As you know, there will be a General Election on Thursday 12 December this year, and for the first time in well over a decade, people in the Buckingham constituency will be able to vote.
We know that the election is about much more than the OxCam Expressway and Arc, but proposals for the developments are very worrying to local people, given the harm to communities, countryside and the wider environment that the developments would cause.
On Monday 25th November, BEAG attended a hustings in Winslow. Candidates for the Brexit Party and English Democrats Party did not indicate much interest in the Expressway and Arc, we thought. By contrast, candidates for the Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Labour Parties all acknowledged public concern about the Expressway in their opening speeches. However, on the matter of whether their national parties would scrap the plans, statements made by the candidates differed. We summarise them below.
The candidate for the Conservative Party (Greg Smith) said that he had obtained assurances from Grant Shapps (Secretary of State for Transport) that the scheme would be reviewed as a priority. He added that, as far as he was concerned, the project had been killed off by his Party.
We were not entirely reassured by this. Any review would take place only after the election and, if a strong case were made for the expressway, it might still go ahead (there are plenty of vested interests out there who want it built).
Stephen Dorrell, the Lib Dem candidate said that the most pressing issue for the Party would be to get full public scrutiny of the expressway, with a public consultation that included an option for people to say “No” to the scheme.
We agree that, if the scheme does go to consultation, there should be an option to say “No” to it (which there wouldn’t be as things stand). However, consultation responses can be ignored, especially when a sheme is said to be in the national interest, so we weren’t reassured by this approach.
According to the Labour candidate (David Morgan) the expressway would definitely be scrapped by the Labour Party, which is completely opposed to the scheme.
We thought that sounded encouraging, but we have noted that this is not mentioned anywhere in the Labour Party manifesto. That said, scrapping the expressway is not mentioned in the manifestos of any of the parties who have candidates standing in Buckingham, if our research is correct (if it’s not, please tell us).
Added to this, even if the Expressway itself is scrapped, there is talk of massive development schemes going ahead in the Arc anyway, all of which would permanently change the character of rural Bucks. Most of the candidates themselves expressed concern about massive housing developments on green field land around Buckingham and elsewhere, though the position of their parties is not clear.
So, in short, we should not believe circulating rumours that the Expressway has already been cancelled: it has not. We must keep on applying pressure to all candidates in Buckingham to give us evidence in writing that their party will drop the Expressway and the Arc.
The No Expressway Group is currently running a campaign calling for all political parties to commit to cancelling the Expressway and growth plans. Read about it here and please do what you can locally – and beyond, if possible.