Eco-town plan aims to provide a green future

Bicester Advertiser: Gerry Walker, regional director of development at A2 Dominion, with a model of one of the homes. Picture: OX63968 Mark Hemsworth Buy this photo » Gerry Walker, regional director of development at A2 Dominion, with a model of one of the homes. Picture: OX63968 Mark Hemsworth

ITS homes will be unique. It will make the area proud and set an example of how others across the UK should be living to try and do their bit for climate change.

They are some of the messages from the developer behind Oxfordshire’s first eco-town. Earlier this week A2 Dominion revealed ts long-awaited draft masterplan for the entire eco-town site at farmland at North West Bicester.

Work on the ground breaking 6,000-home development will start in the new year on 51 acres now owned by A2Dominion. The first phase of the eco settlement was giving planning permission for 393 homes, a school, eco pub and business centre, shops and an energy centre in August 2011. Construction of the development has had several false starts after negotiations to buy the land for the first phase took longer than expected. First to be built will be an access road from Banbury Road onto the site, then work on the 393 zero carbon homes can begin. The first phase is expected to be developed over five years, with the entire town expected to take 30 years to develop. Back in 2009 Bicester was one of four sites selected by the Government to create the country’s first eco-towns, becoming a model for how the UK should be living in order to combat climate change.

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The plans are based on the need to encourage people to use less energy.

Residents will live in low energy homes, and the design of the estate will encourage people to use their cars less, and instead walk, cycle or use public transport.

Work has been going on behind the scenes since then to create a masterplan of how the 1,000 acre site will be developed and what it will include.

A2’s regional development director Gerry Walker confirmed the limit on the number of homes built at the site would be 6,000, and they would be built over the next 30 years and eventually be occupied by around 13,000 people.

Overall the site will be made up of 45 per cent housing, 40 per cent green space and 15 per cent for necessary infrastructure including schools, shops, health facilities, hotel, care home and business land.

Regarding the 6,000 homes, Mr Walker said: “I think that will be the limit. From sound planning principles we have got 45 per cent for residential and we don’t want to be going over 13/14 homes per acre. There will be 30 per cent affordable housing.”

Mr Walker said A2 Dominion had been involved in the project since the start, but took on the lead role about 18 months ago.

He said: “We think it’s fabulous. A lot of work has gone into it – it’s very different to other developments of its kind because it’s more than a development. It is an extension to the town and 13,000 people will live there one day.“ Michael Gibbard, Cherwell District Council’s lead member for planning, said: “It is exciting to see the masterplan proposals for North West Bicester are progressing to show how an eco development can be built to provide the homes, jobs and facilities that the town needs in the future.

“I hope as many local people as possible will view the plans and contribute their ideas to ensure the new development is a great place to live and an asset for Bicester.”

The other eco-town sites are: Rackheath in Norfolk, Whitehill Bordon in East Hampshire and the China Clay Community scheme, near St Austell, Cornwall.

Work and major green spaces are among the scheme’s key features

KEY features of the scheme include:
 

  • JOBS

The idea is to create one job per household. So far A2 Dominion say the development could generate about 4,600. The proposed business park at the junction of Howes Lane and Middleton Stoney road could create 2,000, another 1,000 people are envisaged to work from home, and the rest would be created by the retail outlets, nursery, schools, care home, hotel, pub, eco business centre and other facilities at the site.

  • HOUSES

What will be unique about the development is that all homes will have solar panels to generate electricity.
Mr Walker said his firm’s homes would be at the highest energy level – six – and would include triple glazing, extra insulation, and heat and hot water would be piped in via an energy centre.
Called a district heating system, the first will built as part of phase one of the development at farmland off Banbury Road, and will be capable of supplying heating and hot water to up to 1,100 homes.
The houses will be designed to stay cool during hot weather and warm in cool weather. The design will allow for window shutters – used in hot countries to keep rooms cool – to be added in the future.
A rainwater harvest system for water to be collected and reused in for example toilets.
Low energy appliances will be fitted in homes along with low energy LED lighting.
Mr Walker said: “In terms of what things make this development stand out for us, it’s really been what’s related to what’s in the homes. They will be zero carbon homes.
“They will be built so that when people move in they are moving into a low carbon home – houses of the future.”
He said the “fabric” of the homes would be built to code five, but the energy side would bring the A2 homes to code level six.
Residents will also get about £400 cash back a year back from the Government via the feed-in tariff from roof solar panels and free electricity themselves.
Computer tablet-style devices will be installed in homes to show how much energy householders are using, and other local information such as bus times.

