Adonis: New infrastructure can bring first new towns for half a century and billions to national economy

Published: 17 Nov 2017



Ariel view of a city with people and buses

A ground-breaking new deal between Whitehall and local leaders in one of the most economically-important parts of the country could add hundreds of billions of pounds to the national economy each year and lead to the first new towns in the UK for half a century, Lord Adonis said today.

The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission urged Ministers, and council leaders across the arc covering Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Northampton and Cambridge, to “seize the opportunity” and harness the area’s economic potential.

To do this, he encouraged them to work together to deliver new and improved infrastructure, helping to unlock opportunities to deliver one million new homes and jobs by 2050, including the country’s first new towns in 50 years – tackling the area’s housing shortage, improving local transport connections and creating new jobs.

He highlighted that these measures can be taken while at the same time protecting and enhancing the natural environment of the area, and without making changes to existing Green Belt protections.

Currently the area generates £90billion per year towards the national economy. But by taking these steps this could increase to over £250billion a year – an increase of over £160billion a year.

Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Lord Adonis said:

“The arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford attracts the brightest and best from some of the most cutting edge industries. But the area also suffers from a lack of available homes and an infrastructure network that is feeling the strain – pricing local people out of the market, making it difficult for businesses to recruit staff, and threatening the future competitiveness of one of the most successful parts of the country.

“A ground-breaking deal between ministers and local leaders could transform the area, helping to double the rate of housebuilding and deliver the first new towns this country has seen for half a century. With this one of the most economically important parts of the UK, it could add billions of pounds a year to the national economy.

“I urge local leaders to seize this opportunity and work together with Government, both for the benefit of their residents and of the country as a whole – all by delivering a million new homes and jobs by 2050, investing in improved road and rail links and protecting the area’s natural environment.”

Commissioner Professor Sadie Morgan said:

“Today’s report is a once-in-a-generation chance to create great new places to live and work, creating liveable communities and safeguarding the future of one of the most economically important regions in the country.

“By planning improvements to infrastructure across the arc, we can unlock as many as one million homes by 2050 while at the same time preserving the natural environment that residents value and enjoy.”

Commissioner Bridget Rosewell said:

“Maintaining the arc’s global lead in science and technology is a national priority – but to retain the brightest and best they need to have places to live.

“Local leaders now need to work with Government to agree a deal that will deliver the homes and transport connections that families and businesses across the area want to see.”

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer said:

“By harnessing the potential of the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford arc we can deliver the new infrastructure, house building and jobs that the country and the people of our region need, and subsequently, adding billions of pounds to the local and national economy. Pushing forward the delivery of the East-West rail line is a major step towards seizing the opportunities for growth that this region offers.

“This National Infrastructure Commission report signals the start of a ground-breaking relationship between central Government and local authorities, and the Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is committed to working alongside our partners and playing our part in delivering on the huge promise which our region offers.”

Leader of Milton Keynes Council Cllr Pete Marland said:

“We welcome the National Infrastructure Commission’s view that Milton Keynes should once again become a project of national significance. We also strongly support the recommendation that to enable growth, local authorities require certainty on the timing and funding for infrastructure delivery.

“The Commission’s report matches our ambitions for the next stage of Milton Keynes expansion, as outlined by the MK Futures 2050 Commission, of inclusive growth, better access to affordable housing, a new technological university and the creation of thousands more highly skilled jobs.

“Milton Keynes now looks forward to working with Government and our neighbours on how we can meet the challenges of delivering significant extra growth across the corridor. The Commission’s report is a strong starting point for an open dialogue on how we can best achieve the requirement for growth while meeting the aspirations of local people.”

Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board and Leader of Oxford City Council Councillor Bob Price said:

“Oxfordshire is at the centre of the UK’s knowledge-based economy. This region is already growing strongly and the Oxford-Cambridge ‘brain belt’ offers an opportunity to create a fourth economic powerhouse for the UK to rival those in London, the Midlands and the North. I very much welcome the Commission’s recognition that to achieve this will require much more investment in infrastructure and provision of more high quality affordable housing, as well as social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, while protecting our high-quality environment.

“I welcome the Commission’s ambition to see infrastructure investment taken forward quickly across the arc. We will work closely with colleagues across the arc to ensure the growth is properly planned, is sustainable and works in the interests of existing and well as future residents. In particular, we want to improve connectivity and tackle congestion to make Oxfordshire an easier place for everyone to travel around.”

A ground-breaking deal between Whitehall and Town Halls

In its latest report to be published today, the National Infrastructure Commission highlights the opportunities to create well-designed, well-connected new communities, and deliver one million new homes and jobs in the area by 2050, while respecting the natural environment and without making changes to existing Green Belt protections.

The move, equivalent to a doubling of the current rate of housebuilding would be supported by improved road and rail links between the major cities, helping to create vibrant new towns – the first new towns in this country for 50 years.

In particular, the report concludes that to enable this to happen, key transport projects need to be given new momentum by the Government, including:

  • The delivery of the new East-West Rail line connecting Oxford and Cambridge, unlocking the potential for substantial new developments: this includes accelerating its delivery from Bicester to Bedford by 2023, and from Bedford to Cambridge by 2030; and
  • Accelerating the development and construction of a link between the M1 and Oxford by 2030, as part of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway

The deal proposed today could help double the rate of housebuilding and deliver one million new homes and jobs by 2050 – but Lord Adonis stressed that action needs to start immediately to get work underway.

In particular, this includes opening rail services to Cowley in South East Oxford by 2019 to support new housing, and accelerating the East-West Rail programme to open a new station at South Cambridge by 2022, alongside long-term local transport plans for other key towns and cities across the arc.

This would also include new governance arrangements to ensure local areas can join up planning for jobs, homes and infrastructure.

The report also includes recommendations that by 2020:

  • New powers should be put in place as part of the deal, giving councils in the area greater certainty over future investments, and allowing them to fund and raise finance for major infrastructure improvements that deliver new homes;
  • The Government and local authorities should have an agreed plan for new and expanded housing settlements, supported by New Town Development Corporations and new infrastructure design panels; and
  • New statutory spatial plans and investment strategies for each sub-region should be developed, as part of a 50-year vision for the arc as a whole


Partnering for prosperity: a new deal for the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Arc is published today and can be found at: 

This is the final report from a study into the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Arc – the Commission’s interim report was published in November 2016 and can be found at:

The study was commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the March 2016 Budget.

Estimates of the arc’s current and future economic output were developed by Cambridge Econometrics. Their analysis suggests that in 2014, the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the area was £90.5bn (2011 prices); by doubling housebuilding rates in the area, and delivering East-West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, this increases by £163billion to a GVA of £250billion

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