OUR NEWS

News about the issues we campaign on in Bicester.


OUR LIST OF ACTIONS TO OXFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

OUR LIST OF ACTIONS TO OXFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

This week our co-chair Jan spoke with the Bicester Advertiser about the range of traffic issues we are lobbying Oxfordshire County Council to address.

 

Read the full article here.

 

Readers of the newspaper can also read the Editorial comments too.

 

Copyright Newsquest
Copyright Newsquest
Copyright Newsquest
Copyright Newsquest

London Road Is Still An Issue

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.

Once the East West rail link is complete it will link Oxford to Cambridge
Once the East West rail link is complete it will link Oxford to Cambridge

Our fear is that Oxfordshire County Council's tunnel idea is a practical non-starter and considering that the council cannot even afford essential services for the elderly and needy or to repair existing roads, they won't have the budget for a mini-channel tunnel.

 

The project has been dormant for around 24 months awaiting Government approval which has now been granted and work will commence shortly.  Those 24 months could have been used wisely by Oxfordshire County Council to finalise a solution but they have failed to.  We have repeatedly asked your OCC councillors; Les Sibley, Lawrie Stratford, Michael Waine and Dan Sames as well as your MP Victoria Prentis for information they have but none have been able to get an answer.  Unfortunately we feel that none of them have pushed hard enough as not once have they shown us any evidence of their efforts.

 

Phase one of the link is complete, plans for phase two have been submitted and phase three is in development
Phase one of the link is complete, plans for phase two have been submitted and phase three is in development

 

Our fear is that Oxfordshire County Council's tunnel idea is a practical non-starter and considering that the council cannot even afford essential social care services or to repair existing roads, they do not have the budget for a mini-channel tunnel.

 

Keep this topic active in the minds of your councillors and our MP by contacting them yourselves or asking them when you see them. Bicester, the growing town as they love to trumpet cannot be severed into two halves because of lack of ability.

 

As reported by BBC Oxford:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-44979593

 

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Where has Bicester's promised investments gone?

WHERE HAS ALL THE MONEY GONE?

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.

 

From www.growingbicester.co.uk, a CDC development agency
From www.growingbicester.co.uk, a CDC development agency
From The Guardian, 19th Jan 2016
From The Guardian, 19th Jan 2016

 

Well the maddest part of it was that there was supposedly lots of money attached to these schemes.  Take the £19m for the Garden Town.  Some suggested that this could be as much as £100m.  Then the myopic mandarins of Bodicote House, realised that the money they thought they had been awarded was in fact only an opportunity to apply for a loan.

 

So four years on, we were fascinated to ask Cherwell District Council how they were spending the money they had been loaned for these projects.  We wrote to 16 local councillors, representing all three councils, to ask four easy questions including; how much has been allocated and what are the conditions attached. Simple you would think?  The quality of replies we received were appalling. In summary;

  • Barry Wood, CDC Leader – no reply
  • Les Sibley, Mayor of Bicester – no reply
  • Lynn Pratt, CDC Lead Member for Estates and the Economy – no reply*
  • Richard Mould, CDC Lead Member for Performance Management – no reply*

* - Indicates that email was opened by recipient.

 

We did receive three replies. One from Lawrie and Rose Stratford simply said they were no longer CDC Councillors.  Disappointing given that they were both supposed to be representing Bicester for much of this period. Let us hope that Lawrie’s work at Oxfordshire County Council is more diligent.  Nicholas Mawer who despite sitting on Cherwell’s Accounts, Audit and Risk Committee and chairs the Budget Planning Committee was unable to provide any information and told us that he had referred it to a council officer. No response has been received.  Mr Mawer is up for re-election. Finally, Michael Waine gave the most complete answer but as he sits on Oxfordshire County Council his reply was vague and lacked any measurable detail.

 

Other Cherwell Councillors contacted:  Dan Sames, David Hughes*, and Debbie Pickford*.

 

Unfortunately, despite living in the information age, it is very difficult to find out what Cherwell District Council have actually spent and where it came from.  By employing rouses such as quango development corporations, your council has created a subterfuge that the Democratic People's Republic of [North] Korea might be proud of.  We can only tell you that less than £2m has been spent.  This has been frittered on consultants and report writing.  Nothing else, just paper and ink. From what we know from other reports Cherwell have commissioned, they simply ignore them.

 

So four years on, Bicester has potentially missed out on massive investment to support the town’s growth and new infrastructure.  We have been sold a ‘pup’ by those who are supposed to represent us.  Or the people at the top are not up to the roles they have been elected to do. Please vote in the forthcoming local elections, vote for someone new who is willing to ask the hard questions.


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Bicester Advertiser Column: 22nd March 2018

DON'T PAUSE FOR BREATH

 

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.

 

Traffic on Queens Avenue, Bicester
Traffic on Queens Avenue, Bicester
The worst affected areas of Bicester's air pollution problem
The worst affected areas of Bicester's air pollution problem

 

In the late 1990s central government promoted diesel vehicles as a ‘quick win’ to reduce CO2 emissions. Unfortunately their Nitrogen Dioxide emissions are much worse. Recent research suggests that poor air quality may affect learning and development in the young and life expectancy in the old. Unfortunately our government, not in a rush to address this issue, has set a phase out date for petrol and diesel only vehicles by 2040. Contrast this with India, 2030 and Norway ,2025 and it looks lacklustre.

 

Locally CDC have sought to massively grow Bicester for reasons no one is certain but without investing in proper infrastructure. We now learn that they are currently suggesting making Queens Avenue a 20mph speed limit but when traffic is already crawling, such a limit actually appears aspirational. The real issue is that there is too much traffic concentrated in the wrong location and CDC cannot bring themselves to admit this.

 

Cars become much less polluting when they are travelling at a constant 50mph which would suggest a ring road. Unfortunately CDC’s planners have been led by developers into designing an ‘Urban Boulevard’ to replace Howes Lane with five sets of traffic lights in a mile and next to a school. This will simply create slow moving, stop-start, polluting traffic.

 

There is a solution. CDC need to go back to the drawing board and change their plans before any ground is turned. Also, we as a population, need to think differently about our own behaviour. Can we get a bus into town instead of driving? Would walking be less dangerous to our health than sitting in a car?

 

Our MP Victoria Prentis has told us that she is meeting with councilors soon (date not specified) to raise these issues. We hope she will be able to share some positive news soon. Remember too that there are CDC elections in May, it’s your chance to influence change. Please vote for new faces to get better councilors who will work for Bicester.

Bicester Advertiser Column: 8th February 2018

THE MYSTERIOUS HAMBURGER

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.

 

Lane markings seperating the traffic only appear 100 yards from the junction forcing many drivers to swerve lanes at the last moment.
Lane markings seperating the traffic only appear 100 yards from the junction forcing many drivers to swerve lanes at the last moment.
At around 300 yards, the first road sign appears but only on the right directing local traffic to the left and through traffic to the right.  BicesterTAG feels that there should be earlier signage to give drivers earlier notice.
At around 300 yards, the first road sign appears but only on the right directing local traffic to the left and through traffic to the right. BicesterTAG feels that there should be earlier signage to give drivers earlier notice.

