EARLYWARN - The East West Arc Research and Development Network

Following up the June Symposium, a research consortium and interconnected research projects that study the East-West Arc are in the process of formation and development. The questions and issues raised by the Symposium, and the NIC’s overall vision that is now be taken up by government departments, form a starting point for the network of entities that comprise the consortium, that we denote as the East-West Arch Research and Development Network – EARLYWARN.

The EARLYWARN proposal is designed to provide the analytical tools needed to assess the beneficial and harmful impacts of the explosive growth occurring and projected to continue to occur over the next thirty years in the Oxford Cambridge Corridor, denominated the East West Arc by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC, 2017). These impacts include soaring jobs and economic growth, housing costs, climate change, environmental pollution, traffic congestion, and acute and chronic infrastructure stressing; just to mention the most prominent. Combined with scenario development and assessment, the research intent is to develop and apply advanced and integrated data and analytics to determine the most suitable places to develop in the future, including infrastructure to support them.

The purpose of this research and development network is to provide a forum and an arena to conduct research, along with policy development and its analysis, that provide sound evidence for dialogue, debate and decisions about the future trajectory of the greater Oxford-Cambridge growth region. This region, up to 30 local councils across 11 shires, is projected to grow by one to two million persons and by 7000,000 to one million jobs by 2050, depending on scenario estimates (Cambridge Econometrics and SQW, 2016, National Infrastructure Commission, 2017). Accordingly, the government through its National Infrastructure Commission since 2016 has been assessing this situation.  Now that it has concluded its work on the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor, it has passed further development of the concepts and their execution to government departments and localities.

Yet there is no single entity or consortium that has been designated or that has emerged to cope with all the data and activities that are necessitated by such a large region undergoing rapid and massive growth. This has been made worse by the void in regional planning and policy by the government’s decision in 2011 to abolish regional planning and policy from its governance arsenal. This has left a void in which the markets and individual agents act without complete knowledge and ability to coordinate. 

Part of the mission of the network is to develop the groundwork for the institutional framework for planning and decision making in the region. Initial work entails defining the geographic extent of the region and what factors need to be assessed to govern its growth, along with which actors need to be engaged in research and development decision making.

Another part of the mission is to conduct a rigorous assessment of all the pertinent factors in order to guide the area’s growth and development. This exercise provides baseline data to develop and then to assess several growth scenarios, which will be conducted by a consortium. In sum, this phase of the research would constitute an economic and spatial planning effort to determine the long-term suitability and sustainability of the types of economic development and population growth expected in this vital region.

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