‘Important changes’ in new eco-town plan

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REVISED plans for the first phase of Bicester’s proposed 5,000-home eco-town were set to be approved yesterday afternoon.

Officers had recommended the initial ‘exemplar’ development of 394 homes for approval by Cherwell District Council’s (CDC) planning committee.

In March, Government planning watchdog CABE (Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment) had criticised the first North West Bicester planning application, saying it should be setting a good example for the rest of the development.

“It is disappointing, therefore, that the eco-credentials of the scheme are limited and that there is little deviation from the standard suburban housing model,” CABE’s report said.

It also said proposals must be “more visionary” if they are to comply with Government planning policy.

Following changes, a fresh planning application was submitted in April by developers P3Eco, A2Dominion, and the consortium behind the NW Bicester plan.

P3Eco says the “important alterations” include better street designs, more architectural variety, and improved public transport, cycling and walking links.

Plans for the first NW Bicester phase include an energy centre, a nursery, community centre, convenience store, post office and pharmacy. A primary school, an ‘eco-pub’ and office accommodation are also due to be created.

However, parish councils in nearby Bucknell, Middleton Stoney and Caversfield have objected to the plans.

Villagers in Bucknell have raised concerns over aspects including housing density, traffic, and light pollution.

Middleton Stoney Parish Council said the exemplar phase should only be considered as part of the entire 5,000-home scheme, and not in isolation. It felt future developments on the eco-town site may simply be rubber stamped if the exemplar development is given the go-ahead.

Bicester Town Council supports the plans in principle, but says local infrastructure must be taken into account.