OxCam Expert Advisory Panel – what does it mean for Bedfordshire?

13th September 2021

We ask what does the government’s recently announced Oxford-Cambridge Arc expert advisory panel mean for the Bedford Borough Local Plan 2040 consultation?

During August, the Government quietly announced that they have appointed Emma Cariaga to Chair a newly established Oxford – Milton Keynes- Bedford – Cambridge Arc “Expert Advisory Panel”. The purpose of the Expert Panel, which will stand for six months, will be to:

“..focus on the area between Bedford and Cambridge, where the government has committed to explore the case for new or expanded settlements including those linked to potential East West Rail stations, to bring forward well-designed, inclusive and vibrant places”.

Emma Cariaga is currently a senior director with the company British Land, one of the largest property development and investment companies in the country.

The development of East/West Rail and particularly the route from Bedford to Cambridge has been driven, not by the needs of local communities for environmentally sustainable transport infrastructure which will reduce congestion on the road network, provide a sustainable transport option for existing communities, and reduce our carbon footprint but rather to provide massive new development opportunities for New Towns in the north Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire countryside.

Coming so quickly after the latest East West Rail Consultation has been completed, during which the East West Rail Company and Bedford Borough Council said that the development of New Towns in the North Bedfordshire countryside was not the target of the new rail route, this announcement makes a mockery of the whole process.

The government has continually said that local people will be included in the decision making process of developments across the Arc. To put a senior director of a London based property development company as chair of the Expert Panel adds insult to injury. It seems clear that the interests of the people of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and local democracy will not be one of the Panel’s priorities, which raises the following questions:

  • What does this mean for the BBC Local Plan 2040 which is currently out for consultation?
  • Will the new Expert Panel feed their ideas into the BBC Local Plan 2040?
  • Will local people be consulted by the Expert Panel?


North Bedfordshire countryside
Quernmore landscape