Public consultation launched to help shape the region’s future

Mon 23 August, 2021
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The University of Bedfordshire has welcomed the Government’s new consultation initiative – Creating a vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc – that will promote economic and sustainable growth across five mid-England counties.

In a document published in July 2021, the new plan aims to enhance the infrastructure, environment and new developments in the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to £200bn a year by 2050 in a strategy akin to the Northern Powerhouse. It will be developed by the Government, informed by engagement with local communities and stakeholders, and will have sustainability at its core.

The public consultation is the first of three that will guide the new Spatial Framework over the next two years. Alongside traditional engagement methods – such as workshops – a new, innovative digital engagement platform has been created to give a voice to the region’s residents, allowing them the opportunity to contribute to the long-term development of the area they live, work and have an interest in.

Residents in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc can now go online and have their say on their vision for the future of the area. The digital consultation for the Spatial Framework will be open to all until mid-October 2021. Comments received in the consultation will help create the Spatial Framework’s vision for the area to 2050, and will help guide local planning and investment decisions in four areas – the environment, the economy, place-making and connectivity and infrastructure – while ensuring pioneering environmental standards and enhancements are delivered and the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan is put into action.

The Arc’s success is key to the UK’s national prosperity, international competitiveness and ability to meet the challenges and opportunities the country will face over the next century – including climate change and supporting nature recovery, technological change, fighting Covid-19 and preventing future pandemics.

The University of Bedfordshire, alongside eight other universities across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, form the Arc Universities Group (AUG). Together, with industry and government support, AUG is working to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth across the region through research, knowledge exchange and innovation. These areas will include specialisms in automotive and aerospace engineering, skills and entrepreneurship, and even recent breakthroughs in the Covid-19 vaccine. 

Map of ArcThe Spatial Framework will inevitably shape place-making for millions of people across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. It is hoped that the long-term vision of the Spatial Framework will enhance job creation, protect green spaces and invest in people's health and wellbeing – creating exemplars for green development that will inspire communities around the world. 

A recent example of University of Bedfordshire’s regional economic impact can be seen through the success of its multi-million-pound, EU-funded business support programmes, through which the University was able to fund short-term employment of approximately 200 graduates in local businesses. Typically, the University’s Research & Innovation Service (RIS) engages with over 600 private and public sector organisations every year.

As one of the ‘knowledge powerhouses’ within the Arc, the University of Bedfordshire is well placed to support business engagement, with an estimated £300m yearly contribution to the regional economy and having attracted over £20m in business regeneration funding over the past few years.

Recent activity involving the University is the new £1.8million Bedford Green Technology & Innovation Park – a 30-hectare former landfill site in Elstow – which is being created thanks to the collaboration between the Universities of Bedfordshire and Cranfield, Bedford Borough Council and other local colleges.

Funded by SEMLEP’s Getting Building Fund, the aims of this project are to generate green, low carbon, clean energy in Bedfordshire, encouraging others to reduce carbon emissions, adopt innovative technologies and improve air quality.

Dr Nick Lancaster, Director of RIS at the University of Bedfordshire, said: “The University of Bedfordshire is an active driver and supporter of sustainable economic growth through research and innovation and working with and supporting the regional communities. The Spatial Framework will give those communities a voice - and works to underpin the infrastructure required for academic experts from the Arc Universities Group to continue generating new knowledge to help drive social and economic impact for the region.

 “The University contributes an estimated £300 million annually to the regional economy and is committed to working in partnership with our communities to share knowledge, skills and expertise and broaden understanding and horizons.”

Key Arc statsThe Government is also establishing a new expert panel, which will engage with local authorities and communities, to advise on bringing forward sustainable economic and housing growth in the Arc – the public will be consulted at each stage and the Government will continue to work closely with local stakeholders throughout.

The Expert Advisory Panel will report to the Minister for Housing, Rt. Hon Christopher Pincher MP, with the primary area of focus being between Bedford and Cambridge, where the Government is examining opportunities to bring forward well-designed, inclusive and sustainable places.

He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for people across the Arc to make their voice heard and help create the future for their community that they want to see. Both the Spatial Framework consultation and Expert Advisory Panel will help us to ensure the Oxford-Cambridge Arc to be a great place to live and work – now and in the decades to come.”

Other panel members will consist of industry leaders, local representatives and subject area experts from a range of disciplines, who will work with local government and other partners to inform the panel’s advice. Further details can be found here.

For more information about the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, contact University of Bedfordshire’s Research & Innovation Service (RIS): ris@beds.ac.uk  

The RIS team provides a key service for Bedfordshire’s local economic and business communities, as well as initiating impactful research, collaborations and non-profit funding opportunities between organisations and academics.

To find out more about the Arc Universities Group, visit https://arcuniversities.co.uk

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