  • Green space

Another key factor making the development different is the amount of green space planned.
Mr Walker said: “The fundamental thing is the fact that there is 40 per cent green space. That really does encourage healthy lifestyles — you have nature and beauty on the doorstep and the ability to go out and appreciate that. Most housing developments do not have 40 per cent, most have 15 to 20 per cent.
“There are dedicated cycle and pedestrian areas criss-cross the site and link into existing ones in the town.”
Within the masterplan is more than 4,000 acres a woodland, a country park, nature reserve and ecological site.
A fitness trail is also planned along with a 10k circular route of footpaths and cycle ways.
Two wooded areas will be retained as part of the development and a third site is planned.
It is hoped wildlife trusts will eventually step in to run the woodland areas.
About 16 hectares of land has also been allocated for sports pitches, and talks are ongoing with local clubs and organisations who want to stake a claim at the site.

  • Roads

Part of the proposals include realigning Howes Lane and moving it back by about 100 metres into what is currently fields.
Developers say they would create an “urban boulevard” style road, with pedestrian crossings and a 30mph speed limit. Lorries would be deterred from using it.
A tunnel would be built through the rail embankment to link the road from the south to north side of the eco town, and the current Bucknell Road roundabout also re-aligned.
Part of the Bucknell Road would be blocked off after the railway bridge and traffic diverted through the eco housing estate to Bucknell.
That part of the proposal has got the backing of Derek Hedges, acting chairman of Bucknell Parish Council.
He said: “The change in the road coming to Bucknell would relieve a little bit of pressure.”

TIMELINE

IN 2008, the Government announced that a site called Weston Otmoor had been shortlisted as one of 15 proposed eco-towns in the UK for 15,000 homes.
Oxfordshire county and Cherwell district councils voiced concerns over the Weston Otmoor proposals.
In November of that year Cherwell council put forward North West Bicester as an alternative to Weston Otmoor.
In July the following year the Government announced North West Bicester had been selected as one of four eco-town sites. At the same time Weston Otmoor was dropped.
Plans for the first phase of the eco settlement, including 393 homes, an eco pub and business centre, shops and a school, were approved in August to be built on the 80-acre greenfield site, off Banbury Road.

Comments (13)

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9:29pm Thu 12 Dec 13

Stephen WJ says...

I think a better headline would be 'Plans to concrete over 1,000 acres of farmland an Eco misnomer'.
I think a better headline would be 'Plans to concrete over 1,000 acres of farmland an Eco misnomer'. Stephen WJ

9:52am Fri 13 Dec 13

to ny w says...

...and of sourse as it has such amazing commercial credentials, it could take 30, yes 30 years to finish it!!!! ( A2Dominions figures).
...and of sourse as it has such amazing commercial credentials, it could take 30, yes 30 years to finish it!!!! ( A2Dominions figures). to ny w

1:52pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Severian says...

Can you count people working from home as a NEW job you've created?? This just sounds like a lot of political double-speak to me.

When Cherwell gave permission to the development it was because they promised 1 NEW job for EVERY house built. Now they are saying they intend to build 6.000 houses, but only create 4,600 jobs - and of these 1,000 won't even be new jobs at all.

This whole project from the beginning has been an eco con. Promise the earth so the council will approve it, then gradually chip away and chip away at your promises until all you are left with is a 6,000 house estate on the wrong part of Bicester. And in exchange all WE will get is the removal of 1,000 acres of farmland and the removal of a key section of the Ring Road.
Can you count people working from home as a NEW job you've created?? This just sounds like a lot of political double-speak to me. When Cherwell gave permission to the development it was because they promised 1 NEW job for EVERY house built. Now they are saying they intend to build 6.000 houses, but only create 4,600 jobs - and of these 1,000 won't even be new jobs at all. This whole project from the beginning has been an eco con. Promise the earth so the council will approve it, then gradually chip away and chip away at your promises until all you are left with is a 6,000 house estate on the wrong part of Bicester. And in exchange all WE will get is the removal of 1,000 acres of farmland and the removal of a key section of the Ring Road. Severian

1:57pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Severian says...

Sam - I think you need to review your article. You are showing that the eco town will have 4,000 acres of woodland in an area of just 1,000 acres. Seems like Dr Who's Tardis must be involved somehow?

