What’s the latest on the ‘Brain Belt’?

7 September 2018

As many will be aware, the Government has set its sights on creating the Oxford - Milton Keynes - Cambridge ‘Expressway’, linking the three major settlements with an upgraded dual carriageway and significant rail improvements, cutting commuting times by up to 40%.

The term Brain Belt has been coined for these proposals due to the pool of ‘talent’ (the Brain) that’s available in these areas, with Oxford and Cambridge university graduates and the opportunity to improve the interconnectivity of these available resources (through the introduction of a transportation ‘Belt’).

It is estimated by the National Infrastructure Commission that the project could contribute £160 billion a year to the region’s economy, as well as a million new homes by 2050 according to the Chancellor Philip Hammond.

In a letter, sent at the end of July, housing minister Kit Malthouse said the Government was inviting councils in the Brain Belt to "bring forward ambitious proposals for transformational housing growth, including new settlements".

"Proposals should be led by the relevant local authority, working closely with partners including local enterprise partnerships, universities and colleges, landowners, businesses, and others. Where appropriate, these should build on any housing deal discussions that are already underway", the letter said.

 The letter said proposals should focus on:

  • Economic rationale: "how new settlements will support job creation and economic growth; any propositions involving existing or new anchor institutions or industries".
  • Transport and other infrastructure: "connections to existing and planned transport networks; potential for new transport schemes; requirements for other forms of infrastructure to support housing growth (healthcare, utilities, education, etc); key challenges (inc. funding and planning)".
  • Geography and land: "understanding potential locations; availability of land including ownership and physical and legal constraints; factoring environmental considerations into any proposals".
  • Delivery: "proposed scale and pace of delivery; deliverability and commercial viability.
  • Partnerships: how local authorities will work together and with other key partners; the role of central government".
  • Funding: "how proposals could be funded, including the role of private finance".

Malthouse initially stated that proposals were to be submitted by Friday 14th September, however, he later published a public clarification stating that this is not a hard deadline and more a ‘hand in the air’ exercise to gauge interest.

With the transportation improvements already very much underway, it looks as if the Government’s attention is refocussing towards securing the housing sites to support these proposals.

We are certainly interested to see what proposals come forward over the coming months…watch this space!