The Pan-Regional Partnership (PRP) between Oxford and Cambridge received a significant funding increase this week. Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, endorsed the proposal, allowing more than £2.5 million to be directed toward the area.
Pan-regional partnerships are designed to strengthen cooperation between local authorities and government on infrastructure and economic strategy. The Oxford to Cambridge PRP covers an area that contains more than 3.5 million people, including Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
The endorsement follows a proposal submitted to government by leaders from local councils, local enterprise partnerships, the Arc Universities Group and the area’s transport body, England’s Economic Heartland.
An earlier proposal to develop the Oxford Cambridge Corridor into an economic zone, known as the Oxford to Cambridge Arc, was scrapped after it was accused of being too government led, rather than relying on local authorities working together.
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Working in partnership is one of the most important things we do as a council. The area that the Pan Regional Partnership covers is already known world-wide for our innovation and research and we want to work together to make sure that our local residents benefit in an inclusive way from the strengths of our local economies.”
However, the campaign group Stop The Arc (STARC) have expressed their disapproval with the scheme. Charles Pither, the Chair of STARC, said “The Pan-Regional Partnership doesn’t represent the views of the five counties it proposes to build over. It speaks for the developers, the landowners – in particular the universities – and potential foreign investors.”
Many are also unhappy that the East-West Rail proposal to link Oxford and Cambridge is still in the works. Stage One of the line will connect Oxford with Milton Keynes and work has already started. Stages Two and Three will connect Oxford to Bedford and then Cambridge.
Yet last July, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority reported that, “The project may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed,” after they acknowledged “major issues”. STARC has said “the rail link still has no business case”.