Anti Oxford-to-Cambridge expressway campaigners unconvinced by Milton Keynes Council’s “de facto opposition” policy

A council both opposes AND conditionally supports plans for a new expressway road that could slice through Milton Keynes countryside, depending on how the policy is looked at.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 5:15 pm

Milton Keynes Council’s ruling cabinet is sticking by its stance of supporting a possible new Oxford to Cambridge road only if it meets key conditions, while at the same time saying this effectively means it opposes it.

On Tuesday the cabinet came under pressure from a councillor and nine members of the public to join other councils in the area and announce outright opposition.

Council leader Cllr Pete Marland (Lab, Woverton) admitted to getting an earful from his in-laws every time he visits them in Woburn Sands, which campaigners fear could bear the brunt of a new road.

Milton Keynes Council's cabinet in action

He said: “The de facto policy is to oppose the expressway because of the high bar we have set.”

The council is insisting on Highways England meeting four key points as the price of its support.

These are: high quality cycle infrastructure, a strong commitment to wildlife and biodiversity, a strong commitment to public transport, and that an electrified East-West Rail line is opened before any expressway.

But campaigners were having none of it.

A No Expressway Group has been set up in Woburn Sands to raise public awareness of what they see as a threat as the new road winds from south of Bletchley through to M1 junction 13 at Brogborough.

Cllr David Hopkins (Cons, Danesborough & Walton) wants MK Council to fall in line with neighbouring councils “no ifs, no buts” and oppose.

“The threat blights the whole of south and east Milton Keynes. It is time to end the uncertainty and send a clear message to government,” he said.

“You have to be firmer and represent the people of MK, at the moment you are failing to do this.”

Members of the public said the council, which has declared a climate emergency, could not claim to be the greenest city in the world if it supports a road.

It also came under fire for signing a non-disclosure agreement with Highways England to give the council access to behind-the-scenes information as long as it doesn’t spill the beans.

The council has decided that it can best represent the interests of residents by being inside the tent with Highways England, than outside the tent looking in.

Cllr Marland said: “The council has no decision-making power but it can influence. The non disclosure agreement means the council gets a seat at the table and can get the information.

“Our job is to represent the people of Milton Keynes. We can’t do that if we are not in the room.”

Alan Francis, of the MK Green party, said: “The expressway is completely incompatible with the council’s goals. It’s now time for the council to oppose.”

And Cllr Hopkins said he would table a motion for the whole council to discuss the issue at its meeting on Wednesday, January 22.