 

So why do the hamburgers of Oxford work smoothly whilst our own is problematic? Although we have no evidence to verify these theories it has been suggested that the large number of visitors Bicester Village attracts may be unfamiliar with the layout and combined with poor signage they become confused.

 

The solution would seem to be better and earlier signage to allow our visitors to align to the correct lane sooner. On the hamburger roundabout itself, planting or fencing could visually guide drivers to the correct route.

 

So is the road dangerous? It is probably not dangerous per se however when you witness daily other drivers swerving across multiple lanes, turning across the flow of the roundabout, doing U-turns in heavy traffic and running red lights you have to objectively ask yourself how long will it be until a serious accident takes place? Better and earlier signage would certainly improve safety and more road markings could also better give drivers more opportunity to get into the correct lane sooner. Sadly we note that the brand new road markings are already disintegrating. In the dark and the wet, they are almost impossible to see.

 

How can we improve the situation? Please contact your County Councillor. They are paid at least £10,100pa to represent you and it is one of the few things Oxfordshire County Council has not cut back.  Please let them know your feelings on this and other subjects:

  • Bicester North - Lawrie Stratford: lawrie.stratford@oxfordshire.gov.uk
  • Bicester Town - Michael Waine: michael.waine@oxfordshire.gov.uk,
  • Bicester West - Les Sibley: les.sibley@oxfordshire.gov.uk
  • Otmoor - Dan Sames: dan.sames@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Bicester Advertiser Column: 18 January 2018 - Air Pollution

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH WAITING FOR OTHERS TO MAKE THE AIR SAFER

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.

 

The main areas affected by illegal air pollution in Bicester are along Queens Avenue and adjoining streets.
The main areas affected by illegal air pollution in Bicester are along Queens Avenue and adjoining streets.
 

Air pollution is a serious killer, in comparison it kills half the number of people that die from smoking related diseases. Live in an area with air pollution, like Bicester and your risk increases. Worse still many hundreds of thousands experience poorer health because of air pollution, particularly the young and elderly.

 

The law says that if an area exceeds legal air pollution limits, the council must establish an air quality action plan (AQAP) to address the problem. Despite receiving Bicester specific, expert recommendations in 2014, CDC have ignored these ideas and so far have announced only a car sharing club and awareness classes for school children. Given that Oxfordshire County Council have run a car sharing club for years this is hardly ground-breaking innovation from the boffins of Bodicote House. What was so wrong with the recommendations they paid for with your council tax?

 

CDC release very little information about air pollution however we know that of the four AQAPs within our district, Bicester is the only one which has not improved in the last year.

 

Two years ago we thought this was an urgent issue so decided to contact our councillors. Shockingly we only received six replies, all of them lacklustre platitudes and nothing since. Recently we even spoke with our MP Victoria Prentis who believes that as in ten years most new cars will be electric, the problem will go away eventually. So if you can hold your breath for the next decade, it would be really helpful.

 

So if Bicester really was a healthy town in terms of a functioning local democracy and a council that actually took its primary duties seriously, surely our councillors and others would be saying “look this isn’t right, let’s do something about it”? Is this really too much to ask?

 

We feel that the issues we campaign on are very important to the future well being of our town. We want to ensure that as a town, our residents are properly informed of the issues. Shortly we will hold our AGM and will invite new members to join our committee. If this is something you would be interested in, please contact us at bicestertag@gmail.com or facebook.com/BicesterTag or bicestertag.jimdo.com.

CDC: A TRACK RECORD OF IGNORING BICESTERS NEEDS

These issues are not new. You can read the responses we got to a Freedom of Information request from Cherwell District Council and which contains ALOT more detail than this article has space for. Interestingly you can see which of our councillors responded to us raising these concerns with them and who did not. If they are you councillor, you might want to think if they are serving your needs properly.

 

CHERWELL DISTRICT COUNCIL ANSWERS OUR AIR POLLUTION QUESTIONS

 

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Local Elections in Bicester, 4th May

4th MAY - IT'S LOCAL ELECTIONS DAY!

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.

Enough of the Star Wars references

Stars Wars' problems are fictional and are in a far, far distant part of the galaxy but here in Bicester, Ambrosden, Blackthorn, Arncott, Launton, Caversfield, Stratton Audley, Bucknell, Chesterton and Wendlebury we are facing REAL and LOCAL issues.

 

TODAY MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

So the 4th May is your chance to make YOUR voice heard.  We all know the problems of congestion, lack of infrastructure, air pollution, over development, promised and not delivered cycle infrastructure, lack of elderly services, young peoples services etc. etc. etc.  We have talked and campaigned about them extensively.

 

PLEASE EXERCISE YOUR DEMOCRATIC RIGHT AND VOTE, JUST VOTE

We implore you today to take a few moments of your busy day to vote.  Whether it is just to pop down to your local polling station and vote the traditional way OR to complete your postal vote and drop it off at your polling station.  Just make the difference.

 

Your vote does matter!
Your vote does matter!

bicester (& district) needs better councillors

The problems that our area faces are LOCAL problems.  They are NOT national issues, they are not London issues, they are not southern issues, they are not even Oxford issues.  They are LOCAL issues and they are very REAL.  So we are going to ask you to do something very unusual for the people of Britain and ask you not to vote on party lines but on personality lines. 

 

As our town and villages face a period of unprecedented growth we NEED councillors who actually DO THEIR JOB and who get involved in sorting out problems.  Councillors who are active, articulate and persuasive.  We do not need people who simply ride the gravy train in exchange for allowances and expenses and a cushy role for keeping their mouth closed and towing the party line.

 

We do freely admit that amongst a generally F- flock of councillors, there are one or two notable exceptions.  Councillors who do engage with their communities, do raise issues and are genuinely passionate about their community.  Unfortunately in Bicester, they are the exception.  If such a person is your councillor then; firstly you are in a minority within Bicester and secondly they probably enjoy your total support anyway.  We hope they are re-elected to.  Feel free to ignore the rest of this article. 

 

it is about local issues, not national parties

Our current councillors largely represent one party in particular.  They may be very nice individuals but as they have proven over numerous years, they are NOT EFFECTIVE at speaking for Bicester and district.  BicesterTAG is not and will never be aligned to a political party however at this election and this election alone we will ask you to vote for anyone EXCEPT existing councillors that supposedly serve Bicester and district.

 

Please vote for new councillors for Bicester, not the current councillors
Please vote for new councillors for Bicester, not the current councillors

BUT WHO IS MY CURRENT COUNCILLOR?

Unsure of who your current councillors are?  Find out here:

 

but i support a party not a candidate?

We understand and respect your decision, so if you are unable to vote for any other political party we humbly request that at this election (4th May) and this election alone you do not vote.  However we would say that this election is about LOCAL issues.  It is not about national issues for which there will be a general election on Thursday, 8th June. 

 

Your councillor should speak for YOU, so go and vote for THEM.
Your councillor should speak for YOU, so go and vote for THEM.

i like the alternative candidate but not their party!

You might say that even though another candidate is a fine upstanding citizen of Bicester and district, you could never vote for them because of their party's leader.  Let us remind ourselves that this is NOT the general election.  It is about LOCAL issues and whichever party wins in your ward, will not be walking into Downing Street on Friday.

