You may have not heard about the London Road level crossing closure for a little while but the issue has still not gone away. It's just been sleeping and now the project is restarting in earnest.
Yet four years into us asking questions of Oxfordshire County Council and Network Rail how are they going to solve this issue, no answers have been forthcoming. Your councillors and MP have been equally unable to answer our questions.
Hello residents of Bicester Garden Eco Healthy Town! Yes, remember those heady days of 2014 when Bicester was confirmed by former deputy PM Nick Clegg as Britain’s first ‘Garden Town’? Oh and before that, remember when we were EcoBicester and then later we became Bicester Healthy Town where by painting coloured lines on pavements magically made us all healthier and helped distract from growing lines to see an actual GP. Mad wasn’t it?
Such announcements were supposed to transform Bicester into a modern, attractive place to live with green open spaces but in reality, any empty space including sites of national bio-diversity and longstanding playing fields are greedily eyed by developers looking to make a fast buck. All whilst the air we breathe worsens. In fact if you read Cherwell District Council’s material, you would be hard pressed to define what their garden town vision actually means.
As Bicester once more emerges from the icy grip of winter weather wreaking havoc on spring preparations, the melting snow reveals yet more potholes. Some wit recently remarked that in Britain we used to drive on the left, now we just drive upon what is left of the roads. Some of the potholes are so large they are rumoured to have their own microclimate and there are even suggestions to name the largest after councillors but that would only lead to the cynical accusation that at least potholes do something, even if it is only get bigger; however we do not wish to dwell on these hopefully temporal issues and instead talk about the longstanding problem of Bicester’s illegal air quality.
Regular readers will know that around 111 households are experiencing illegal air and many thousands more residents will be affected just by walking or driving through town. The cause of these issues are two fold; central government and Cherwell District Council.
If you are neither a resident of Bicester or a car driver, you maybe under the false illusion that the hamburger roundabout is a drive-through fast food restaurant. It is not, it is in fact the A41 Bicester Services roundabout with a road laid across the middle to allow through traffic a faster route.
As we have mentioned previously, traffic in Bicester is growing. 10,000 new homes, Bicester Village’s 23% expansion and a new office park with 2000 car parking spaces. Without a coherent plan or investment, congestion and pollution will only worsen. Spoiler alert: there is no coherent plan. In an attempt to mitigate traffic growth, Oxfordshire County Council who are responsible for all our highways, proposed the hamburger roundabout. This is the third ‘burger’ roundabout after Headington and Heyford Hill on the Oxford ring road.
Unfortunately for Bicester, our burger has not been as palatable. OK no more puns. We have received numerous reports of drivers being confused by a plethora of lanes choices leading to last minute erratic swerves. Even more dangerous have been the reports of drivers on the roundabout turning the wrong way against the flow of traffic or not being aware of red stop lights.
In the UK, thanks to legislation from the 1950s onwards air pollution has massively been reduced. Today, motor vehicles account for most of our air pollution. Sadly this causes around 40,000 deaths per year.
As Bicester has grown, traffic has grown inexorably. The south east of England has one of the highest rates of car ownership at 1.34 cars per household. So with 10,000 new homes to be built in Bicester we can expect an extra 13,400 vehicles on our roads or 26,800 additional car journeys per day. Big numbers.
Unfortunately as Cherwell District Council (CDC) has ‘planned’ Bicester’s growth, they have failed to include adequate road infrastructure. As a result Queens Avenue, Kings End, St Johns Street, Field Street and Buckingham Road are often heavily congested and experience poor air quality based on UK and EU standards. Extensive monitoring has scientifically proven that Bicester experiences levels of illegal air pollution. We only discovered this information hidden within in a CDC commissioned report that has since been removed from their website.
If you're a Jedi Knight (and seriously who is?) then you will know that today is 'Star Wars Day' but for us mere mortals of North Oxfordshire it is simply LOCAL ELECTION day.
Now the kind of problems Bicester and surrounding villages face such as traffic congestion, expansion without supporting infrastructure, closure of a key level crossing and illegal and dangerous air pollution might not be the kind of special evil that Darth Vader and his Empire may specialise in. I bet Lord Vader is probably kicking himself that he didn't think of such dastardly schemes to thwart the Rebellion Alliance.
21st November 2016: Tonight Bicester Town Council Policy Committee received a presentation from Cherwell District Council about the proposed 'expressway' linking Oxford and Cambridge. The following is a summary of the presentation. For more information on the over-arching proposals driving the development of the arc between these two cities including Milton Keynes please refer to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) report here.
Councillor Dan Sames has informed us that Bicester Town Council (BTC) have successfully applied to Cherwell District Council (CDC) to have the Bicester Sports Association grounds at Oxford Road, Bicester listed as an 'Asset of Community Value'. Councillor Sames has very kindly shared the letter of confirmation with us. Please click on each image to read in detail.
Bicester has been divided into four electoral areas representing a slight change from past elections. Each electoral ward will elect THREE each councillors from the candidates listed below. If you are unsure which ward you live in, there are six maps below. Unhelpfully a single, easy to understand map has not been provided by Cherwell District Council. Click on each area to see the map: