Green MEP calls for "renewed vigour" and "cooperation" between activists and residents fighting against the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, following a visit to meet campaign groups on Tuesday.
In a series of meetings, the senior Green politician spoke with the Save Otmoor campaign, representatives of CPRE Oxfordshire, the Expressway Action Group and members of Aylesbury Vale, Milton Keynes and Oxford Green Parties.
At the Social Cafe on Watlington high street, Mr Taylor met retired Ecology Professor David Rogers and campaigner Sarah Foxcroft from the Save Otmoor campaign and discussed the group's concerns over the loss unique habitat of rare wetland and grazing floodplain. The Expressway threatens up to 1,000 acres of nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Otmoor.
Mr Taylor then met with the Director of CPRE Oxfordshire, Helen Marshall, at the countryside protection organisation's headquarters in Watlington. The Green MEP has long supported CPRE's call for a public inquiry into the environmentally harmful Expressway and a full statutory public consultation on the plans.
During the meeting, Helen Marshal said:
"CPRE Oxfordshire has been, and remains, against the building of the Expressway and associated development. The new road will unleash a tidal wave of development. 300,000 houses, or 6 new cities the size of Oxford, are being planned for Oxfordshire."
"Let’s plan for real need: the right development for the future of Oxfordshire. The Government’s own figures show Oxfordshire needs 50,000 new houses up to 2031 to meet local demand."
"We are currently waiting for a Corridor choice to be announced by Government. The Corridor will be chosen without public consultation based on recommendations from Highways England. Highways England should not be dictating to existing communities without an opportunity for consultation. Nor should Highways England be deciding where a major new road could be built without considering spatial planning. Oxfordshire needs good quality, high density development not a wholesale transformation into urban sprawl."
"Decisions on the future of Oxfordshire should not be made behind closed doors. The public will only have an opportunity to raise their concerns about actual routes next year, 2019."
"Once a Corridor choice has been announced CPRE Oxfordshire will be looking closely at the landscape issues: working with other organisations and groups to protect rural Oxfordshire and the countryside that is at risk because of the Expressway."
Mr Taylor has previously argued that the lack of any meaningful consultation with the residents is in contravention of international law, as enshrined in the Aarhus Convention.
Later in the afternoon, the South East MEP headed to Denton to meet the Peter Rutt of the Expressway Action Group (EAG). As chair, Mr Rutt outlined the group's work representing 33 villages and parishes and 30,000 residents across Oxfordshire.
Following the meeting, Keith was joined by cross-county Green Party campaigners from along the proposed Expressway route; Oxford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury Vale. Local Green Parties in the region from Oxfordshire to Buckinghamshire to Cambridgeshire have been united in their opposition to the Expressway project.
Speaking after the event, Keith Taylor MEP, a member of the European Parliament's Environment and Transport Committees, said:
"Speaking to campaigners across Oxfordshire has been a humbling experience; the passion with which the people I met, some of whom have put their lives on hold to fight this campaign, speak about the need to protect our communities and environments is inspiring."
"I support the Expressway campaigners wholeheartedly and I hope they continue to the find the common ground necessary to keep collaborating. Working together with renewed vigour can only help our chances of stopping this project being imposed from on high."
Mr Taylor supports the parallel plans for the East-West rail project to connect Oxford and Cambridge. However, he previously slammed Ministers for prioritising the Expressway while reneging on a promise to electrify the rail route. He said:
"It is profoundly irresponsible for the Transport Secretary to prioritise, in the midst of an air quality crisis, a multibillion-pound roadbuilding project that is guaranteed to put more cars on our roads spewing out toxic fumes. We desperately need proper investment in projects like the originally-planned electrified East-West rail route. It is a project that could have been a vital step forward towards the kind of clean, integrated sustainable mobility systems fit for the 21st Century."
"I'm insisting Chris Grayling reconsiders the doubly raw deal he's about to hand the region. Our cities and towns deserve better than a rail project that is so underfunded it will be out-of-date as soon as it's completed, despite being a vital regional link. And they certainly deserve better than an already outmoded roadbuilding project, imposed against their will, and doomed to fail—even on its own terms."