Evaluating impact of local, regional and national choices on sustainable future options
- Paul Leinster, CBE, Professor of Environmental Assessment at Cranfield University, previously Chief Executive of the Environment Agency. He is actively involved in a number of activities related to the protection and improvement of the environment within the Oxford Cambridge Arc
- Charlotte Mitchell, Associate, QUOD; member of the National Infrastructure Commission Young Professionals Panel. Whilst at the Department of Communities and Local Government, she developed the planning and governance strategy to underpin the Government’s proposals for the Oxford to Cambridge
- Bev Hindle, Director of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, Director of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc Leaders and Chief Executive groups, which represents the local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPSs) in the Arc.
We are organising a conference and consultation on the use of infrastructure systems analysis to inform planning and design of the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Arc. The Arc has been proposed as a knowledge-intensive economic cluster spanning the heart of England. New high value businesses will be supported by new transport infrastructure and housing development.
It is now more than two years since the National Infrastructure Commission’s report on the Arc. Many initiatives are under way involving central and local government, businesses and the universities in the Arc. However, a clear vision for the Arc that integrates infrastructure (both grey and green), employment and housing has yet to emerge.
The Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) is a consortium of seven leading UK universities, including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which has for the last eight years been developing models and analytical methods for the planning of national infrastructure systems: energy, transport, digital communications and water.
The ITRC has developed methods for simulating future population, housing growth and demand for infrastructure services, and exploring how the necessary infrastructure can be provided affordably, securely and sustainably. The Consortium is independently applying its models and analytics to explore possible futures for the Arc. In order to better understand the issues at stake, it has held in-depth discussions with 22 prominent stakeholder organisations leading the development of the Arc in central, regional and local government, as well as universities, independent agencies and businesses, to answer questions including:
- Where could future housing development be located in the Arc?
- Can enough water be supplied for an increased number of inhabitants?
- Can the housing and infrastructure in the Arc be made carbon neutral?
- How can cherished natural habitats be preserved?
- What are the differences between the outcomes of large scale unplanned development and the outcomes of sustainably planned development that creates strategic networks of green and blue infrastructure to meet local needs? What does the future look like?
- How much will it cost to provide an Arc that is connected with 5G communications and fibre to every home?
Having been working throughout 2019 on these questions we are ready to present preliminary results for discussion and consultation. We need feedback and guidance for how the work can be taken forwards to inform the many stakeholders in the Arc.
There are several contrasting versions for how the Arc could be delivered, which the ITRC has been using as the basis for its scenario analysis. We have studied many of the recent housing developments in the local authorities within the Arc: is scaling up this form of development feasible and sustainable, or are radically new types of development needed? If so, what market and regulator instruments are needed to deliver a new vision for the Arc?
This consultation and dissemination event will combine a presentation of the ITRC’s new analysis of the Arc with keynote presentations from stakeholders in the initiative. Panel discussions with tackle the complex challenges implied by the Arc. We aim to demonstrate the capabilities of the UK’s universities (inside and outside the Arc) to add value and insight to this complex and contested initiative. We will provide scenarios that stimulate discussion and models that can be used to explore possible futures and navigate trade-offs.