A proper gander at the Arc
The origin of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc demonstrates the opposite of democratic principles.
Democracy has been defined as government of the people, by the people, for the people. The Arc is an imposition on local people, by a London-based Oxbridge clique, largely for the benefit of land owners, developers and the political interests to which many of them donate.
Looking through and beyond the Arc enthusiasts’ propaganda might give an indication of the outcomes they are most likely to prioritise. Will one of them truly be the much-heralded “doubling of nature”, which has forced environmental NGOs into complicity in the hope that they can retain some influence over the Arc’s development?
Bodies set up and documents issued by the OxCam Arc that address the environment do look promising. An OxCam Environment Working Group has been working for two years to produce: “shared regional principles for protecting, restoring and enhancing the environment” in the Arc. These principles look wide-ranging and ambitious.
Meanwhile, an “LNCP project”, led by DEFRA with Natural England, the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency, has been set up “to develop a local natural capital plan (LNCP)” for the Arc. It was conceived: “to support the delivery of environmental protection and enhancement as part of the planned growth and investment within the Arc”.
So far, so good? But not so good when you look at the inner sanctum where the real power lies in the Arc.
There are three “Arc Leadership Groups”, with overlapping membership and names:-
1. The Arc Leadership Group, comprising the Leaders of the local authorities in the Arc, who are all unquestioningly gung-ho about growth, with the possible exception of Buckinghamshire; the chairs of the four Arc Local Enterprise and Business Boards, the chair of the Arc University Group and, once formed, the chair of the Arc Health Bodies Group.
2. The Arc Leadership Group Executive, comprising three representative Leaders from each of the six local authorities, six representative leaders from the Central Area Growth Board, the chair of the Arc Universities Group, the chair of the Arc Economic Partnerships and, once formed, the chair of the Arc Health Bodies.
3. The Arc Leadership Chief Executive Group, presumably a link between local and central government, since it comprises the chief executive officer from each of the Arc Leadership Group members, along with senior Government Arc Team officers.
If you are still awake after reading that, you may be interested to know that: “meetings of these groups are not public meetings at this stage and will be by invitation only”.
If you are looking for a chance to influence decisions on the environment, there will be: “an annual meeting of all relevant agencies where the budget and forward plan are presented and agreed” (as a fait accompli?).
The Arc leadership structure in effect appears to give carte blanche to the growth junkies.
The advocates on behalf of nature, the environment and adequately addressing climate change will be sitting in the wings, trying to stand up for non-economic priorities and prevent them from being relentlessly eroded.