Also - you should ask A2 Dominion where the local factory is that is producing the 400 timber frame houses for the estate. All along we were told that all of the houses would be built in a local unit, and Bicester Town Councillors said they have already identified the site. They are going to build houses in the next few months, so where are they and who is getting the new jobs to do the building??
Sam - I think you need to review your article. You are showing that the eco town will have 4,000 acres of woodland in an area of just 1,000 acres. Seems like Dr Who's Tardis must be involved somehow? Also - you should ask A2 Dominion where the local factory is that is producing the 400 timber frame houses for the estate. All along we were told that all of the houses would be built in a local unit, and Bicester Town Councillors said they have already identified the site. They are going to build houses in the next few months, so where are they and who is getting the new jobs to do the building?? Severian

2:41pm Fri 13 Dec 13

hagar1 says...

FFS! Just start building it I've had enough of this PR B***88KS!
FFS! Just start building it I've had enough of this PR B***88KS! hagar1

11:10pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Stephen WJ says...

The bit I still don't get - and forgive my ignorance - is how the council can allow ancient hedgerows to be ripped up and 400 houses built on farmland away from the town centre, BEFORE a credible master plan for transport, energy and sustainability is created and agreed. Surely these should be in place before a blade of grass is disturbed.

In the private sector, this would never happen - just goes to show what happens in a political autocracy.

Looks to me like this was/is ALWAYS going to happen, regardless of the business case or impact on the rest of Bicester was taken into consideration.

Shame on you Bicester Tories. Never again will you get my vote.
The bit I still don't get - and forgive my ignorance - is how the council can allow ancient hedgerows to be ripped up and 400 houses built on farmland away from the town centre, BEFORE a credible master plan for transport, energy and sustainability is created and agreed. Surely these should be in place before a blade of grass is disturbed. In the private sector, this would never happen - just goes to show what happens in a political autocracy. Looks to me like this was/is ALWAYS going to happen, regardless of the business case or impact on the rest of Bicester was taken into consideration. Shame on you Bicester Tories. Never again will you get my vote. Stephen WJ

3:53am Sat 14 Dec 13

Severian says...

hagar1 wrote:
FFS! Just start building it I've had enough of this PR B***88KS!
That's what they are hoping - that eventually people will get sick of the green crap and they can just throw up an estate of 7 or 8,000 houses, having neatly circumvented the planning (and cost) obligations that would normally have come with such a massive development.

Already they have backtracked on half their early promises.
[quote][p][bold]hagar1[/bold] wrote: FFS! Just start building it I've had enough of this PR B***88KS![/p][/quote]That's what they are hoping - that eventually people will get sick of the green crap and they can just throw up an estate of 7 or 8,000 houses, having neatly circumvented the planning (and cost) obligations that would normally have come with such a massive development. Already they have backtracked on half their early promises. Severian

3:57am Sat 14 Dec 13

Severian says...

Stephen WJ wrote:
The bit I still don't get - and forgive my ignorance - is how the council can allow ancient hedgerows to be ripped up and 400 houses built on farmland away from the town centre, BEFORE a credible master plan for transport, energy and sustainability is created and agreed. Surely these should be in place before a blade of grass is disturbed.

In the private sector, this would never happen - just goes to show what happens in a political autocracy.

Looks to me like this was/is ALWAYS going to happen, regardless of the business case or impact on the rest of Bicester was taken into consideration.

Shame on you Bicester Tories. Never again will you get my vote.
Stephen - the council ran roughshod over all normal planning procedures because the scheme originators said Cherwell District Council would "share in the uplift in land values".

The scheme was rushed through with virtually no public consultation, and without any proper planning whatsoever.

4 years after first being mooted we STILL haven't seen a masterplan, and A2Dominion have admitted that there won't be one until at least May of 2014 (i.e. 5 years later than it should have been created).

If I didn't know that this was a Tory council I would have thought we were back in the bad old days of Labour local authority incompetence.
[quote][p][bold]Stephen WJ[/bold] wrote: The bit I still don't get - and forgive my ignorance - is how the council can allow ancient hedgerows to be ripped up and 400 houses built on farmland away from the town centre, BEFORE a credible master plan for transport, energy and sustainability is created and agreed. Surely these should be in place before a blade of grass is disturbed. In the private sector, this would never happen - just goes to show what happens in a political autocracy. Looks to me like this was/is ALWAYS going to happen, regardless of the business case or impact on the rest of Bicester was taken into consideration. Shame on you Bicester Tories. Never again will you get my vote.[/p][/quote]Stephen - the council ran roughshod over all normal planning procedures because the scheme originators said Cherwell District Council would "share in the uplift in land values". The scheme was rushed through with virtually no public consultation, and without any proper planning whatsoever. 4 years after first being mooted we STILL haven't seen a masterplan, and A2Dominion have admitted that there won't be one until at least May of 2014 (i.e. 5 years later than it should have been created). If I didn't know that this was a Tory council I would have thought we were back in the bad old days of Labour local authority incompetence. Severian

8:45am Sat 14 Dec 13

to ny w says...