 

So please, please do not vote for the candidate's party but their individual determination and willingness to stand up and represent you, your family and your neighbours needs in Bicester and Oxfordshire.

 

Or to put it another way, say these LOCAL elections were won by candidates all from the Monster Raving Loony Party.  Could they, even with their 'colourful' and 'interesting' policies oversee the mess of; over-development, illegal air pollution, removal of green belt, lack of infrastructure or traffic congestion?  No, but somehow our current councillors have!  So how dangerous is it to vote differently in just ONE election?

 

This demonstrates just how POOR our current councillors have been in failing to act as civic leaders for our community.  Please do not give them another opportunity to reign over missed opportunities and disappointment.

 

SO TOMORROW, ON STAR WARS DAY, BE A JEDI AND VOTE FOR CANDIDATES WHO WILL PROTECT BICESTER AND OUR VILLAGES FROM DISASTROUS PLANNING DECISIONS THAT ARE CAUSING MAYHEM.

 

 GIVE THEM THE CHANCE TO SPEAK FOR OUR COMMUNITY AND ALLOW YOUR VOICE AND CONCERNS TO BE HEARD IN A WAY THAT YOUR CURRENT REPRESENTATIVES HAVE FAILED.

 

AND REMEMBER WHAT LORD VADER MIGHT HAVE SAID IF HE LIVED HERE

I thought you promised to stop the Star Wars references?
I thought you promised to stop the Star Wars references?

PARTY MANIFESTO INFORMATION

Although we are asking you to engage in a one time, local issues protest vote, you may like to know more information about what each party is proposing in their manifestos. 

 

Need Not Greed Oxford, a coalition of local groups from all across Oxfordshire of which we are part, approached the leaders of each party running in the Oxfordshire County Council elections and asked them all a series of questions. 

 

This document lists their answers and is a great source to see where each party actually stands on the issues that concern us, not the issues they want to tell us about.

Download
NNGO Meeting with Oxon Party Political L
Adobe Acrobat Document 73.7 KB

have your say

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Oxford Cambridge Expressway

OXFORD - CAMBRIDGE 'EXPRESSWAY'

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.

 

BACKGROUND

  • The study for an 'expressway' was commissioned by the Department for Transport.
  • The aim was to discover how do you improve the routing of traffic strategically and drive economic activity
  • The Oxford-Cambridge Expressway (OCE) is one of several studies including another in the trans-penine region.
  • The study was compiled by WSP who studied 40 options starting from the M4/A34 junction onwards
  • An 'expressway' is not yet an official term.  It loosely is something that is not quite motorway but more than a standard dual carriageway by having grade separated (i.e. flyover) junctions.  The upgraded A43 around Silverstone is an example.
  • The target timeframe for construction is 2031 to 2046.
  • Could to deliver £163 billion improvement by economic activity by 2050.

THE ROUTING

Three options have been strongly developed;

  • Purple:  A422 > Buckingham > Milton Keynes.
  • Red:  Arncott > follow the route of EWR Rail > Milton Keynes.
  • Green:  South of Oxford, Didcot > M40 J7 > Haddenham > Aylesbury M1 J13.

The currently preferred option appears to be the 'Green' route for the following reasons;

  • Avoiding Oxford would reduce the cost/complication of routing the new road through Botley.
  • It would ease the congestion on northern section of the A34 to the M40, J9.
  • New settlements are proposed around M40, J7 or Chalgrove Airfield which would be connected to this route.
  • Plans exist to expand Haddenham.

Buckinghamshire County Council are pushing for a High Speed 2 (HS2) station in the Claydon area where the line crosses the East West Rail route.  Currently there are no HS2 stations between Birmingham and London.  It is proposed that this will be developed into a new town.  

 

Apologies for not having access to the source document for reference or being able to provide maps.  We will try to improve this by finding this additional information.

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Bicester Town Council names Sports Ground as a local asset

COUNCIL PROTECTS SPORTS GROUND

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.

 

Cherwell Councils letter confirming BSA as an Asset of Community Value
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WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

Dan told us "In short it means that it is slightly more difficult for the current owners of a site to sell it.  The sellers have to notify the council that they wish to sell the land then the community have six weeks to notify they want to put in a bid.  If a group do come forward then they have six months to put in a bid (at market value).  However the sellers don't have to accept it."

 

Wikipedia (I know,) describes it as (note the last point highlighted in bold);

  • Removal of permitted development rights for change of use and demolition of public houses: owners seeking to change a pub's planning use class or to demolish it must allow its users (for example, a pub's regular drinkers) to comment;
  • Material planning consideration: ACV status is a material consideration in a planning application and can be used by the Planning Inspectorate as a factor in refusing planning permission for change of use or demolition;
  • Community right to bid: this allows an ACV to be purchased by a group representing its users or the local community;
  • Compulsory purchase rights: an ACV-registered building can be compulsorily purchased by the local authority or council "if the asset is under threat of long-term loss to the community".

WHAT IS ST EDBURGS WALK?

St Edburgs Walk (www.stedburgswalk.co.uk) is a proposal for a mixed shopping and residential development that would encompass the current Bicester Sports Association and the former St Edburgs School.  The scheme is proposed by two companies 'U+I' PLC (www.uandiplc.com) who are a publicly traded property developer and Adalta Real (www.adaltareal.com) a Banbury based company.  The graphic below shows the scale of the site and how it will integrate into the existing townscape.  You will notice that it abuts

This proposal is unconnected to Value Retail, and it's Bermuda and Swiss registered subsidiaries that own Bicester Village (source)*.  However it seems that the developers wish to leverage the proximity to Bicester's number one remnant outlet to lure their customers into this new site with offers of an anchor store, smaller retail, fine and casual dining and weirdly a bicycle repair shop or a trip to a 'landscape roof activities' (we have no idea either...).  As you can imagine, Bicester Village aren't too happy about having their walking profit centres, err I mean customers wander into places where they might have their wallets and purses sucked dried and they don't get a cut; so they are against the proposal too.

 

* Why a Bicester based outlet mall needs to be registered in an offshore tax haven is a mystery to us.  Interestingly Private Eye's website says "Most are held in this way for tax avoidance and often to conceal dubious wealth".  Tax avoidance, whilst not illegal deprives this country of investment in public services such as healthcare, education, welfare, emergency services, public transport, armed forces, grass cutting etc.  #JustSaying

 

The St Edburgs site superimposed onto a map of Bicester.
Click to enlarge: The St Edburgs Walk site superimposed onto a map of Bicester (photo is pre Kingsmere site being developed). Map: Google.

WHAT DO BICESTERTAG SAY?

At last our Council and Councillors are acting to manage our town's growth properly and correctly.  We have been promised many things such as Garden City, Healthy Town, cycle-paths like Holland but what have we received?  13,000 new homes, a half empty shopping centre and streets exceeding safe air pollution levels.

 

Across Bicester, many others have raised questions regarding the financial proberty of Bicester Sports Association and a cursory review of several Facebook groups will open ones eyes to legitimate questions that have been raised but not properly answered.  However as traffic and transport is our 'bag' we shall leave such scurrilous accusations to others.

