South Oxfordshire council is asking Michael Gove to pause the Arc project calling it an 'arbitrary geographic construct'.

The Oxford-Cambridge (OxCam) Arc is the name given to the area identified by Government as a key economic priority.

It aims to boost the economic output of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire to £200bn a year by 2050 in a strategy akin to the Northern Powerhouse.

In a South Oxfordshire council meeting, councillors called on the leader of the council to write to Michael Gove, the new minister for levelling up, housing and communities, asking him to pause the Arc project.

Councillor David Bartholomew said: “It is the creation of an arbitrary geographic construct driving excessive growth in the South East with no real logic behind it other than it is an easy engine for growth.”

Many councillors are frustrated with the project and feel the Government is not openly discussing the plans. Councillors called for the Government to set out clearly what the aims are, including expected costs, projected housing and growth expectations, and how it will fit into a wider regional structure within the UK.


Councillor Tim Bearder said: “The quantum of growth was there at the beginning, and it was a million houses, because that was politically sensitive they have taken that bit out and left everything else around it. The infrastructure is all the same, exactly as it was designed for a million houses and yet they will not give us that figure now. I hope Gove in his new position will be honest with the people of South Oxfordshire on what the quantum of growth will actually be.”

There were also calls from councillors for the Government to give local authorities within the Arc area the powers and funding needed to enable nature restoration. Councillors also called for proper democratic control so local authorities can set their own housing requirements based on local need.

The previous leader of the council, Sue Cooper, pushed environmental principles in the Arc project and conservation groups such as RSPB were initially positive about the project. However, now environmental groups and councillors feel the Government does not take these environmental principles seriously.

Councillor Andrea Powell said: “Pressing dogmatically ahead with the Ox-Cam Arc would fly in the face of recent government statements regarding levelling up taking pressure off the overheated southeast and preserving and protecting nature. We are in a climate crisis and with Cop26 around the corner it is tone deaf to be pursuing such a high growth agenda that undermines local democracy and takes decision making further away from those who are most likely to be impacted by unnecessary overdevelopment of hundreds green spaces.”