The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission has called for billions of pounds of infrastructure investment in the Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge ‘brain belt’, which he said could add hundreds of billions to the national economy.
Lord Adonis said a ‘ground-breaking new deal’ between Whitehall and local leaders across the arc covering Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Northampton and Cambridge could also lead to the first new towns in the UK for half a century.
He urged ministers and local council leaders to ‘seize the opportunity’ to harness the area’s economic potential as the NIC published a report into its infrastructure needs.
The NIC said the area currently generates £90bn per year for the national economy but that following the steps set out in the report could increase this to over £250bn a year.
Lord Adonis said: ‘The arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford attracts the brightest and best from some of the most cutting edge industries.
‘But the area also suffers from a lack of available homes and an infrastructure network that is feeling the strain – pricing local people out of the market, making it difficult for businesses to recruit staff, and threatening the future competitiveness of one of the most successful parts of the country.'
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor James Palmer said: ‘This National Infrastructure Commission report signals the start of a groundbreaking relationship between central government and local authorities, and the combined authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is committed to working alongside our partners and playing our part in delivering on the huge promise which our region offers.’
The report highlights ‘opportunities to create well-designed, well-connected new communities’, and deliver one million new homes and jobs in the area by 2050, which it says would need to be supported by improved road and rail links between the major cities.
It identifies key transport projects that it says need to be given new momentum by the Government, including:
- The delivery of the new East-West Rail line connecting Oxford and Cambridge, unlocking the potential for substantial new developments: this includes accelerating its delivery from Bicester to Bedford by 2023, and from Bedford to Cambridge by 2030; and
- Accelerating the development and construction of a link between the M1 and Oxford by 2030, as part of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway
It also calls for new governance arrangements to ensure that local areas can join up planning for jobs, homes and infrastructure.
A Treasury spokesperson said: 'Last year, we committed over £130m to boost transport infrastructure across the Oxford-Cambridge corridor. We will carefully consider the National Infrastructure Commission’s report.'