Government buoyant about Arc but Spending Review investment is only just enough
The Government’s Spending Review announcement of £4 million to help deliver an Oxford-Cambridge Arc-wide spatial strategy, alongside four development corporations, will keep the Arc project afloat, but it’s just a drop in the ocean, according to Bidwells’ head of planning Mike Derbyshire.
The Oxford to Cambridge Arc has been identified as the location for exciting new infrastructure, real estate development and regeneration. The area not only encompasses two of the world’s leading academic institutions but spans an area of over 100 miles which includes industry-leading ecosystems and innovation districts in science and technology.
Whilst the Arc is currently an area with strong economic output due to its well-developed STEM industries, growth in the area has the potential to be much greater. It is an area unrivaled in terms of its economic, academic and innovation capabilities.
Central government is currently proposing an Arc-wide spatial strategy alongside four development corporations for Cambridge. The proposed Spatial Framework is due to be published in January 2021 and at this critical period for the development of the Arc, we aim to encourage as much transparent engagement and conversation as possible.
MHCLG’s vision for the Arc
Amongst these speakers, we were joined by Kris Krasnowski from the MHCLG, as he shared his insight and an update on the Government's vision for the Arc.
Kris reinforced his view that the Arc is an area that has significant potential for growth and development to become an internationally competitive and globally recognised growth corridor.
We also heard from Bev Hindle (Executive Director of Arc Leadership Group), Jeremy Long (Chair of Arc Local Enterprise Partnerships Group), and two of our partners, Mike Derbyshire (Head of Planning), and Neil Kelly (Head of Residential Development), who chaired the discussion.
Different aspects of the Arc’s vision and implementation were debated including national versus local approaches towards aspects of infrastructure and amenities., However it was mutually acknowledged that current levels of infrastructural investment are not within the range required to see the full scope of the Arc’s potential.
Arc needs more investment to thrive
In the latest spending review, the Government announced that a £4m will go towards the “ongoing Oxford to Cambridge Arc programme, building on the government’s commitments to accelerate housing and infrastructure delivery”.
Although this is welcome news for those involved in the delivery of the vision for the area, it may be too little an investment in order to achieve the results and full capabilities of the Arc.
Whilst the creation of the Spatial framework and the involvement of development corporations is fantastic progress, there needs to be a greater monetary investment and an overall delivery body in order to see the Arc thrive.
The Arc’s development is particularly driven by its economic potential. Thriving businesses are crucial to driving growth in the area.
Writing a blueprint for clean growth
This does not mean, however, that infrastructure and other key components, such as transport links, will be prioritised over clean and green growth. The Arc, according to Kris Krasnowski, will function as the 'blueprint' for environmentally-friendly and sustainable economic development and growth as net-zero is a key deliverable.
This holistic approach is at the heart of the Arc’s vision. The mission is to develop a thought-provoking proposal with integration across various government departments, at both a local and national level.
Cross-Arc collaboration is key, whether that is pan-generational, or across communities, institutions, or various innovation projects.
Indeed, 47% of the audience suggested that the long-term success of the Arc would be best supported if local authorities and LEPs collaborated more closely around their shared ambitions.
This will ensure a long-term place-making strategy and investment in the infrastructure and innovation of the future, as well as the present.