Stephen WJ wrote:
The bit I still don't get - and forgive my ignorance - is how the council can allow ancient hedgerows to be ripped up and 400 houses built on farmland away from the town centre, BEFORE a credible master plan for transport, energy and sustainability is created and agreed. Surely these should be in place before a blade of grass is disturbed.

In the private sector, this would never happen - just goes to show what happens in a political autocracy.

Looks to me like this was/is ALWAYS going to happen, regardless of the business case or impact on the rest of Bicester was taken into consideration.

Shame on you Bicester Tories. Never again will you get my vote.
Especially when the leader of the council told the residents of Bucknell that when he offered this site as an alternative to Weston Otmoor , it was just a diversionary tactic. How these councillor scan sleep at night, I don't know.
The 20+ years standing Tory Cllr Fulljames spoke out against it and she got sent to Coventry.
You couldn't right a story like this, nobody would believe it.
BaECON have always said this proposal lacked any commercial credibility! when you add the skulduggery that went on in the background the aroma the hovers over this project has the whiff of the public sewer. Oops sorry I forgot this site has it own fancy way of dealing with effluent . Ok let's say the obnoxious pong of Ardley's composting plant.
By the way whatever happened to CDC's bosom pals P3ECO? Still with, what used to be known, a housing association leading Cherwell by the nose, what do you need a facilitator who have never built a house for?
Oh yes, of course, the wonderful blend of the visually impaired leading the blind, always a recipe for success .
Still a White Elephant in the corner of Bicesters back room will haunt this community for at least the next 30 years. Long after these crazy political puppets have retired.
What a legacy.?
[quote][p][bold]Stephen WJ[/bold] wrote: The bit I still don't get - and forgive my ignorance - is how the council can allow ancient hedgerows to be ripped up and 400 houses built on farmland away from the town centre, BEFORE a credible master plan for transport, energy and sustainability is created and agreed. Surely these should be in place before a blade of grass is disturbed. In the private sector, this would never happen - just goes to show what happens in a political autocracy. Looks to me like this was/is ALWAYS going to happen, regardless of the business case or impact on the rest of Bicester was taken into consideration. Shame on you Bicester Tories. Never again will you get my vote.[/p][/quote]Especially when the leader of the council told the residents of Bucknell that when he offered this site as an alternative to Weston Otmoor , it was just a diversionary tactic. How these councillor scan sleep at night, I don't know. The 20+ years standing Tory Cllr Fulljames spoke out against it and she got sent to Coventry. You couldn't right a story like this, nobody would believe it. BaECON have always said this proposal lacked any commercial credibility! when you add the skulduggery that went on in the background the aroma the hovers over this project has the whiff of the public sewer. Oops sorry I forgot this site has it own fancy way of dealing with effluent . Ok let's say the obnoxious pong of Ardley's composting plant. By the way whatever happened to CDC's bosom pals P3ECO? Still with, what used to be known, a housing association leading Cherwell by the nose, what do you need a facilitator who have never built a house for? Oh yes, of course, the wonderful blend of the visually impaired leading the blind, always a recipe for success . Still a White Elephant in the corner of Bicesters back room will haunt this community for at least the next 30 years. Long after these crazy political puppets have retired. What a legacy.? to ny w

2:38pm Sat 14 Dec 13

Stephen WJ says...

The brains behind this ludicrous plan is Cllr Barry Wood - he lives near me in Finmere. Do you think he would be so keen if the exemplar was next to our village?

Bicester is already choked at times of the day - try getting from north to south in rush hour - and the only visible plan is the Tesco funded improvements (which will only help that part of town). The combined effect of thousands of new commuter residents (as the jobs promise is a con) and the London Road rail crossing being closed for over half the time (plus people haven't twigged yet that the Launton Road rail crossing will also be closed more often when the link east is completed) is a nightmare scenario. It's incompetence to not have a solution to these real concerns before the first exemplar house is built.

Deary me!
The brains behind this ludicrous plan is Cllr Barry Wood - he lives near me in Finmere. Do you think he would be so keen if the exemplar was next to our village? Bicester is already choked at times of the day - try getting from north to south in rush hour - and the only visible plan is the Tesco funded improvements (which will only help that part of town). The combined effect of thousands of new commuter residents (as the jobs promise is a con) and the London Road rail crossing being closed for over half the time (plus people haven't twigged yet that the Launton Road rail crossing will also be closed more often when the link east is completed) is a nightmare scenario. It's incompetence to not have a solution to these real concerns before the first exemplar house is built. Deary me! Stephen WJ

4:31pm Sat 14 Dec 13

rebelrouser says...

