Wittenham Clumps Under Threat Says Earth Trust

Wittenham Clumps would be damaged if a new link road to the proposed Oxford-Cambridge expressway is built, says the Earth Trust.  The charity which manages the Clumps, Little Wittenham Wood, surrounding farm land and forestry, says one of the three proposed link roads from the A34 to the expressway would cut across land designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The Trust’s Chief Executive Officer Jane Manley has written to Highways England and the National Infrastructure Commission raising concerns about the proposed route of the link road.

She said: “The link road would damage the viability of Earth Trust and the Trust’s ability to manage Wittenham Clumps and surrounding farm land and forestry including Paradise Wood.  This link road would undermine our ability to protect this nationally important resource.”

The Trust says the whole landscape plays a major role in the visitor economy.  Every year more than 150,000 people visit Wittenham Clumps which are in the top six most visited sites in Oxfordshire.  This year the Trust received planning permission to improve facilities at its Little Wittenham headquarters.

Highways England said it was too early to confirm which of the proposed corridors would be the most viable.  Any decision, said a spokesman, would be backed by extensive evidence including environmental impact.

Three routes are being considered for the expressway, two of which would create new roads south of Oxford running through green belt land.  But the Expressway Action Group in Oxfordshire has welcomed the National Infrastructure Commission’s report into the expressway.

The group says it is encouraged by the Commission’s findings that the proposed new expressway should be closely linked to the East-West Rail Link via Bicester, Bletchley and Bedford.  The action group’s co-ordinator Peter Rutt said the implications of the report favoured a route along an improved A34 to Bicester.

He said: “This would help minimise the immense damage to the environment, green belt, rural villages and communities which a southern route across open countryside would cause.”

The Oxford-Bedford section of the East-West Rail Link should be ready by 2024. The final link from Bedford to Cambridge is still being planned.  The East-West Rail Link and the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway are important in connecting the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge growth corridor.

The government believes improved transport links are vital if the corridor is to achieve its potential. The economic output of the corridor could be £163bn higher in 2050 than 2014.  The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Lord Adonis said: “The arc spanning Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge attracts the brightest and best from some of the most cutting-edge industries.  But the area suffers from a lack of available homes and an infrastructure that is feeling the strain.”

A map showing the three route options can be downloaded here.

Thanks to contributions from the Herald, Oxfordshire Guardian and the railway magazine RAIL.

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