Westminster Social Policy Forum

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The Oxford-Cambridge Arc - next steps for infrastructure development, taking forward the shared vision and industrial strategies, and supporting economic recovery

April 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on next steps for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

Areas for discussion include:

  • infrastructure development - maximising its impact on economic development in the Arc, and priorities for transport and housing
  • the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Economic Prospectus - examining its proposals, including next steps for investment
  • global profile - latest thinking on how to achieve the Arc’s potential for leadership in R&D, and how to attract more high-value businesses
  • a coordinated regional approach - progress and outstanding issues in joining up local industrial strategies
  • inclusiveness and stewardship - ensuring that growth ambitions take into account environmental and species protection, and engagement and benefit across communities

The conference takes place in the wake of significant policy developments aimed at responding to the health and financial challenges caused by COVID-19, and with the Arc having been described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a key economic priority for the country.

The conference is bringing together stakeholders with parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons and key policy officials who are due to attend from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; DCMS; Defra; the DIT; the DfT; HMRC; the MHCLG and the Office of Government Property.

The agenda:

  • Supporting economic development across the Arc
  • Key takeaways from the Economic Prospectus and progress on project delivery
  • Boosting economic growth in the region in the wake of the pandemic and taking forward the Arc Spatial Framework
    • Priorities for attracting high-performing industries, investing in skills and improving productivity
    • Next steps for establishing the Arc as global leader in R&D and innovation
    • Developing a joined-up approach to the implementation of the Local Industrial Strategies
    • Delivering balanced growth throughout the Arc
  • Delivering infrastructure to unlock the Arc’s potential
    • Streamlining connectivity, engaging communities, and reducing barriers to growth
    • Housing delivery in the Arc and levelling up communities
    • Upgrading transport infrastructure to support growth
    • Priorities for ensuring species and landscapes protection in the Arc and moving towards net zero
  • Government’s priorities for the Arc

Key areas for discussion:

  • the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Economic Prospectus - assessing its key recommendations, including calls for the Government on:
    • the Arc’s wider role - looking at how the plans for the area can best fit into the national ambition to cement the UK as a science superpower under the R&D Roadmap
    • investment - establishing direct Arc-governed channels to the sources of finance that can match the region’s ambitions
  • the strategic elements - looking at ways to drive the economic recovery of the region, and the role of the Arc in the wider national economic recovery, with discussion expected on:
    • playing to the Arc’s strengths - how the region’s leadership in science, technology and advanced manufacturing can best be harnessed
    • collaboration - how joint working already going on between businesses, education and research institutions can be built on going forward
    • Local Industrial Strategies - progress in implementing the four LISs across the Arc, and the challenges faced in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
    • the four new development corporations - their purpose and potential, and assessing the case outlined in plans for the spatial framework
  • infrastructure in the Arc:
    • priorities for improvement - with calls for more investment, and concern over the impact of connectivity and congestion constraints on the ability to fully unlock the potential of the region
    • current key focus areas - looking at East West Rail, broadband connectivity and the Government’s ambitions for 1m new homes to be built in the Arc by 2050
    • support - the impact of recent government announcements, including an additional £4m in the Spending Review to help accelerate housing and infrastructure delivery in the Arc
    • the National Infrastructure Strategy - examining wider priorities for developing infrastructure in the Arc, including for:
      • delivery - the way forward for improving and accelerating implementation of infrastructure projects, and speeding up planning and procurement
      • private investment - how funding can be encouraged and diversified
      • decarbonisation - looking at heat, power and transport networks across the Arc
    • changing demands - with the pandemic having impacted the ways in which people use infrastructure:
      • the new normal - prospects for increased home working and active travel post-pandemic
      • implications - how new trends and habits should inform policy and the direction of infrastructure projects in the Arc
    • contributing to net-zero - ways to manage potential impacts on biodiversity, emissions and natural capital from economic growth and increased connectivity in the Arc

Relevant developments:

  • key proposals:
    • the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Economic Prospectus - recently submitted to the Government:
      • setting out a vision to transform the Arc into a world-leading innovation and productivity hub and double the region’s economic output to £200bn by 2050
      • requesting long-term investment in the area to help the Arc fulfil its potential
    • The Oxford-Cambridge Arc: government ambition and joint declaration between government and local partners - published in 2019
  • Government's plan to transform Oxford-Cambridge Arc into UK's fastest growing economic region - from MHCLG, announcing:
    • a spatial framework plan due to be published in 2022, with consultation and aiming to create employment, grow investment, protect and improve the environment, and develop infrastructure
    • the aim of ensuring that benefits of economic and infrastructure development, and placemaking, are spread across the region
    • plans for establishing an Arc Growth Body as a single voice for the area in driving and supporting economic growth
  • the Oxford Local Plan 2036 - adopted by the Oxford City Council and laying out plans for the delivery of new jobs, homes and infrastructure in Oxford as well as the Oxfordshire Investment Plan
  • the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Economic Recovery Strategy - aimed at helping the region's economy recover and renew following COVID-19
  • the government announces preferred East West Rail central section - route E, for the Cambridge-Bedford section
  • other major strategies and support packages:
    • the £10bn package to build more homes and level up communities in the Spending Review
    • the recent Energy White Paper
    • the National Infrastructure Strategy
    • the upcoming R&D Places Strategy following the UK Research and Development Roadmap
  • the East West Rail Project - awarded £760m by the Department for Transport to reinstate services between Bicester in Oxfordshire and Bletchley in Buckinghamshire

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons, and officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; Defra; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; HM Revenue & Customs; the MHCLG and the Office of Government Property.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from local authorities within the Oxford-MK-Cambridge Arc as well as directly adjacent areas, engineering companies, transport providers, housing developers, environmental groups, investors, colleges and universities, lawyers, consultants, housing associations, local community representatives, business and industry associations, trade unions, academics, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles