A GROUP of Bicester county councillors say the lack of a clear plan for Bicester is allowing developers to ride 'rough shod' through the local planning system.

In a letter sent to this newspaper, councillors Michael Waine for Bicester Town, Les Sibley for Bicester West and Donna Ford for Bicester North have hit out at Cherwell District Council and are calling for a masterplan to be created to give a better roadmap on what kind of development should be built in the town, particularly in the central area.

The letter says:

"We are growingly concerned that the absence of a masterplan for Bicester is leaving the door wide open to developers to ride ‘rough shod’ through the local planning system.

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"This effect brings about piecemeal planning which is exemplified by the current ‘proposals’ for the former Magistrates Court at Waverley House in Queen’s Avenue and a Care Home at Packfield House in St. Johns Street.

"A 'masterplan’ would give clear guidance about how our town will be developed, and more essentially would establish a vision for the central area of our town which would then direct future planning applications.

"The people of Bicester know their town is destined to grow to be Oxfordshire’s second largest town. They deserve to have a town with the facilities and community infrastructure commensurate with that size, and speculative planning that does not destroy its current pleasant conservation and heritage areas.

"The idea of putting housing into the already busy Queens Avenue, and a Care Home into St. Johns Street is bizarre in the extreme given the amount of traffic that these roads carry and will continue to carry into the future.

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"The great danger is ‘that anything goes in Bicester’, and without a masterplan and a Government Planning Inspectorate deaf to the voice of local communities, sadly that may well be the case."

Cherwell District Council says it is working on a new local plan for central Bicester and the town. It held a six-week consultation last year presenting a number of issues and themes for discussion.

They included: the types of housing that will be built in the future, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, addressing the climate crisis, and promoting healthy lifestyles through the built environment.

The council is reviewing the policies in its existing Local Plan and will adopt a new Plan, currently timetabled for 2023.

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The council said in a statement: "We are working on a new local plan which provides an opportunity to consider the development needs of central Bicester and the town as a whole and what new planning policy may be required.

"We have already consulted on issues and further consultation should follow this autumn."

Bicester county councillor for Otmoor, Calum Miller, supports the calls.

He said: "Residents of Bicester have been let down over many years by district, county and national governments that have failed to listen to residents and subjected our town to a piecemeal approach to major projects.

"The repeated failure to address the London Road crossing is the worst example, but there are many more. So I welcome the fact that my fellow county councillors have now acknowledged that something must be done and called on their Conservative colleagues at Cherwell District Council to do better.

"I look forward to working with them and local residents to deliver improvements.

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