I am already under the weather due to seasonal illnesses doing the circuit. But visiting the Eco wonderland Exhibit last Friday has left me feeling permanently ill. How can anyone in there right mind promote this Detritus beggers belief. Oh yes of course MONEY. It is about time this this CON was exposed and Nationally. I, like hundreds of other people in Bicester would like answers and Fast from our elected Councillors as to why they are HELL bent on this development.

How would our local councillors and elected Tory MP's feel if they all received official notices from CDC stating 8500 homes to be built in their vacinity and then to learn that all resistance to their plans totally opposed. Oh yes because we no longer live in a Democracy. Maybe the PM will get representatives from China in to assist with the ECO Build. As the Chinese are good at putting down resistance and destroying the environment. Far fetched you say - You be the Judge.
I am already under the weather due to seasonal illnesses doing the circuit. But visiting the Eco wonderland Exhibit last Friday has left me feeling permanently ill. How can anyone in there right mind promote this Detritus beggers belief. Oh yes of course MONEY. It is about time this this CON was exposed and Nationally. I, like hundreds of other people in Bicester would like answers and Fast from our elected Councillors as to why they are HELL bent on this development. How would our local councillors and elected Tory MP's feel if they all received official notices from CDC stating 8500 homes to be built in their vacinity and then to learn that all resistance to their plans totally opposed. Oh yes because we no longer live in a Democracy. Maybe the PM will get representatives from China in to assist with the ECO Build. As the Chinese are good at putting down resistance and destroying the environment. Far fetched you say - You be the Judge. rebelrouser

9:00am Sun 15 Dec 13

to ny w says...

The success or failure of this project is totally controlled by money. Open market sales drive the rate of build and as to whether phases beyond the 393 unit 'exemplar' site are viable. If they don't sell, A2 must have reservations on that score, they it will grind to a halt. BaECON have, with our collective development knowledge , constantly challenged the commercial viability .of this idea.
Farmers have been corralled to enter into option agreements at values well below normal development rates because of the excessive on costs of building to code 5(ish) sustainability.so it's no gravy train for them. This in addition with public money to pump prime infrastructure costs and social housing grants for low cost housing add up to a multi million pound gamble that may end up incomplete and sit there as a White Elephant.
If this was such a good idea, why are the major national housebuilders conspicuous by their absence leaving Cherwell District Council being led by an organisation whose parent company is described as an 'exempt charity'.
Bicester, 'You've Been Conned'.
The success or failure of this project is totally controlled by money. Open market sales drive the rate of build and as to whether phases beyond the 393 unit 'exemplar' site are viable. If they don't sell, A2 must have reservations on that score, they it will grind to a halt. BaECON have, with our collective development knowledge , constantly challenged the commercial viability .of this idea. Farmers have been corralled to enter into option agreements at values well below normal development rates because of the excessive on costs of building to code 5(ish) sustainability.so it's no gravy train for them. This in addition with public money to pump prime infrastructure costs and social housing grants for low cost housing add up to a multi million pound gamble that may end up incomplete and sit there as a White Elephant. If this was such a good idea, why are the major national housebuilders conspicuous by their absence leaving Cherwell District Council being led by an organisation whose parent company is described as an 'exempt charity'. Bicester, 'You've Been Conned'. to ny w

11:25am Mon 16 Dec 13

Severian says...

More to the point - Cherwell District Council have committed £10m of OUR money to this project, which they said we would get back when they got a developer involved.

Now that A2Dominion has decided to be the developer for the whole estate, why should Cherwell still have to use taxpayers money to help the developers. A2D has a LOAD of money - they launched a £500,000,000 investment bond this year which was all sold, so they are sitting on a huge cash pile. If they believe so much in this project why don't THEY pay for the whole thing, instead of asking us to??
More to the point - Cherwell District Council have committed £10m of OUR money to this project, which they said we would get back when they got a developer involved. Now that A2Dominion has decided to be the developer for the whole estate, why should Cherwell still have to use taxpayers money to help the developers. A2D has a LOAD of money - they launched a £500,000,000 investment bond this year which was all sold, so they are sitting on a huge cash pile. If they believe so much in this project why don't THEY pay for the whole thing, instead of asking us to?? Severian

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