Watchdog slams eco-town plans

The land where the eco-town is planned
The land where the eco-town is planned

A GOVERNMENT watchdog said it cannot support plans for the first phase of Bicester’s proposed eco-town, branding them “disappointing” in a new report.

Government body CABE (Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment) said the first phase of the proposed 5,000-home scheme should set a precedent for the rest of the development over coming decades.

“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,” the report said.

It said proposals must be “more visionary” if they are to comply with Government planning policy. Plans for the first ‘exemplar’ phase of 394 homes and infrastructure on farmland north-west of Bicester were submitted to Cherwell District Council at the end of November.

CABE said it was unfortunate the first phase plans had been submitted before the overall eco-town masterplan had been approved, calling it a “back-to-front approach”.

Praise was reserved for some aspects of the proposals, such as work to incorporate the existing field pattern into the development.

In conclusion, the report said: “For the exemplar site, we would expect to see a proposal that captures the essential aspirations of an eco-town: the current proposals fall short of that mark.”

Ian Inshaw, chairman of eco-town developers P3Eco, said comments from CABE had been of value.

He added: “Work is continuing in close collaboration with the planning authority on a redesign of certain elements of the exemplar.

“We expect to be in a position to submit our revised proposals to Cherwell District Council in April which will reflect how the exemplar fits into the emerging masterplan.”

He said constructive criticism was welcome and necessary.