 

BicesterTAG think that the Oxford Road site is the least appropriate place in Bicester to build a retail park.  The area is already heavily congested most weekends by 'bargain' hunters flocking to Bicester Village and although the new park and ride facility exists, at peak times it is almost gridlock which will not be radically improved by the new 'hamburger' roundabout. 

 

Then there is the Air Quality Management Area of Kings End/Queens Avenue.  Cherwell District Council's own consultant report said that this was caused by the slow moving, stop start nature of the traffic.  This is a serious problem which has a long term negative effect on health particularly the young and old killing up to 29,000 people in the UK each year.  Yet Cherwell District Council fails to act and ignores the consultants recommendations it paid for with your council tax. 

 

Adding in a new retail attraction is only going to exacerbate the existing problems.  It is possibly the world's second biggest 'no brainer'.   So we say:

 

WELL DONE BICESTER TOWN COUNCIL

 

But saying 'NO' to this development and 'NO' to that development (but 'YES' to other certain others registered in off-shore tax havens) isn't the answer.  Bicester is the fastest growing town in Oxfordshire.  If all these 13,000 new homes are actually constructed our population will easily exceed 50,000 people (2011 Census: 32,642). 

 

This maybe the 21st Century with wireless devices able to vend everything and anything but people still like the convenience and pleasure of walking into a real store.  Our councils need to address this issue, Bicester needs an enhanced offering which we highlighted with our own research back in March 2015. 

 

Pioneer Square still has many large units vacant for over three years.  If they had a core high street brand it would enhance the town centre as a whole.  Cherwell District Council have issues with this because such key stores want financial incentives such as three years free rent.  Our council sees this as an unfair advantage and wasting tax payers money.  Yet this must be weighted with the boost all our town centre shops would see from better footfall versus the waste of taxpayers capital tied up in empty buildings.

 

And if the town centre is still not the right location for what Bicester needs, then we have several sites that have been allocated for speculative warehousing which could easily be re-designated to retail.  Not only would the switch to retail mean fewer major pollution causing HGV vehicle movements than compared to warehousing but it would also provide much more employment per square metre. 

 

There are answers out there, we don't have to ruin our town, test our patience or damage our health to achieve what we want.  We just need our councils to consider what is available and guide developers to make it reality.

 

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Local Elections 2016

LOCAL ELECTIONS: 5TH MAY 2016

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:

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Below are listed each of the candidates, by party.  The names appear in alphabetical order of surname based on Cherwell District Council's information.  Candidates who are currently serving as Cherwell District Councillors are highlighted in bold.  Candidates who are serving as councillors on other councils such as Bicester Town or Oxfordshire County have a * after their name.

 

We have contacted all parties including independents to ask for information about their manifestos and their candidates.  We are very sad to say that only two parties replied, The Green Party and The Labour Party.

 

Thursday 5th May 2016
Thursday 5th May 2016

Below are listed each of the candidates, by party.  The names appear in alphabetical order of surname based on Cherwell District Council's information.  Candidates who are currently serving as Cherwell District Councillors are highlighted in bold.  Candidates who are serving as councillors on other councils such as Bicester Town or Oxfordshire County have a * after their name.

 

We have contacted all parties including independents to ask for information about their manifestos and their candidates.  We are very sad to say that only two parties replied, The Green Party and The Labour Party.

 

CAN YOU BE colour blind?

BicesterTAG is 100% independent as you are aware and these are LOCAL elections. So we think it is slightly unfair to say that Party A is better than Party B because by and large, the agendas of national parties have no relevance at the local level.

 

Here we are only concerned about local issues. Health Service privatisation, EU referendums and all that have no connection to our lives and the life of our town.

 

We say: vote for an individual, not a party. Vote for a person you think will represent your voice in the chamber at Cherwell District Council. Someone who 'gets' the issues, lives the problems and understands the impact. More importantly, not someone who is willing to idly sit by, but someone who is willing to stand up and be a force for positive change. In short:

 

Someone worthy to be our civic leader!

 

the issues that matter to bicestertag

There are many important issues at this election for example the thousands of square metres of speculative warehousing Cherwell District Council are dropping on us but the issues that are of prime importance to us are;

  • Road Infrastructure to support Bicester's growth
  • Traffic congestion reduction
  • Solving of the Air Pollution problem

 

If you are interested in the other more wideranging issues facing Bicester, please visit our friends websites at;

 

TIME FOR A CHANGE?

Many of our existing councillors have not engaged with BicesterTAG on the issues we campaign on such as lack of infrastructure, congestion and now more importantly health damaging air pollution.  We therefore believe that it is time they stood down and were replaced by individuals who are willing to take a more active role in local decisions and stand up and be counted to stop poor decisions being made.

 

Unfortunately most of our current councillors belong to a single political party, so it may appear that BicesterTAG is biased against that party.  We are not.  We are against apathy and lethargy.  Bicester and district needs local politicians who are willing to speak up and not simply tow the party line to help them climb the greasy pole.  Regardless of whoever wins, you can guarantee that we will continue to robustly campaign on our issues BUT please suspend your own political bias and vote for individuals who will truly lead us!

 

NOTE:  For current county councillors, we have included details of their attendance however beware when interrupting them.  Some councillors may have 100% but only attended two meetings whereas others have 83% but may have attended 14 meetings.  The figures are only for the last period: 3 Nov 15 - 27 Apr 16 so may not be representative.

 

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FIND LOCAL PARTIES ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

Conservative

Green

Labour

Lib Dem

UKIP

Independents


BICESTER EAST

Party Candidate Contact Attendance
LABOUR Marcus ENGLISH Information  
CONSERVATIVE Sean GAUL    
LABOUR Sarah HAYDON Information  
CONSERVATIVE Richard MOULD   90% Details
GREEN Nicholas ROESEN    
LABOUR Steven SARGEANT Information  
CONSERVATIVE Tom WALLIS    
Full details      

BICESTER NORTH & CAVERSFIELD

Party Candidate Contact Attendance
UKIP Derek COLDEN    
LABOUR Margaret LYON Information  
CONSERVATIVE Nicholas MAWER   90% Details
GREEN Ian MIDDLETON Web  
CONSERVATIVE Lynn PRATT   82% Details
LABOUR Marc RUFUS Information  
CONSERVATIVE Jason SLAYMAKER    
Full details

BICESTER SOUTH & AMBROSDEN WARD

Party Candidate Contact Attendance
CONSERVATIVE David ANDERSON    
LABOUR Glyn AUSTIN Information  
UKIP Dickie BIRD    
CONSERVATIVE Norman BOLSTER   89% Details
INDEPENDENT Nick COTTER* Leaflet  
LABOUR Nick HOWELLS Information  
LABOUR Michael NIXON Information  
GREEN Roger NIXON Facebook  
CONSERVATIVE Dan SAMES Web 100% Details
Full details

BICESTER WEST

Party Candidate Contact Attendance
INDEPENDENT Martin HASTED    
LABOUR Sylvia HOWELLS Information  
INDEPENDENT Harry KNIGHT    
CONSERVATIVE Yolanta LIS*    
UKIP Bob MASSINGHAM    
GREEN Fiona MAWSON Web  
LABOUR Stuart MOSS Information  
CONSERVATIVE Debbie PICKFORD   100% Details
INDEPENDENT Les SIBLEY   100% Details
CONSERVATIVE Matt SNAPE    
LABOUR Steven UTTLEY Information  
Full details      

