National & International

Councils refuse to sign gagging order over Expressway

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Buckinghamshire County Council and Aylesbury Vale District Council have refused to sign non-disclosure agreements that would limit what they could say about the planned Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.

Oxfordshire County, South Oxfordshire, Milton Keynes and Vale of White Horse District Councils have all already agreed to sign the orders, which were offered to them by Highways England.

In a video posted to Facebook, Aylesbury Vale Cllr Robin Stuchbury voiced his concern at Highways England’s request to the Councils. He asked: “Why are government forcing local authorities to sign confidentiality agreements on such huge infrastructure projects that will influence so many people? Transparency is key.”

Highways England has claimed that the agreements would allow Councils to “identify, develop and test potential viable route options” before consulting the public.

Cllr Martin Gowans, Milton Keynes Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Transport, defended his Council’s decision to sign the agreement. At a cabinet meeting on July 9 he said: “I prefer these kind of discussions to be more transparent, but appreciate without signing we wouldn’t have had the information, which has been helpful in scoping out our own local transport study.”

There are currently options for the expressway to pass either east or west of Oxford. When built, the road will take up to 40 minutes off the journey time between the M1 and the A34 south of Oxford.

Highways England are due to run a public consultation on the proposed route in Autumn 2019.

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