point out), I have had a number of constituents contact me about the possible impact on Otmoor.

I have been following the project's progress closely given the implications for our area. I met the Secretary of State towards the end of last year to discuss plans, and a couple of days later the National Infrastructure Commission published its "Partnering for Prosperity" report which included a number of recommendations. Specifically on the Expressway, the NIC has suggested "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." My understanding is that the preferred route of the three options will be announced in the summer.

Of course, projects of this size require considerable planning, feasibility assessments and modelling. I am old enough to remember the upheaval caused by the construction of the M40 and have been consistent in my opposition of HS2, not least because of the huge cost. We shouldn't commit to transport projects unless there is a strong business case in support. As the NIC's report makes clear, there does seem to be considerable growth potential for the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge arc; infrastructure and interconnectedness are important in realising that potential.

I appreciate concerns about the level of public involvement so far and the proposed route options. Highways England are coming to Westminster next week so I will raise this with them then. Needless to say, I will also continue to follow developments closely. It isn't clear to me whether you have taken this up with John Howell as your local MP. If you haven't, I would strongly encourage you to do so. 

Best wishes,


 Victoria Prentis MP
Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA | 020 7219 8756
Heyford Park House, Upper Heyford, Bicester, OX25 5HD | 01869 233 685

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Oxford-Cambridge Expressway: BBOWT Response

Please click on the image below to visit the Bucks, Berks and Oxon Wildlife Trust and see their report recommending that Expressway Corridor B is discounted, and requesting an environmental impact assessment and public enquiry

Please write to Chris Grayling at the DTA, Michael Gove at DEFRA, expressing your concerns re the Expressway.

Oxford-Cambridge Expressway: OCC Otmoor Division response (Dan Sames)

Dear Messrs Corbett, Stafford and Sporn,

I’m responding to your consultation on the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Express Way. I represent the Otmoor Division on Oxfordshire County Council.

Looking at your consultation document there are 3 potential corridors. I also note that included within your documentation are images showing the constraints, environmental mapping and environmental sites. Your stated assessment suggests that you will be looking at congestion reduction and shorter journey times as well as economic growth aspirations.

Looking at each options in turn alongside the evidence that you provide in your slides as well as some local knowledge I will put forward my preferred and least preferred options.

Corridor A – This seems to be the most obvious of the three corridors. Not only does the corridor avoid use of the busy A34 junction with the M40, therefore, reducing the likelihood of increased congestion but looking at the images within your presentation it has the least impact on environmentally sensitive sites, will result in shorter journey times and connects to an area with significant economic growth aspirations within Aylesbury Vale.

Corridor B – This has two routes to it, one round the south of Oxford and one round to the north of Oxford. A significant section of the southern corridor contains the environmentally sensitive area of Otmoor. Otmoor is a wetlands nature reserve containing Special Areas of Conservation, Sites of Special Scientific interest and impacting on many rare and protected species. Indeed, Otmoor was deemed to be so special that the route of the M40 was diverted around it and therefore it makes no sense that it should be any different now. In terms of safety the area is very susceptible to mist and fog which has the potential to make it extremely hazardous should such weather conditions occur. Tragically we are all too aware of accidents that have occurred on other stretches of road affected by mist.

The northern corridor also has significant environmental constraints and impacts as it winds a path around Oxford Meadows and through the River Ray Conservation Target area. The environmental impacts alone should preclude this option but added to this is the potential to add to the already congested A34/ M40 junction as well as impacting on the land around Bicester. Bicester and Cherwell have already had significant growth and any growth that is likely to come with the Expressway will have a serious impact on local infrastructure not only for Bicester but the surrounding villages within the Otmoor Division.

Any route within corridor B is therefore going to have a significant threat to nature and the environment and does not represent sustainable development.

Corridor C  - This still has options to run through environmentally sensitive areas but assuming that these are avoided in line with the reasons for dismissing corridor B then it would be a viable alternative to corridor A.

In selecting your preferred route please do take into consideration the detailed submissions from the  Parish Council’s surrounding Otmoor and from Cherwell District Council as well as from organisations such as the RSPB and Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire Wildlife Trusts that contain detailed analysis of the environmental impacts.

The most logical, safe and cost effective route with the least environmental impact is route A and I hope you will give this detailed consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr. Dan Sames

County Councillor for Otmoor

District Councillor for Ambrosden & Bicester South

Town Councillor for Bicester South East



Oxford-Cambridge Expressway: Oxford County Council response (Ian Hudspeth)

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway which is promoted by Highways England; any correspondence on this should be sent to OxfordtoCambridgeExpressway@highwaysengland.co.uk

The response by Oxfordshire County council sent  12th April 2018 was:

Oxford to Cambridge Expressway – Oxfordshire Response on Corridor Preferences

We welcome the further development work and engagement taking place on the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway project and the opportunity to give views to Highways England. 

At this stage, Oxfordshire is not able to indicate a corridor preference, given that the technical and other supporting work required to inform the decision on a preferred corridor is not yet complete.  Nor is it possible therefore, for these reasons, to provide a formal Council position.

We support the strategic objectives and purpose of the Expressway project, recognising the opportunity it brings to support and enable growth and development, enhance connectivity and take forward innovation and smart technology on the Oxford to Cambridge corridor.  However, following detailed discussion on the project between officers and Members, we believe there are some important principles which, in addition to the published assessment criteria, should be integral to the corridor selection and decision-making process.   In Oxfordshire, these include:

  1. Ensuring that the Expressway corridor does not increase pressure on the existing, already overstretched strategic highway network.  Specifically, the Expressway must not use the section of the A34 through central Oxfordshire (broadly defined as at least the section between the Lodge Hill junction, north of Abingdon and the Bicester Road junction, east of Kidlington).  This section is where the A34 currently operates as both a regional/national strategic route and a local distributor route (forming part of the Oxford Ring Road) and it is essential that the new Expressway infrastructure provides a completely separate strategic route to avoid this conflict of use;
  2. Ensuring that the Expressway corridor (or subsequently identified route) minimises the impact on the existing highway network, i.e. it should not use existing local road networks or draw significant strategic traffic directly into local road networks / highway infrastructure which would not be able to cope – the ring road around Bicester for example;
  3. Ensuring that the Expressway is developed separately alongside locally planned highway enhancements such as Culham river crossing.

It is clear that, even taking these principles into account, there remain a number of corridor options and variants in Oxfordshire, including options west and east of Oxford City, and it is important that these are all fully and transparently considered through the assessment and decision-making process.  This includes taking into account how they would fit in with corridor preferences elsewhere on the Expressway corridor, for example in Buckinghamshire.

My personal view on the Expressway is:

The road that causes the most traffic issues for Oxfordshire is the A34 as it’s a mixture of a local and national traffic. If the 2 parts could be separated to allow the ring road to function as a local road then there would be an improvement for Oxfordshire’s residents. The A34 impacts on all 5 Districts and all 6 constituencies so there are few residents not affected. On page 17 of the strategic stage 3 study 

( https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/571353/oxford-to-cambridge-expressway-strategic-study-stage-3-report.pdf )  paragraphs 3.4.5 & 3.4.6, it is clear that this proposal will provide a local solution.

Whatever corridor and, ultimately, route chosen there will be local impact with local opposition however we have to consider the bigger picture to improve the A34. For that reason I am not suggesting a preferred corridor as I want to wait to see the evidence that Highways England will provide.


Cllr Ian Hudspeth

County Councillor for the Woodstock Division

Leader Oxfordshire County Council

01865 815 283

07956 270 318