LAUNTON & OTMOOR

Party Candidate Contact Attendance
LABOUR Graham CAREY Information  
LABOUR Catherine CHESTER Information  
LIBERAL Tim EMPTAGE    
GREEN Paul GENGE    
CONSERVATIVE Tim HALLCHURCH MBE   83% Details
UKIP Alan HARRIS    
LABOUR Mike HOBBS Information  
CONSERVATIVE Simon HOLLAND   50% Details
CONSERVATIVE David HUGHES   83% Details
Full details      

FRINGFORD & THE HEYFORDS

Party Candidate Contact  Attendance
CONSERVATIVE Ian CORKIN   78% Details
UKIP Sara CORR    
LABOUR Shiela HAYDON Information  
LABOUR Lee ISSACS Information  
CONSERVATIVE James MACNAMARA   100% Details
LABOUR Gareth RICHARD Information  
GREEN Jenny TAMBLYN    
GREEN Graham WILSON    
CONSERVATIVE Barry WOOD   87% Details
Full details      

Caution at the new Tesco store

CAUTION AT THE NEW TESCO STORE

UPDATE 13TH APRIL 2016 - We have today received this statement from Oxfordshire County Council Highways Department advising that they now recognise this issue and are addressing it by closing the left hand filter lane using temporary signs until further notice.  It might be last minute, it might not be pretty but it will make our roads safer.  Well done everyone who helped bring this to the 'powers that be' attention.  Including residents: Mr P Hennessey, Mr J Smith, Mrs A Loveland; Councillors Sibley and Magee and many others including the Oxford Mail and Tesco. Thank you!


Bicester once dubbed as 'Tesco Town', is excitedly awaiting the opening of our new and much larger Tesco superstore on Thursday 14th April 2016 because as a growing town we desperately need enhanced retail relevant to everyday life and not just 'designer' handbags from two seasons ago.

 

However multiple residents have spotted a very real danger with the design of the road entrance into the new store.  Last week the Oxford Mail covered the issue with comments from our own Co-Chair, Sallie Wright.

 

We have received numerous emails from concerned residents who, like us have contacted the relevant authorities to bring this serious safety issue to their attention only to be met with a wall of indifference and platitudes.

 

 

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SO WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

Let us be clear, this problem is not Tesco's fault.  It is the result of Oxfordshire County Council's Highways Department in failing to scrutinise traffic assessments and Cherwell District Council's Planning Committee to effectively scrutinise planning applications and enforce the necessary conditions.

 

The problem is illustrated in the pictures below. 

 

Potentially dangerous traffic flows to the new Tesco store at Bicester
Potentially dangerous traffic flows to the new Tesco store at Bicester

 

When traffic travelling north bound on the A41 from the Aylesbury direction arrives at the roundabout, it can take the direct left hand filter lane to take to the M40/Oxford; shown by the blue arrows.  At the moment the traffic is free to continue without interference. 

 

Yet from Thursday 14th April, large numbers of residents will be travelling to the new store by car (or free bus we understand more of that later) from central Bicester.  This will mean that after crossing the roundabout, they will have to change lanes for the left turn into the new Tesco as shown by the green arrows.

 

Another view of how the traffic flows will conflict.  Please be cautious.
Another view of how the traffic flows will conflict. Please be cautious. Click to expand.

 

Many of us have foreseen that traffic will emerge from the filter lane too quickly and be confronted with either queuing traffic attempting to visit Tesco or slow moving traffic changing lanes to get to the store.  Our collective fear is that there is a high potential for accidents to occur. 

 

Indeed several of the residents who have already contacted us have done so having seen similar issues actually already occuring.

 

SO WHAT IS HAPPENING?

In short; very little - hence our warnings.  We have been speaking with councillors and officials across all three councils for a number of months now.  They cannot deny that they are unaware of the issue.  In addition many residents have also contacted our councils, councillors (including Lawrie Stratford, Melanie Magee and Les Sibley), Thames Valley Police's Chief Constable, Victoria Prentis MP and even Tesco's CEO.

 

The organisations who are responsible for this mess are:

 

Of all the people contacted, the only ones who replied (to the best of our knowledge) are;

  • Cllr Sibley - was able to confirm that the problem will be solved by the 'Hamburger roundabout' but unfortunately a start date has not yet been proposed.
  • Cllr Magee - was told that "Additional signage will be put in place to help make motorists aware and County Councillor's have suggested that there is a police presence, or some alternative traffic management on the first day."  Err what about day two and beyond?
  • Tesco's CEO Office - who have asked their developer to contact Oxfordshire County Council
  • And errr, nobody else....

 

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Firstly; if you are anywhere near this area, please;

DRIVE CAREFULLY

and be aware of the danger and share it with your friends and family too so that they are aware.

 

Secondly, please email the following individuals and express your displeasure at their indifference and appaulling lack of oversight for the safety of the people of their areas.  It seems that stuff only happens if you anony people enough times and as Mr Nimmo-Smith supposedly doesn't like speaking with community groups (i.e. BicesterTAG) it falls to us as individuals to make our voices heard.

 

HOW THE PROBLEM WILL EVENTUALLY BE SOLVED

Eventually (date unknown) this problem will be solved (read: worsened/moved) by the building of a 'hamburger' roundabout as illustrated in this video.

 

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Bright future for Bicester but without Cherwell District Council

WHY DO WE NEED SO MANY WAREHOUSES?

18th March 2016:  News reaches us that our councillors at Cherwell District Council have approved yet another hairbrain and unwanted development for Bicester on top of the rubbish schemes they have already foised upon us.

 

At a Planning Committee meeting on Thursday 17th, the committee comprised of councillors, voted to approve 4,900sqm (53,000sq.ft) of warehousing 16m (52ft) at a site they have labelled 'Bicester 11'.  This is the stretch of land off Skimmingdish Lane between the airfield and Wyndham Hall a care home for older people.  Now you're probably thinking "Did I just read that 16m warehouse units right next to a care home?  Surely some mistake?".  Unfortunately your eyes do not.

 

SO WHY THE NEED?

Why does Bicester need so many warehouses?  It is not like they're being used to store goods for sale in town because so many of our town centre shops are closing.  Well actually, there is no need.  That's right, no companies are clamouring for new warehousing space.  They are being built for financial speculation that they may be needed in the future by the large landing owning companies who own swaithes of land around Bicester (such as Gallaghers and London Metropolitan) who also and this is purely per chance, also sit on Bicester Vision the mainly publicly funded by very private organisation where business people coerce our less morally guided councillors (check the membership lists) into 'working together' which is a modern euphemism for 'oiling the wheels'.

 

ENOUGH WAREHOUSING ALREADY?

So as many people in Bicester have done so already, are you asking yourself "why do we need more warehousing?".  After all several massive units of the scale this development already exist on Chaucer business park.  Plus the site to be known as 'Akeman Park' already has planning approval for 69,677 sqm (750,000sq.ft) of warehousing.

BETTER alternatives for BICESTER?

Possibly if our councillors were more independent of lobby-shops like Bicester Vision, consulted with us their electorate more and were generally not the sloppy thinking councillors we have today they might think there is a better alternative for Bicester.

