Thursday, 13 May 2021

Councils welcome axing of link road

Councils welcome axing of link road

THE leader of South Oxfordshire District Council has welcomed the cancellation of the £3 billion Oxford-Cambridge Expressway project.

The Government scrapped the scheme last week, saying the cost of a direct road link between Oxford and Milton Keynes outweighed the benefits.

Sue Cooper, who represents Benson on the district council, said the project would have damaged the environment and communities along the route.

She said: “Alongside many people across the district, we have frequently raised concerns and campaigned against the Expressway.

“The new road was not financially viable and would have caused significant damage across the county, potentially destroying large areas of farmland and habitats. It would have also placed a huge physical barrier through the district, destroying entire communities in the process.

“In South Oxfordshire we have declared climate and ecological emergencies. As a country, we should be resolutely focused on tackling these issues and protecting the environment for future generations, not on projects which would increase traffic onto our existing roads and significantly increase CO2 emissions and noise pollution.

“It is extremely important the Government now focuses on sustainable and low-carbon transport options for the area like the East to West Rail project and improved and additional cycle routes.”

Matt Reid, chairman of Watlington Parish Council, said he hoped the Government would now consider establishing a direct train link between Oxford and Cambridge instead.

He said: “What we didn’t want was for the road to interfere with our community — who knows where it could have been route?”

Henley MP John Howell, said: “When the work was paused in March last year it was thought highly unlikely that it would be resumed. I am delighted that this has now been confirmed.

“I have worked continuously with ministers and Highways England to raise my concerns on this project.

“Highways England worked closely with local representatives to look at a range of environmental concerns and I am pleased that our concerns have clearly been taken on board.

“This is a good example of public consultation and I have always believed that pausing the project would lead to this formal cancellation.”

Since the plans were put forward in 2014, residents of Watlington and Benson have voiced their concerns.

In 2018, Benson Parish Council joined the Expressway Action Group, which brought together villages opposed to the road.

Watlington Parish Council had also formally objected to the road being built, saying it had been brought forward with no formal public consultation or assessment of its impact on the environment.

Councillors were concerned about an increase in air pollution in areas which were already subject to air quality management action as well as the weight of traffic on routes passing through Watlington to the expressway.

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