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'We'll stay in the Garth'
BICESTER Town Council will stay put in its Garth House HQ after rejecting proposals to pay £45,000 in rent to move to the town’s planned civic building.
The decision puts an end to years of debate over what to do with the Launton Road mansion house.
The move comes as sustainability charity Bio Regional secured a grant worth a total of £839,000 from the Department for Energy and Climate Change to make the historic property more energy efficient.
The council’s offices will be a guinea pig to test innovative technology that could be rolled out across the country to better insulate historical buildings to help them cope with climate change and reduce energy bills. A laser would monitor the rooms and hi-tech plasterboard would be shaped at the factory and brought to site and assembled like a “jigsaw puzzle”.
Alex Towler, of Bio Regional, said: “The project has so far been proven on domestic homes, but it has not been used for non- residential buildings of this size. The technology could potentially be a low-cost way of insulating solid wall homes. It’s relatively easy to fill cavity walls but in solid walls it can be hard.” The improvements could cut the council’s current heating bill by half. Last year the council paid £3,000.
The cash would be used to design, install and monitor the improvements. Work could start within months. But first Bio Regional must get planning approval to install two automated roof windows in the chamber’s bay window, and two air vents.
Only the area occupied by the council would be fitted with new insulated plasterboard, secondary glazing, under-floor insulation and mechanical heat-recovery system – which cools rooms in the summer and warms in the winter. The team is under tight deadline to complete work by March, to allow for one year’s monitoring by Oxford Brookes University.
Other parts of the house occupied by a day centre and the Citizens Advice Bureau will be used as a measure of what benefits the insulation has provided. Policy chairman James Porter said the work would secure Garth House as an asset for the town.
He said: “Instead of spending money trying to heat up the building, that money will be available for other things.” At the meeting on Monday councillors voted in favour of a recommendation to stay at Garth House rather than move the new civic building, which is due to be built next year by Cherwell District Council in Claremont car park It will house the district council’s Bicester branch and the town’s library will relocate there.
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