UPDATE: MP defends herself over expressway hosuing comments

A GOVERNMENT minister will visit Oxford to address an MP's worries that 'hundreds of homes' could be bulldozed to make way for a proposed £3.5bn expressway.

Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said constituents in Botley were 'deeply concerned' about the plan for the Oxford to Cambridge expressway.

She claimed it could lead to widespread demolitions there – but Highways England insisted no route has been chosen yet.

Ms Moran said: “Local people are, understandably, deeply concerned about this proposal to bulldoze Botley to make way for a new road.

"It is vitally important that before any decisions or recommendations are made about which route to go for, they all know the full impact that the route through Botley would have."

Government transport minister Jesse Norman accepted Ms Moran's invitation to visit Botley in the House of Commons on Thursday.

She said she would welcome Mr Norman 'to make sure he is fully aware of our concerns and the fact that – along with local people – I’ll be fighting any plan to demolish homes in Botley to the bitter end.'

Highways England said it would make a decision on whether the route will go north or south of Oxford later this year and that further public consultation on where it could be built will be held in 2019.

Last year the National Infrastructure Commission insisted the road would be a vital part of infrastructure to boost the 'brain' belt between the country's leading two university cities.

But Councillor Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said it was critical people were not 'frightened unduly'.

He said of Ms Moran's comments: "I think this is premature. (Ms Moran) is obviously very concerned. Whichever route is chosen there will be concerns from people. We have got to wait for the evidence to come out rather than jump to conclusions.

"We don't want to frighten people unduly."

Three broad paths which the road could follow are currently being studied by Highways England – with the most controversial being one which could carve through the Green Belt south of Oxford for about 10 miles.

The Expressway Action Group, which is made up of 27 parish councils, was set up insisting a public inquiry is held to ensure the public get a say before a decision on the expressway is made. It was backed by county councillors last month.

A Highways England spokesman Jack Tappin said: "Better connecting Oxford and Cambridge could ensure the continued success of the 'brain belt', bringing clear benefits.

“Our preferred route announcement will be made in 2020. We expect work to start by 2025, with the new expressway expected to open by 2030.”