Frequently Asked Questions


What does a ‘Vision for the Spatial Framework’ mean?

What weight will the Spatial Framework have in terms of influencing planning decisions?

Who is going to develop the Spatial Framework?

What are the key themes and the focus of the Spatial Framework?

What stage of the process are you currently at? When will the Spatial Framework be ready?

What status will the Spatial Framework have?

What is the point of this plan if it is not statutory?

How can local residents and stakeholders have their say?

Why does the digital engagement platform not allow me to share more of my views?

How will local authorities be able to feed into the development of the Spatial Framework?

Why are you consulting now?

Who did you speak to in the pre-engagement consultation?


What does a ‘Vision for the Spatial Framework’ mean?  

The Spatial Framework will be government led planning policy. For it to work best as area-specific national planning policy we think it is important that its content is informed and shaped by those who live, work and have an interest in the Arc. 

The purpose of a vision is to bring the policy outcomes to life and illustrate the kind of place and future that together the policies are aiming to achieve. The vision will act as the core from which policies are developed and framed. Good visions are simple and easy to understand in a way that allows everyone to visualise the future of that place. 

We think the vision for the Spatial Framework should be ambitious, aspirational, and be unique to the Arc and reflect its people, places and potential. We think it’s important to also think big in terms of potential opportunities for transformation. The world will be a very different place by 2050, and we want to ensure that the vision for the Spatial Framework helps make the area an even better place to live, work, travel in and enjoy for existing and future communities alike. The vision for the Spatial Framework will also need to be realistic and reflect the scope and remit of this national planning policy for the Arc.  

To help build on our ambitions and develop the vision we are asking for your views in our public consultation.  
 
Is this a return to top-down regional planning? / Isn’t this removing power from local authorities and placing it in the hands of Whitehall? / What weight will the Spatial Framework have in terms of influencing planning decisions? 

This is a unique approach to planning in a world-leading economic area, but it is not a return to the approach to regional planning of the past.  

It will strengthen our ability to deliver sustainable growth, environmental outcomes, economic growth and raise the quality and beauty of new development where it happens. We have made a clear commitment to working with local communities and local authorities across the area as this is developed – this is a chance for everyone, from residents and community groups to businesses, universities and charities – to help us shape a better future for the area.  

Within the current legal framework, local planning authorities must have regard to relevant national policies when preparing local plans, and in the decision-making system, local decisions are required to be made in accordance with such local plans unless material considerations (including national policy) indicate otherwise. 

The Spatial Framework will provide a strategic context for local planning and decision-making by setting national policy for the Arc based on an assessment of the environmental, social and economic opportunities in the area. This means that in future, local authorities preparing planning policy documents and determining planning applications will need to consider the Spatial Framework as a material consideration where relevant, just like they consider the relevant content of the National Planning Policy Framework today, to better support sustainability and economic growth across the area. 

Who is going to develop the Spatial Framework?  

In our policy paper ‘Planning for sustainable growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc: Spatial Framework’ published on 18 February 2021, we set out how we intend to develop the Spatial Framework, working with local partners and communities to shape a plan for sustainable growth for the region. The policy paper lay out the process and indicative timeline to deliver the Spatial Framework, with a draft Framework due to be prepared for late 2022.  

Alongside local partners, the Spatial Framework will be developed by the government across a number of departments, led by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Departments and bodies involved in the development of the Spatial Framework will include, Department for Transport (DfT); Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT); Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department for International Trade (DIT), Homes England and the Infrastructure & Projects Authority (IPA). 

What are the key themes and the focus of the Spatial Framework?  

The Spatial Framework will strategically guide local planning and investment decisions under four ‘pillars’:  the environment and sustainability; the economy; connectivity and infrastructure; and place-making. A fully integrated Sustainability Appraisal will ensure full consideration is given to environmental, economic and social issues/outcomes in the policy development and decision-making process, and across each of the four ‘pillars’ of our approach. We believe that this approach will allow us to better plan for economic growth supported by new homes and infrastructure and sustainable outcomes throughout. 

The Environment and sustainability: The government wants to support growth in the Arc in a way that is sustainable – including by protecting, enhancing and recovering the natural environment. We think there is a unique opportunity for the Arc to become a world-leader for sustainability over the coming decades, and we will ensure that sustainability is at the heart of the Spatial Framework. This will include undertaking a fully integrated Sustainability Appraisal, which will incorporate a strategic environmental assessment and be informed by other statutory assessments and regimes such as a habitats regulations assessment. Health Impact Assessment, Water Framework Directive Assessment and Equalities Impact Assessment. We will also identify strategic opportunity areas.  

The Economy: The Government’s priority for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc is sustainable economic growth. We think there is an opportunity for the Arc to be one of the most productive economic areas in the world, in turn creating job opportunities, improving the standard of living for local communities, and making a major contribution to national prosperity as we build back better from the impacts of COVID-19.   
Connectivity and infrastructure: The government wants to see that the Oxford-Cambridge Arc is better connected – including by making it easier and more sustainable to travel for work, education, and leisure, so that walking, cycling, and travel by rail and bus, can be the first choice for everyone in the Arc. It will also mean creating places that reduce the need to travel in the first place and improving communities’ access to the services they need. 

Place-making: We think there is an opportunity for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc to be a world-leader in sustainable place-making and community living.  We have an opportunity through the Spatial Framework to help ensure new homes and places are great places to live by being more sustainable, beautiful and green, and better served by the services and infrastructure they need. The Spatial Framework aims to make sure that we build places that the Arc needs to support sustainable growth, and that communities will cherish for decades and centuries to come. 

What stage of the process are you currently at? When will the Spatial Framework be ready? 

