COUNTY councillors have ignored district colleagues and approved “imaginative” plans for a new £6.5m primary school in Bicester.

Members of the county council’s planning committee dismissed Cherwell District Council’s advice when it approved plans for the 450-place school.

The new building – to replace the existing St Edburg’s School in Cemetery Road – will be at the centre of Bicester’s new Kingsmere estate, where 1,500 homes will be built in the coming years.

Cherwell’s planners objected to the proposal, claiming its design didn’t fit with the rules governing the rest of the estate, and that it wasn’t a “landmark building”.

But councillors on the committee voted unanimously to approve the plans this week.

Sonning Common Tory David Bartholomew said: “This is an interesting and imaginative design.

“The district council’s comments embrace conformity and blandness.

“If the school supports it we should go ahead with it.”

Isis Labour councillor John Tanner added: “It seems to me that all that’s before us, given the decision has already been made, is absolutely reasonable. “I happen to like it and I think we should approve it.”

But some concerns were raised about an area of open space, complete with a bell tower, which will be created when the school is built, at an angle to the road.

Wheatley Lib Dem councillor Anne Purse said: “My only concern is about the space in front which in theory sounds fantastic. But if it’s just going to be fenced off to stop dogs going on it, it will become just a token piece of grass.”

Headteacher Damian Booth said: “We want this building to be part of the community and to be at the centre of the community.”

Architect Mark Smith said the space would be accessible to the whole community.

He said: “Obviously there is a safeguarding element to this, but we’re certainly not considering putting a fence along there.”

Mr Smith added that the school had been designed in an environmentally-friendly way.

He said: “Our starting point was natural ventilation and natural light to every space. “We’ve also got photovoltaics on the roof.”

Photovoltaics (PV) is a way of generating power by converting solar radiation into electricity.

Funding of £6.64m was put aside for the new build by the council in February, and if all the building work goes according to plan, the new school will open in September 2014.