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Eco-town plan aims to provide a green future
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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