 

For years we have listened to those dried out cretins tell us that "Bicester shouldn't be a dormitory town" yet they authorise plans and vote through with abandon proposals for employment which;

  • Generate few jobs per square metre/foot,
  • Provide few skilled jobs for young people
  • Increases HGV vehicle movements which are already causing air pollution and congestion in our town

 

Would it be possible to make worse decisions????

Unsurprisingly, we are not the only people to have spotted this.  On 19th March 2016, The Times newspaper ran an article highlighting how the East West Rail, Oxford-Cambridge route could become Britain's 'silicon valley' linking two fo our top universities who have produced many 'spin-off' science and bio-tech companies looking for new offices close to housing for their employees.

 

Even the Oxford Mail reported the story but without the analysis of the economic benefits the link will bring here.

 

The Times reporting on the potential that a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge will bring town's in particular like Bicester
The Times reporting on the potential that a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge will bring town's in particular like Bicester

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?

 

Bicester already has a new office development capable of employing 3,000 people.  It should open in 2016/17.  We have had 13,000 new homes forced upon us by Cherwell District Council following targets dreamt up by unaccountable and non-elected Local Enterprise Partnerships.  So it's the ideal combination, great place to locate your new high-tech business, create high quality, skilled jobs our school leavers can aspire to an linked to a 100mph rail link in the 'silicon arc'.

 

But instead: warehouses, warehouses, warehouses, discount shopping malls, a cafe in Garth Park, £250k 'affordable homes', oh and that nice Mr Kevin Clouds from Channel4's Grand Building Designs AND dangerous air pollution.

 

Something HAS to change.  It starts with you voting for new councillors who will bring fresh thinking!

The end of Oxfordshire County Council?

WILL THE END OF OXFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL IMPROVE BICESTER?

 

The BBC are reporting that a recently published plan could see the end of Oxfordshire County Council and it's powers and responsibilities split between the district councils.

 

BBC reporting the proposal for the demise of Oxfordshire County Council, click for details.
BBC reporting the proposal for the demise of Oxfordshire County Council, click for details.

 

The proposal says that Cherwell District Council will assume those responsibilities currently held by Oxfordshire County Council for our North Oxfordshire region.  Additionally it suggests that Cherwell District Council could merge with South Northants Council into a single body.  The two councils currently work together sharing administrative functions.

The South Northants Council area, courtesy of The Northampton News
Map showing the South Northants Council area, courtesy of The Northampton News

So why is this good for bicester?

Currently different issues in Bicester are split between three different councils, Bicester Town, Cherwell District and Oxfordshire.  In summary each looks after;

  • Bicester Town - Town maintenance, local planning issues e.g. extension to a home
  • Cherwell District - Major planning issues, council tax, refuse collection, housing, benefits
  • Oxfordshire County - Libraries and transport.

 

Historically we have seen severe mis-matches between Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County when it comes to planning.  Cherwell allows new housing developments but Oxfordshire does not co-ordinate the transport (e.g. road) infrastructure correctly.  By combining the responsibilities into a single entity some inefficiencies will decrease and hopefully the outcomes improve (examples: Howes Lane, London Road Level crossing, Southern Ring Road)

 

Also many residents complain that if they take an issue to one councillor they are told 'oh sorry, that's not my council, that is XYZ council you need to talk to'.  Technically they are correct but pragmatically this is ridicuous because most of our councillors sit on multiple councils; for example around the table at Bicester Town Council, despite being the least powerful body, all the necessary people sit and could speak to each other and resolve the issues.  Do they?  Not really and our members attend the vast majoroty of Bicester Town Council meetings.

 

So from BicesterTAG's perspective, we believe that scrapping one tier of our three tier local government would be a benefit to our town's growth and future.  What do you think?

 

 

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Cherwell DC answers our Air Pollution FoI request.

CHERWELL DISTRICT COUNCIL ANSWERS OUR AIR POLLUTION QUESTIONS

You may recall that in November 2015, we submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Cherwell District Council.  We have now received a response and wanted to share their answers with you.  We are not satisfied with their answers and feel that our Council are ignorant of the issues; are not moving fast enough and are ignoring recommendations of consultants they commissioned to investigate.

 

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We are repeatedly told about Bicester being the UK's first EcoTown; how we are a 'Garden Town' and how our council are pushing a sustainable transport agenda.  Yet in reality none of this is having any impact.  The health of residents is being placed in danger.  The council has done nothing practical about it, your councillors seem unaware of the gravity of the issue.

 

Long term poor planning and lack of infrastructure is causing dangerous levels of pollution in Bicester
Long term poor planning and lack of infrastructure is causing dangerous levels of pollution in Bicester

Why has this issue come to light now?

How long has the issue been known about?

CHERWELL DC  say:  Pollution monitoring has been undertaken for many years in Bicester. Elevated concentrations of nitrogen dioxide have been recorded in Bicester and following guidance from Defra, the appropriate assessments have been undertaken. This has led to the Air Quality Management Area being declared in 2015. These assessments are available at www.cherwell-dc.gov.uk/airqualitymanagement

 

BicesterTAG say:  Our research shows that Cherwell District Council have been aware since at least 2013, that nitrogen dioxide levels were exceeded legal limits yet they have implemented no measures to address the problem.  These are legal limits, not simply 'guidance'.  The Oxfordshire Air Quality project states 'Air pollution has also been recognised by doctors as one of the worlds greatest 10 killers seeing some 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year and some 430,000 worldwide'.  Find out more about the health dangers of nitrogen dioxide exposure here from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

 

What monitoring devices/regime are in place?

CHERWELL DC say:  We monitor nitrogen dioxide concentrations using passive diffusion tubes in line with Defra guidance.

 

BicesterTAG say:  The monitoring regime Cherwell District Council have implemented is not real time and depends on periodic manual data collection.  Information can therefore be delayed or lost.  There is no mechanism to warn residents when pollution levels exceed short term levels.  In Oxford, a real-time monitoring system has been deployed and the data is shared publicly via Twitter.  You can find out more about the 'Oxfordshire Air Quality' project at oxfordshire.air-quality.info.  You will also see locations where monitoring stations are (or have been) deployed in Bicester although data is only available up to 2013.  In central Oxford, live data is available and the results available via Twitter.  An example is shown below:

How do the measured levels compare to safe and EU legal limits?

CHERWELL DC say:  The yearly average levels of nitrogen dioxide are above the national air quality objective of 40 µg/m3. These are health based objectives and have been transcribed from EU Directive. It’s not clear what safe and legal limits you are referring to.

 

BicesterTAG say:  The figure of an average of 40 µg/m3 as an annual mean is a legal limit defined by a European Union standard and enforced in the UK by DEFRA.  This figure is based on WHO guidance.

 

Cherwell District Council commissioned specialists RICARDO-AEA to survey air pollution levels in Bicester.  You can download their report here via Cherwell DC's website.  The report's Executive Summary (page ii) says:

 

NO2 concentrations in excess of the annual mean objective are occurring at a large number of
residential properties on Kings End, Field Street and St John Street.

