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      We Need to Look Local to Realise the Arc’s Potential

      If we want to unlock the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’s potential to become a world-leading centre of innovation, then we’ve got to think local.

      21 Feb 2022 Alex Robinson, Director of Development for Strategic Land, Grosvenor

      The Government’s ongoing development of a regional spatial framework is essential for creating a coherent vision for the area, but that top-down strategy won’t be realised unless people living in the Arc buy into it. 

      On the one hand, gaining the support of local authorities in the region relies on them being reassured that they will be able to get constituents on side.  On the other, investors and developers want a degree of certainty that plans will progress without facing significant local opposition. 

      The Government knows the importance of hearing from those who live, work and have an interest in the region and reflecting their views in the direction of its framework.  Its early consultation work has already established some common priorities for development, including the environment, economy, connectivity and infrastructure, and placemaking.

      It shows that we have to broaden the conversation beyond the 30,000 homes target that was outlined in the original Arc vision.

      It’s also important to recognise that these issues will mean different things and have different weighting for people depending on where they live.  Broad-ranging and comprehensive public engagement is therefore vital for understanding local nuances.  It must be a pillar of decision-making around the Arc’s future, not just for developing the spatial framework but for the creation of Local and Neighbourhood Plans through to the shaping of individual planning applications by developers and their partners.   

      Across these processes, dialogue with residents should be frequent and open.  It should also be honest.  Not all local aspirations will be achievable so Government, local authorities and developers will need to explain where the trade-offs might be to achieve the ambition of turning the Arc into a world-changing R&D hub.  They’ve also got to build local excitement and pride in what it will mean for people to be part of that transformation, and demonstrate what it will deliver for them and their children.  If people can picture how they personally could benefit from regional growth and development, then they are more likely to accept that not all their local demands may be met.  It will also make the wider initiative feel like less of a top-down imposition.   

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