Reports had suggested spatial plan for one-million home growth belt had been put back to 2024
The government has re-committed itself to draw up a spatial framework to oversee a £200bn growth drive in the so-called “OxCam Arc” between Oxford and Cambridge, which ministers have previously said could lead to one million new homes.
Last year chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans for a joint spatial plan for the growth corridor in his March Budget, but there has been little further from the government on the subject since then.
Last month there were reports that work on the spatial plan had been delayed and that the document was not expected to be published until 2024.
However, the government today published a policy paper about the plan, and housing minister Chris Pincher said the plan will be now be published next year.
The government said modelling suggested that investment in the OxCam Arc could see its economic output double to £200bn per annum by 2050.
The policy paper said the spatial plan will identify Opportunity Areas in which to locate new homes, as well as setting out policies to enable the creation of new settlements, though it will not make specific site allocations.
However, the policy paper made no specific mention of the commitment by government and local partners in 2019 to build one million homes in the region by 2050, nearly double existing plans.
Pincher said the plan “will drive investment where it is needed and ensure, as growth happens, we create well-designed, inclusive and vibrant places and communities.
“The OxCam Spatial Framework will allow us to plan positively for growth and we look forward to working with our local partners over the coming months to strengthen our vision and approach to the Arc,” he said.
According to the housing ministry, 3.7 million people already live in the belt connecting Oxford via Milton Keynes and Bedford to Cambridge, with two million jobs in the region.
Pincher said the government will set up a new Arc Growth Body designed to promote the Arc internationally and “unleash the area’s potential to be a global innovation powerhouse.”
Despite this, the announcement was welcomed by the development sector. Mike Derbyshire, Head of planning at consultant Bidwells, said the firm was encouraged in recent months by government’s approach to the Arc, which suggested it had been listening to the development industry. He said: “Bringing forward the framework at pace - as MHCLG intend to - will start to build the momentum the Arc needs but it must be a green strategy and an exemplary in its approach to sustainable transport, place-making and economic growth.”
Rachel Dickie, executive director of investment at Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, said the new plan must not forget to build trust with local people. She said: “The risk with regional strategies is that they leave individual communities without a voice.
“That needs to be addressed head on in these plans, through a positive approach to engagement that aligns regional ambitions with priorities for individual communities – whether that’s new homes, the regeneration of high streets or a reimagining of our cities after Covid.”