Progress on £5m plan for town’s civic centre

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A contract is set to be awarded for the construction of Bicester’s £5million new civic centre.

Members of Cherwell District Council’s (CDC) executive approved the measure at a meeting on Monday night, paving the way for a contract to be awarded by the end of August.

The civic building, which is to be built on the Franklins Yard car park site, will contain Bicester’s new library and Cherwell District Council offices.

Funding for the new civic building was set aside in 2011.

The building could also provide a new home for Bicester Town Council, but no decision has yet been made.

Councillor Richard Mould, vice-chairman of Bicester Town Council’s policy committee, said: “There are still discussions to be had.

“Cherwell District Council have certainly asked if we wish to go in there, but that’s as far as it’s got.”

He said the town council might be in a position to make a decision in the autumn.

Of the new library, Cllr Mould said: “Having it in the town centre will be a tremendous advantage, and I think it will get a lot more use.”

Work is now due to begin on the £5million facility before the end of November.

The civic building will be the final stage of plans to regenerate the area around the town’s new Sainsbury’s store, which is due to open on July 10.

Bicester historian Pete Chivers, who is secretary of the Bicester Museum and Heritage Trust Association, said the group has been involved in some preliminary discussions with CDC over a possible presence within the new building.

Mr Chivers added: “At the moment we’ve got a very tentative, ‘we can give you a bit of a presence’, but we can’t take it any further than that at the moment because plans for the use of the centre haven’t been defined.”

He said the association’s aim is to now raise £5,000 in order to apply for charitable trust status, and said it was hoped that the Bicester Museum and Heritage Trust could be launched as part of a history exhibition in the Methodist Church Hall in Sheep Street on September 28.

He added: “Nothing is set in concrete at the moment. We will have to set up a trust with charity status before we move forward.”

Mr Chivers said the association had already been given some advice by the Oxfordshire Museum Service.

Local apprentices and small businesses are to be involved in the construction of the new civic building under terms to be agreed with the successful bidder.

CDC’s Procurement Steering Group has now been given authority to award a contract to the successful bidder within the approved budget of £5million. Progress will be reported back to the executive.