We recently launched [July] our consultation paper, ‘Creating a vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’, and the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report which launches the first phase of consultation for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Spatial Framework. This phase of the process involves consulting with local residents, partners, businesses and interested stakeholders on the Vision for the Spatial Framework. 

This consultation is the first phase of formal public consultation taking place and will be a 12-week consultation to shape a Vision for the Spatial Framework. The development of the Spatial Framework will be supported by two further public consultations: 

Towards a Spatial Framework: Using the vision as a foundation, we will develop options for delivering its objectives based on engagement, initial evidence gathering and analysis. We hope to publish this, alongside a Sustainable Appraisal Issues and Options Report for consultation, in Spring 2022. 

Draft Spatial Framework: To finalise the Spatial Framework, we will consider responses to the previous consultation and undertake further spatial analysis, option testing, impact assessments and engagement. We hope to publish the draft Spatial Framework with its Sustainability Appraisal Environmental Report for consultation in Autumn 2022, with implementation of the final framework shortly after. 

Other Arc-related consultations are likely beyond the Spatial Framework in respect of any further Government led initiatives in the Arc. 

What status will the Spatial Framework have?  

The Spatial Framework will not be a statutory development plan. Instead, we intend to implement the Framework as national planning and transport policy, which will mean it will need to be taken into account when making local plans and be capable of being a material weight consideration in planning decisions – as per the National Planning Policy Framework.  
 
What is the point of this plan if it is not statutory? 

The Spatial Framework will not be a statutory development plan, but is intended where relevant to be taken into account in local statutory plan making and a material consideration in decision-making. We intend to implement the Framework as national planning policy, which will mean it will be capable of being a material consideration where relevant as a matter of law, with weight being a matter for the relevant decision-maker. The statutory regime requires that local planning authorities must have regard to such national policies when preparing statutory local plans, and in the decision-making system, local decisions are required to be made in accordance with such local plans unless material considerations (including national policy) indicate otherwise. 

A non-statutory framework will also allow us to review and adapt on a more regular basis to fit the changing needs and circumstances of the area and its communities. This is also about long-term investment in the Arc, as the Framework – which will include an infrastructure plan and economic strategy - will provide greater long-term certainty for both government and private investment in the area.   

How can local residents and stakeholders have their say? 

In February we formally launched the process to develop the Spatial Framework. In doing so, we committed to conducting wide and meaningful engagement to give as many people as possible the opportunity to influence how the Spatial Framework is designed. We want to ensure the Spatial Framework is built on the interests and priorities of the communities it will serve, so we will need to work closely with stakeholders including local authorities, businesses, social enterprises, local enterprise partnerships, sub-national transport bodies, residents, and academia to reach and capture the widest range of views possible. To achieve this, on the Spatial Framework we intend to carry out three phases of planned public consultation over a two-year period and will do so in a way that is open, collaborative, digital and inclusive.  

The first opportunity for public consultation to shape the Spatial Framework has just been launched. We will be hosting a series of workshops alongside our digital engagement platform, which provides all local stakeholders with the opportunity to respond with their views on the approach to the vision so far. We want to hear from all residents and communities, as well as businesses, community groups, charities, universities and other stakeholders, to help us create a Vision by telling us about their priorities for the area. 

It is likely that there will be other Arc consultations related to government-led proposals in the Arc to help support the delivery of the Spatial Framework and the government's ambition for the area.  

Why does the digital engagement platform not allow me to share more of my views?
(i.e. why did we choose the statement approach/limited text box option) 

Our priority for the first phase of the consultation, launched in [July], is to reach as wide an audience amongst the public as possible, and particularly those who are normally under-represented in consultations of this kind. To reach those audiences, we have launched a digital platform, which enables responders to rate potential vision statements, and seeks to be quick, simple, engaging, and accessible to all. You can access the digital platform and respond to our consultation here.  

We recognise that we have provided a limited range of options for responses to questions – this is so that the consultation is accessible and easy to respond to, and so that we can more easily collect and analyse the views of everyone who responds. This will help us to ensure we consider all relevant views expressed, and that everyone has an opportunity to have their say. However, we are open to other ideas and have provided an option to provide these by selecting ‘other’ where relevant. 

The next stage of the Spatial Framework consultation, which will take place in Spring 2022, will focus on obtaining a deeper understanding of the views of residents and key stakeholders, and will allow communities and stakeholders the chance to shape the Spatial Framework by telling us more about their priorities for the area.  

How will local authorities be able to feed into the development of the Spatial Framework? 

As we build our evidence base and develop options for policies and priority schemes that the Spatial Framework will identify, we will work closely with local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and England’s Economic Heartland (the sub-national transport body that covers an area including the Arc), including through the local Arc Leaders’ Executive.  

Local authorities will be encouraged to engage in all three public consultations and will have the opportunity to further engage through on-going discussions with government.  

Why are you consulting now? 

Before we start the detailed, technical work to develop the Spatial Framework, we want to hear your views on what we should focus on and prioritise to support sustainable economic growth in the area so that we can create a vision for the Spatial Framework and how it will support the Arc to 2050. Therefore, we recently [July date] launched our consultation document, called ‘Creating a vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’. This consultation will help inform the strategic focus and priorities for the policies in the Spatial Framework and the investment that may be required to support its delivery.  

Who did you speak to in the pre-engagement consultation? 

In March 2021 we held a short series of initial workshops and conversations with a small sample of local residents, young people, academic experts, businesses, charities, campaign groups and local councils. All comments received as part of this early engagement will be considered as part of this consultation. We have also produced a summary of the workshop feedback for your information that can be viewed alongside this publication. 

We have used the feedback we received in these sessions to help inform the types of questions we are asking in this consultation; guide the data and evidence we have provided alongside it, and how we have presented it; and shape how we are engaging, including through our digital platform.

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