THREE quarters of people living in Oxfordshire fear the county’s environment will be damaged by development that could see a million new homes built, a charity has found.

The Government wants one million new homes built between Oxford and Cambridge by 2050 to boost prosperity in the ‘arc’ region. About a third of those are thought to be earmarked for Oxfordshire.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said 61 per cent of Oxfordshire residents did not support the scale of proposed building across the county.

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The charity said the Government must carry out an environmental assessment to see what the damage to the countryside of the development might be.

The Oxford Times:

Paul Miner, CPRE’s head of strategic plans and devolution, said: “It is unthinkable that the Government would consider such a vast development proposal, which will have huge and damaging consequences for the countryside and environment, without any sort of assessment of its impact.

“People are right to be concerned.”

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Roughly 100,000 of the new homes are included in Oxfordshire councils’ housing programmes and should be complete by the mid-2030s.

But groups, including CPRE, have said the figure is far more than the county will need in the future.

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Work on fuelling expansion includes the development of the multi-billion Oxford-Cambridge expressway. A further consultation on where that might be built is expected later this year.

Mr Miner added: “Rather than ignoring people and the environment in a rush for economic growth, consideration of the full effects on communities and the environment must be given priority.

“Before the Government takes these proposals any further, it is imperative that a Strategic Environmental Assessment is carried out, along with a full public consultation on the proposals.”

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On March 13, the Government published a joint declaration of aims for the corridor, backed by four of its ministers.

It said the area between Oxford and Cambridge is ‘first and foremost an area of significant economic strength and opportunity, which can further benefit its existing and future communities by realising its potential’.

The arc is defined as the area between the country’s most celebrated university cities, along with Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire.

The Oxford Times:

The Government has said the region is already a ‘globally significant place and has the potential to become even greater’.

Much of the effort to boost the region would come in funding for technology projects. Some are likely to be assisted by Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

A significant amount of work is also expected in Milton Keynes, which could see its population grow significantly by the middle of the century.

But figures included in the declaration show housebuilding across the arc has been much slower than hoped over the last decade.

Just two local authorities between Oxford and Cambridge exceeded housing targets.

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Only Luton Borough Council and Chiltern District Council exceeded their totals by three and 29 per cent, respectively.

In comparison, West Oxfordshire’s completed homes were 53 per cent down on predicted figures. The annual average housing target in the district was 798 every year – but just 379 were completed on average.

Oxford City was down by 42 per cent, Cherwell by 41 per cent, South Oxfordshire by 35 per cent and Vale of White Horse 34 per cent.

CPRE said it conducted its survey in Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire between mid-January and mid-February, asking 1,543 people in total.