Campaigners protest Oxford Cambridge Arc outside Milton Keynes conference

They were up at the crack of dawn to show their displeasure with the government's plans

By James Lowson
Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 11:46 am

Campaigners are protesting the government's Oxford-Cambridge Arc project outside Milton Keynes Stadium armed with a giant white elephant today (November 16).

Protesters are stationed outside Bidwell's Built Environment Conference, they will be holding an 'Alternatives to the Ox-Cam Arc' conference later.

A Stop the Arc Group official said the organisation booked the Hilton hotel by Milton Keynes Stadium for its conference, but it was cancelled at a later date.

Stop the Arc Group with their elephant Nellie

The group was informed by hotel staff the conference room had been cancelled due to a staffing shortage, despite the other conference going ahead with four times the amount of guests.

The group was also suspicious as the room was cancelled 24 hours, after plans of their alternate conference were made public.

Hilton Hotel Group didn't respond to the MK Citizen's request to comment on the situation.

Property firm, Bidwells is one of the consultancies working on developing the government's multi-billion-pound programme.

Today the firm welcomed delegates for its fourth annual conference, officials from the MK Council, Oxford University and the government are present.

Key speakers at the two-day event include representatives from Oxford University, Homes England and Network Rail.

The project plans involve building an East-West Rail link between Oxford and Cambridge, constructing one million houses in the region between the cities and creating 1.1 million jobs.

Yet, a recent survey conducted by organisers revealed 93% of people would vote 'no' to the Ox-Cam Arc and only 4% would vote 'yes'.

Secretary of the Stop the Arc Group, Professor David Rogers a former ecologist who worked at Oxford University said: "The reason we're so worried about the Arc is over development.

"Building one million new homes won't lower housing prices and to create one million jobs is great, but where are the workers going to come from?

"If you are taking workers from the north to come and work in the south, you are taking money away from a region that is crying out for employment.

"Adding more people to those already living in the area will put a strain on all existing infrastructure and threaten the existing ecosystem services and wildlife areas.

"Cambridge, Oxford and London are substantially wealthier than other cities and it's the industrial power houses from 150 years ago like Sheffield and Manchester that suffer."

"Also, throughout this process nowhere near enough attention has been paid to the 3.7 million people who live here."

The alternate conference has secured MPs: Greg Smith, Anneliese Dodds, and Layla Moran as speakers, alongside an unnamed official from the Bucks Council.

Official government documents list the Oxford-Cambridge Arc as a scheme that will: 'support long-run sustainable economic growth across the area'.

It states the arc will 'support lasting improvements to the environment, green infrastructure and biodiversity'.

Buckingham MP Greg Smith, who submitted an 11 minute video which will air at the conference, said: "I believe all planning should be local, but sadly the Oxford to Cambridge Arc concept is the worst of Socialist, top down, central planning - telling communities what the state wants, not understanding what local people actually want.

"It is vital any planning reform strengthens localism and gives us the ability to protect our precious countryside and greenfield sites, favouring only brownfield development. I congratulate all those who have put the alternatives to the Arc conference together and was delighted to participate via video."