Freya aged 8

We’re fortunate enough to be living in a part of England where this 8-year old’s dream is not only possible, it has every chance of being a reality.

So why are we talking about what life here could be like in 2050?

Milton Keynes is a part of an area that the Government has named the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Because of the major science and technology capabilities, the knowledge, jobs and innovation created here, the Arc is designated as a place of national economic importance. In short, this area is home to people and businesses who are tackling some of the major challenges this country – and indeed the world – faces. We need our area to succeed to help the whole country recover from economic, health and environmental slowdown. The area brings in a lot of business attention that supports our wider prosperity. But we can all point to issues that need investing in to make sure that we not only retain our quality of life but create the opportunities for our families to make it better. Pick from any local issue that’s impacting our communities: housing affordability (we’re on the housing ladder, but my friend’s daughter hasn’t a hope in…), access to GPs and securing places in good schools, reeaaaally slow internet. To some of the big issues that are increasingly affecting us. Climate change and resultant weather patterns, the essential need to move swiftly from fossil fuels, critical water shortages in many areas and floods in others and, some, well, serious health and wellbeing challenges that have turned our world upside down these past 18 months.

For most of us, we just expect the government – whether that be local councils or national government to provide the necessary infrastructure and support we need to make things okay. And, largely, they deliver. For 2021, there are new, different choices that need to be made. And to secure our future in this post–EU, (hopefully) post-lock down era, we require greater collaboration, long term planning and joined-up investment. History shows that we’re less good at that bit. In the Arc, we’re being given the opportunity to change that. 

The Government has said that the Arc has the potential to be a world-leader in sustainability. A global beacon, say, for how we create better, more sustainable places of the future by making improvements to our environment, through more joined up planning for modern infrastructure and by adopting technologies and approaches so we work towards zero carbon and healthier living, working and travel- faster and affordably. To help achieve this, it has committed to creating a long-term plan that will be set in national policy. This means that all parts of government, business, developers and investors will all need to work towards what’s agreed in this plan. It’s called a Spatial Framework and it will cover the whole Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

A couple of weeks ago, work on this plan started. It’s going to take about 18 months to complete. It’s at this very early stage that the Government wants to hear directly from us, the residents. They ask that we read through some facts and figures about where we live and why they are creating this plan. Then they ask us to prioritise a set of statements so that they can understand what we value most in our local areas and what we would like them to prioritise for future investment so that these can be built into the plan from the very beginning. This consultation closes on 12 October.

So, looking at this today and considering what my long-term vision is, and prospects for my area are, (which are actually really hard questions to answer!), at the forefront of my mind was my eight-year-old. She’ll be 37 by then and perhaps an inventor. I’ll be…  Life will be different.

 I’ve had my say. #Haveyoursay #OxCamArc

GO to: placebuilder.io/futureofthearc and have your say before 12 October

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