 

The table below shows the data as recorded in 2014.  It should be noted that the Kings End South figure has increased by 2.3 µg/m3 or 5% since 2013 (in comparison to Table 4).  The report's Summary and Conclusions (page 23) goes on to say that the Kings End figure is influenced by HGV vehicles (approximately 6.2% of vehicles).  Elsewhere in town, the report says that overall air quality could be improved by speeding up the flow of traffic where most of the pollution is caused by slow moving cars.

 

To summarise, the report implies that the wrong type of traffic is being routed through town and that by speeding up traffic flow generally the health of local residents could be improved.

 

Locations exceeding the 40µg/m3 legal limit are highlighted in red.
Locations exceeding the 40µg/m3 legal limit are highlighted in red.
The location of the survey points.
The location of the survey points.

How are current levels predicted to change in the future?

CHERWELL DC say:  Nitrogen Dioxide concentrations are predicted to decrease as lower emission technology is incorporated into motor vehicles, which are the major source of this pollutant.

 

BicesterTAG say:  Global oil prices have slumped.  UK petrol pump prices have fallen from £1.40 litre to around £0.99 today with some estimating that it may fall further to 90p/litre.  Whilst this is good news for many individuals in times of low pay growth it also means an increase in car journeys as more price sensitive motorists such as the elderly and the young, can afford to use their cars more frequently (source).  Whilst deployment of lower-emission technology and electric vehicles continues to grow, only around 1% of new UK vehicle registrations are electric (source). 

 

Furthermore the UK has one of the largest fleets of diesel cars at around 50%.  Although diesel cars do produce less carbon dioxide (CO2), they do produce other emissions including nitrogen dioxide which is harmful to health.  If you are interested in how this happened, read more here

 

Conclusion:  The number of car journeys will increase; electric vehicles are unlikely to become dominant in the next ten years and the large fleet of existing diesel cars will take many years to reduce a switch back to petrol started tomorrow.  Cherwell District Council's answer does not appear to be based on any real world data.
 

What is the Council's current strategy on tackling this issue?

CHERWELL DC say:  An action plan will be developed which will seek to improve air quality within the Air Quality Management Area to below the national air quality objective.

 

BicesterTAG say:  BicesterTAG plan to become members of the Air Quality Action Plan Steering Group so that we can work with council officials and report back if they are taking reasonable and effective measures to protect the health and well being of the people of Bicester.  We are very concerned that Cherwell District Council have known about this problem for over two years but have failed to implement any serious actions to reduce the pollution or revise their strategic plans for Bicester.

 

The Air Quality Management Area as established by Cherwell District Council as part of their 'Action Plan'.
The Air Quality Management Area as established by Cherwell District Council as part of their 'Action Plan'.

   

What measures are you considering to limit traffic in the affected areas?

CHERWELL DC say:  The measures currently considered to limit traffic in the Air Quality Management Area are those included in the Local Transport Plan 4. Further traffic limiting measures may be considered as part of the action planning process.

 

BicesterTAG say:  You can access Oxfordshire County Council's (note: not Cherwell District Council's) Local Transport Plan 4 website here.  The document you would need to read (if you are suffering a very bad case of insomnia) is 'LTP Volume 2 part ii' pages 57-68 here.  We have written and campaigned since our inception on the unsuitability of these proposals which you can read about on our website here.  Again, none of the proposed solutions despite their unsuitability to remove large numbers of through journeys from the centre of town will appear within the next 5 years at a minimum and most not for 10 years. 

 

CONCLUSIONS

We are incredibly disappointed by the response of Cherwell District Council to this very serious issue.  Their response lacks substance and does not seem founded on the realities of the problem.  They appear to lack the seriousness of the issue, they make no acknowledgement of their failings in allowing this situation to arise and they do not make any serious proposals to reduce the hazard to resident's health.  Worse still they continue to approve new developments in the worst affected area on the former hospital site.

 

*** HAVE YOUR SAY ***

Tell us what you think.  Are you satisfied with the responses from Cherwell District Council?  Do you feel that they understand the seriousness of the issue?  Are you comfortable that they are able to adequately manage the problem?  What is your confidence in the council's ability to management Bicester's future safely?

 

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?

Cherwell District Council's new 'Member for Public Protection is Bicester's very own Cllr Debbie Pickford (Bicester Town).  Please email or write to Councillor Pickford to inform her how serious you consider this issue to be and what steps she is personally overseeing to ensure that resident's health is not harmed.  You can contact Debbie here.

 

You might also like to copy to your own Cherwell District Councillor.  You can find details of who that is below.  Remember that they each get £4,000 pa + expenses for being Cherwell District Councillors.  This means they are obliged as civic and community leaders to take an active and visible role in our town.

 

SO WHAT DO OUR COUNCILLORS THINK?

We have previously contacted all of Bicester's Cherwell District Councillors regarding this issue.  We thought that you might like to see some of their responses (Please note, for brevity only extracts are published here):

 

Councillor Debbie Pickford (Bicester Town & Member for Public Protection):

 

I fully agree that the areas that fall below the Gov. Target must have improvement have to be carried out. I will be keeping an eye on this monitoring.  I have made my views clear on Howes Lane and the junction onto Shakespeare Road clear at consultation meetings.

Councillors Rose & Lawrie Stratford (Bicester East):

 

Thank you for your email on "air quality".  We are happy to follow up CDC Lead member seeking a response.

The issue of "air quality" is reviewed on a regular basis across the District, usually in specific places where a perceived or real problem is identified.  I can recall two of these in recent times:-
+ Hennef Way in  Banbury & Queens Avenue in Bicester.

We continue to work with County, District, and Town Councils to try and ensure the continuing "challenge" of increased traffic in Bicester covers all aspects. These include traffic flow ( which impacts air quality directly ) and all types of " parking ".

We will bring you concerns forward at appropriate opportunities, e.g. Bicester Masterplan, Eco-Delivery, Graven Hill roll-out etc.

Councillor Russell Hurle (Bicester West):

 

Thank you for your email 4th January. I understand that you have now had a reply from Cllr. Rose Stratford. I hope this answers your questions.

 

Councillor Les Sibley (Bicester West):

 

Thank you for your email regarding Bicester's Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and your concerns which I share regarding air pollution being caused in the main by traffic congestion.

As a result of your email I have today requested that this matter be an agenda item for the next Bicester Traffic Advisory Committee which is due to take place on Thursday 14th January. Will keep you posted.

 

(As of 11th February, we have received no updates)

Councillor Dan Sames (Bicester South):

 

Many thanks for your e-mail. Air pollution is always a concern and we must all strive to lessen the impacts of it. Congestion is just one of a number of factors contributing to such pollution. Queen's Avenue has been an extremely busy road for many years but I firmly disagree with your view that nothing has been done to improve infrastructure to alleviate the traffic in this area. Skimmingdish Lane and Vendee Drive have both been built to divert traffic away from this area and have both had successes in doing this. However, you can't get away from the fact that Queen's Avenue is a major route into the Town Centre for half of Bicester so it is always going to be busy.

 

As lacklustre as some of those replies are (don't they get it?) at least they replied.  No replies were received from:  Councillors Norman Bolster (Bicester West), Nicholas Mawer (Bicester North), Richard Mould (Bicester Town), Melanie Magee (Bicester North), James Porter (Bicester South), Lynn Pratt (Ambrosden & Chesterton inc. Kingsmere) or David Hughes (Launton).

