Council downgrades its support for road that could "cut Milton Keynes communities in half"

A council has downgraded its support for a new road that it is feared could cut communities in half.

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 6:56 pm
Possible routes of the Expressway

The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway has previously been strongly supported by Milton Keynes Council as a road that could help the borough’s economic growth.

Now, at a Delegated Decisions meeting at the council on Tuesday, an MK Council Cabinet member decided to move to supporting the scheme only IF steps are taken to soften the impact on the environment.

Council officers have signed a non-disclosure agreement giving them access to the Highways Agency plans, and the chance to influence them.

Possible routes of the Expressway

Cabinet member for transport and planning, Labour’s Cllr Martin Gowans, told the meeting that he did not know what the options for the route are. He emphasised that the final decision is with the Government, and not the council.

Cllr David Hopkins (Cons, Danesborough & Walton) said that by looking at a map of Milton Keynes, places including Wavendon, Bow Brickhill, and Woburn Sands could be in the line of fire of a route from Oxford to Bedford.

“If that comes about there will be tremendous opposition,” said Cllr Hopkins. “It would cut communities in half. Unless there is tunelling, the impacts will be absolutely enormous.

“It would be the biggest political situation in my 30 years on the council.”

He added that support for the new road would undermine the case for re-opening the East-West Railway and turn it into a “white elephant”.

Alan Francis, of the MK Green Party, warned that support for the new road undermined the council’s position on climate change, its sustainability strategy, and the ambition to be the greenest city in the UK.

“Support takes us in the wrong direction,” he said. “This is downgrading support but I still think it is too supportive. Supporting this road is not consistent with the climate emergency. I would like to see you change the position to opposition.”

Cllr Gowans said some important points had been made but he was “not quite at the point of opposing it yet.”

“There are many unknowns and there is still time for change, the Government will decide.”

In confirming his decision to downgrade support he added a condition that the East-West Rail project should be electrified. Other conditions involve environmental mitigation, and public transport and cycling improvements.