Giant MoD facility set to create 2,000 jobs

No Caption ABCDE
No Caption ABCDE

Plans for a £125million ‘defence gateway’ that could bring 2,000 new jobs to Bicester were given the go-ahead last Thursday.

At the heart of the scheme is a 70,400 sq m storage and distribution centre on MoD land at C Site in Upper Arncott.

Around 1,900 new homes will also be built at sites around Graven Hill under the scheme.

Outline plans were approved unanimously at a special meeting of the Cherwell District Council (CDC) planning committee last Thursday.

When plans were first unveiled in 2011, representatives of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) warned MoD jobs could ‘migrate away’ from Bicester if the scheme was not accepted.

The future of defence supply in Bicester was described as being a ‘wither on the vine model’ without proceeds from the new homes to help fund the development of the logistics hub.

In total, 17 letters and emails of objection were sent to CDC over the scheme, including some on behalf of residents of Norris Road in Upper Arncott, whose homes would sit close to the massive new distribution centre.

Councillor Nigel Randall, of the Adderbury ward, said there could be a potential issue in seeing both elements of the scheme together.

“We need to take great care not in not rushing down a particular path driven by the benefits of one really good bit and overlook the few benefits of the other proposal.

“The elephant in the room is the mammoth in someone’s back garden in Arncott, and it’s the size of the building proposed for Arncott. It is huge.” he said.

The distribution centre, which will be 61 feet high, could have been split into smaller buildings, said Cllr Randall.

“It’s a single building because it’s the easiest thing to build.

“From my perspective, I think there are great benefits in the proposal as a whole. The development of C Site to become a single staging post has merit, but I don’t think a single huge building is the answer,” he added.

Councillor Colin Clarke said the building would be within 100ft of the nearest back garden in Norris Road.

Councillor Jon O’Neill, of Ardley with Fewcott, expressed concerns over the possible number of traffic movements.

Council planning officer Jenny Barker said screening would be planted to try to minimise the impact of the huge building. She also said officers were working on a travel plan to minimise the number of traffic movements.

But she said the site would be in operation 24 hours a day, and that lighting would be an issue.