Investment in infrastructure is vital to sustain both continued competitiveness and overall quality of life. Further, infrastructure plays other crucial roles: to re-balance the economy by supporting growth across the entire region; and to do this sustainably so that the environment does not suffer and less advantaged populations benefit. In this way, opportunity is distributed more evenly while stewarding the environment and resources carefully. A key opportunity to attain this is by linking the Oxbridge Gateway initiative to the Greater London Region. The Government through its budget and industrial and housing strategies, along with the National Infrastructure Commission through its reports, have given strong signals of support to the East-West Arc by promoting strategic growth opportunities that the delivery of infrastructure and housing can unlock.
Encompassing England’s economic heartland, the Arc is simultaneously a centre of knowledge and technology innovation, as well as renowned for its environmental qualities and historic places such as the Cotswalds, Oxford and Cambridge. Providing desirable places to live and work is essential to maintaining the region’s competitiveness, especially in securing investment and talent.
Given the scale and complexity of the Arc’s continuing development, foresight based on analysis at multiple scales across multiple issues is vital. We envisage five key themes that need to be addressed, also acknowledged by Government, councils and the National Infrastructure Commission. They and the questions that they address are:
1 Vision and Strategy
Realising the region’s potential will require a clear and integrated vision supported by a coherent integrated delivery strategy that will involve new collaborations between public and private sectors.
- What is the nature of the city region? Destination or gateway? Connected or autonomous? Equitable or polarized? Cohesive or fragmented?
- What is / are the defining images that portray the region?
- Whose region is it? Who pays, who benefits, who gets to live and work there?
- What is the best way for vetting competing scenarios for the future? What evaluation criteria should be applied, and by whom?
- How to integrate the vision and spatial strategy into existing national strategies, policies and statutory plans?
- Does a stand-alone spatial strategy or strategic plan for the region add value and coherence that individual agency and LEP / council plans cannot?
2 Infrastructure and Development
Building this region will also entail re-thinking traditional growth models, especially if projected infrastructure networks are to be developed and prospective housing demands are to be met.
- How do various visions, scenarios and strategies compare with the National Industrial Strategy? The National Housing Strategy?
- How to align the East-West rail line, the East-West expressway and HS2 with each other and the communities that they serve? Shared rights of way?
- How to best plan so that infrastructure networks of all types are integrated as seamlessly as possible into both the existing urban fabric and new growth?
- How to envision infrastructure as multi-layered networks comprising roads, rails and houses but also nature, agriculture and water; to envisage more holistic and healthy places that realise the best potential for the region?
3 Shared Value and Sustainability
Often urban development occurs that is guided by limited criteria, such as regulatory compliance or profit. We seek to establish the norms that compel shared value that go beyond balancing ‘competing’ interests to synergize them to gain multiple benefits for all concerned.
- What are the opportunities to create and share value among all sectors – public, private, and not for profit?
- How to measure and account for non-commensurate types of value? For example, monetary and non-monetary?
- How to reconcile the economy and the environment so that they are mutually supportive rather than seen as trade-offs?
4 Leading and Governing
Strong yet flexible leadership of place and competitiveness that addresses long term challenges and opportunities through short term, incremental steps responsive to current and foreseeable political and economic contexts. This entails the redesign of institutions for suitable governance structures and processes with sufficient resources and flexibilities to deliver an integrated strategy across the region.
- Who governs?
- What are the arrangements and relations among the polities comprising the region? Centralized, decentralized, network, composite?
- How are places and their governance mechanisms elaborated? How are the region, sub-regions, local councils and their collaborations articulated?
- How to evaluate how the benefits and costs are distributed fairly by re-aligning government institutions?
- Develop processes and establish collaborative consortia to conduct via broad consensus the analysis, strategy, and delivery for the corridor linked with the greater London region.
5 Finance and Delivery
There exists the need to build investor and voter confidence in order to create the right investment structures to attain balanced and fair public and private sector involvement to forward fund infrastructure planning and development that balances economic, social and environmental value.
- How to align individual projects, whether housing estates or infrastructure facilities, with regional and national strategies on the one hand, and local priorities and plans on the other?
- How will the established the East West Rail company undertake alignment – right of way and institutional – with the proposed East-West Expressway and the locales that they serve?
- What are the best partnership and institutional arrangement models to enable investment that is effective yet equitable for all parties?
- How best to engage strategic development and investment partners such as key landholders such as universities, councils, Ministry of Defence, National Rail, etc.?