NATURE conservation charities have called for a transport plan which affects Oxfordshire to do more to address the climate and ecological emergencies

The charities include the RSPB; the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust; the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants; and the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.

They have urged regional transport body England’s Economic Heartland to adopt higher ambitions to decarbonise transport and restore nature in the face of climate and ecological emergencies.

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The group of four wildlife conservation organisations, who between them have more than 218,000 members in the area covered by EEH, responded to a public consultation on a transport strategy for the region.

The recent State of Nature 2019 report found that climate change is driving widespread changes in the abundance, distribution and ecology of the UK’s wildlife.

They called for EEH to support measures to limit and adapt to climate change and reverse biodiversity declines.

Banbury Cake:

The approximate area covered by the Oxford Cambridge Arc. Picture: Google Maps.

In particular, the charities highlighted concerns about proposals for two major transport infrastructure projects in the region, the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and East-West Rail, which they say in their present form are incompatible with the UK’s legally binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Colin Wilkinson, RSPB senior conservation officer: “Neither the Department for Transport nor the bodies responsible for delivering the Expressway and East-West Rail have presented any evidence of how they would contribute positively to achieving net-zero emissions nationally by 2050, let alone earlier.

“This seems to be wholly incompatible with the urgent need to reduce emissions from the transport sector.

“That is why we are asking EHH to explicitly support the need for carbon impact assessments for both the Expressway and East-West Rail.”

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The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and East-West Rail are key components of the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc that could see up to a million new houses built between the two university cities by 2050.

The routes followed by the Expressway and East-West Rail will have a significant influence over the location of any new residential and business development, which could include new towns and villages.

The charities said they are not aware of any environmental assessments or studies that consider the links between the transport infrastructure and housing components of the Growth Arc proposals, or impacts these could have on wildlife and the environment.