REGULAR readers will be aware of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. The proposed new road to link the university cities via Milton Keynes, Bedford and a host of other settlements.

Readers will also be aware of the strong reactions to it from environmental campaigners, parish councils, community groups and concerned residents.

When the preferred route ‘corridor B’ was announced taking it around Bicester; the minister claimed that the road will ‘help unlock the commercial development of up to one million new homes’, with the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, adding that ‘the Oxford to Cambridge arc is one of the greatest opportunities for economic growth in Europe’.

We in Labour do not support the Expressway. We are not convinced by the economic case, are concerned at the impact on the natural environment and worried that by following a similar path to East-West Rail; it will undermine that project’s success.

As much of a concern; is the lack of proper consultation with interested parties. Highways England is responsible for this. For a time, there was a degree of political unanimity on this.

Back in December 2017 a motion at Oxfordshire County Council called “for a Public Enquiry into the need for the road and the selection of a route, so that everyone involved has the opportunity to have their views properly taken into account, and to set up a cross-party Committee to look at all aspects of the impact of the Expressway”.

That council then went even further in January 2019, saying it “resolves to oppose the Expressway as it is currently proposed”.

Elsewhere, however, the political consensus seems to breaking down.

Cherwell District Council has remained silent. This isn’t for want of trying. In December, I asked councillor Barry Wood a direct question “Does he support the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway?” and received only the answer that he felt there was “advantage”, “spin-off” and that it “had potential”.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council, seems to be in favour of the Expressway and his group voted down a Labour motion calling on the county council to oppose it earlier this month.

This leads to a very confusing picture at a time when clarity is needed to ensure that local voices are heard.

Conservatives have not held back in sending messages to government on HS2. Why are they quiet now?

I think the answer comes down to money.

They may talk of their financial competence, but this is an authority that hasn’t got its accounts in order in three of the last four years.

With less funding from government, Cherwell is reliant on New Homes Bonus and Business Rates to keep going.

The M40 provides ample and perhaps they think that the Expressway will provide an increased dividend.

I could be wrong. But the silence is deafening.