Rail link to Oxford delayed until 12 December 2016

FIRST TRAIN TO OXFORD WON'T BE UNTIL DECEMBER 2016

At 05:36AM on the morning of 12th December 2016, bleary eyed travellers will be able to catch the first train from Oxford to 'Bicester Villown' (Village or Town depending on your viewpoint) Station since February 2014 when the line was closed.  Since then the line has seen a total upgrade from 19th to 21st Century infrastructure allowing trains to run at 100mph. 

An Oxford Parkway bound Chiltern Railways train negotiating the new 'chord' in Bicester
An Oxford Parkway bound Chiltern Railways train negotiating the new 'chord' in Bicester

 

Although the line to Oxford Parkway (Water Eaton Park & Ride) opened on the 25th October 2015, the last section of line to Oxford Station itself was unready.  This has been blamed on bats in the Wolvercote Tunnel; planning delays caused through negotiations between Oxford City Council, Nicola Blackwood MP and residents over noise and vibration concerns and modification works to Oxford Station itself.

 

Chiltern/Network Rail had hoped that the link would open by spring 2016 but on 20th January, Chiltern announced the new start date of 12th December 2016.

 

Until then passengers wanting to visit Oxford can use the train service to Oxford Parkway where a rail replacement bus will transport them to Oxford's railway station or any intermediary stop.  No additional ticket purchase is required.  The service is very fast, efficient and provides free-wifi and power sockets making it ideal for commuters.  The station facilities at Bicester Towage (see what we did there) Station are excellent and the staff very friendly and helpful.  Adult return ticket prices to Oxford are £3.00 off-peak and £5.30 peak.  Car parking at the station costs £7 per day.  Visit National Rail for more details.

 

This final link to Oxford will also form part of the East West Rail project linking Oxford to Milton Keynes and Bedford.  Although development work is still continuing on East West Rail Phase 2, it will not now be completed until beyond 2019 and probably 2022. 

 

Although this is bad news for the people of Bicester and the surrounding villages in terms of access to wider employment and education opportunities it does give the lamentable Oxfordshire County Council the opportunity to find a replacement solution for the London Road level crossing.  Current Cabinet Member for Environment (including Transport) David Nimmo-Smith appears to currently favour tunneling under Bicester.  If only we had some local councillors who could campaign on this issue.  We do have some but they are the same lot who have been around for years and they're all tired and broken.  Please vote at the next council elections.

 


Download
Bicester - Rails Economic Development & Blight
In December 2015 we drafted this short document for our MP, Victoria Prentis to assist in her discussions with Claire Perry MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
for Transport). It describes how Bicester is both damaged by and will benefit from the new railway developments.
BicesterRailEconomicDevAndBlight.v1.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.3 MB
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Speed Bumps On Middleton Stoney Road

speed bumps on middleton stoney road

Speed bumps originally approved in June 2014 by Oxfordshire County Council and against Bicester Town Councillors wishes on Middleton Stoney Road, Bicester have been installed.  Our own Oxfordshire County Councillors (Sibley, Stratford and Waine) voted against the proposals but were out voted.

 

Middleton Stoney Road
Middleton Stoney Road

 

Councillor Nicolas Mawer, a Bicester Town and Cherwell District Councillor told us "I am totally opposed to the use of speed humps on the Middleton Stoney Road. I accept that now both sides of the road are built up, that there needs to be some kind of traffic calming measure, but I would much have preferred to have seen a road realignment such as in Aynho village. One of the unforseen side effects of the speed bumps is that drivers are now avoiding the MSR and using Queens Avenue which is already suffering from air quality issues."

 

Speaking in support of the traffic calming measures, Kingsmere Residents Association (KRA) spokesperson Fiona Chalk said "The KRA welcomes the safety measures finally being put in place on the MSR. The association provided feedback on plans that were made available early in 2014 by Cherwell District Council and the KRA has expressed their concerns about the safety of the MSR regularly to Bicester Town Councillors. It had been hoped that the traffic calming and pedestrian crossings, that CDC decided were required, would have been in place some time ago, particularly as Kingsmere has grown very quickly in the past years, so pedestrian numbers have increased significantly. It has been obvious that pedestrians trying to cross the road have had great difficulty, particularly in peak periods, and at times have been risking their safety as a result of the high speed that some drivers still felt was appropriate despite the road being 30mph."

 

Since the speed bumps have been installed we have received a number of complaints from residents principally about their positioning and marking.  We therefore would like to know your opinion of them whether you are a driver or not.

 

THANK YOU - THE SURVEY HAS NOW CLOSED

Wednesday 13th January: Thank you to all those who participated.  We have received over 130 responses (a sample size should be more than 100 to make a randomised survey a valid observation). 

 

Overwhelmingly residents of Bicester are against the speed bumps with most sighting the position in the road as being the most serious issue and lack of road markings being another.  Importantly a large percentage (58%) said that they would now be less likely to use Middleton Stoney Road. 

 

You can download the full report here.  We will of course be providing this information to our councillors and Oxfordshire County Council when we meet them.

 

Download
Middleton Stoney Road Survey, January 2016
BicesterTAG_MiddletonStoneyRoadReport_Ja
Adobe Acrobat Document 247.7 KB

Or in summary;

  • 138 people took part, of which 94% hold full driving licenses.
  • 96% know the correct speed limit of the road, 30mph.
  • 82% of respondents think that the positioning of the bumps is very inappropriate / inappropriate
  • 75% of respondents think that the whitelines/signage of the bumps is very inappropriate / inappropriate
  • 58% said that they would be very unlikely / unlikely to drive along the road and would avoid.
  • People are neutral about walking along it.
  • 51% said that they would be very unlikely / unlikely to cycle along the road even though the idea was to improve cycling.
  • 39% / 46% respectively said that zebra crossings / pelican crossings would be appropriate alternative solutions for pedestrian safety.  Footbridges or 20mph speed limits were very unpopular.
  • As for alternative uses for the budget, the three most popular choices were; road repairs elsewhere, London Road level crossing replacement or digital speed awareness signs.
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Bicester Air Pollution Concerns

BICESTER AIR POLLUTION CONCERNS

Early in October, Cherwell District Council placed a mysterious notice on their website (see here) saying that Buckingham Road, Queens Avenue and Field Street had been designated Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA).  According to DEFRA, a local authority must establish an AQMA if 'objectives are not likely to be achieved''.

 

We have always said that Cherwell Council's growth strategy for Bicester and lack of infrastructure would cause traffic congestion and increased air pollution but this move suggests that air pollution levels caused by nitrogren dioxide levels, which have been shown to cause severe and chronic respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma, particularly in children.

 

Councillor Anthony Illot
Councillor Anthony Illot

As we considered this a potentially serious issue, we decided to contact Councillor Anthony Illot who acts as Cherwell District Council's Lead Member for Public Protection.

 

We asked some general questions on the background of this announcement and what had motivated the Council to act now.  Our not unreasonable questions are listed below.

 

We contacted Councillor Illot on 30th November and by 15th December we had still not received a reply or acknowledgement of our email. 

 

Therefore we have decided to raise our questions via a Freedom of Information request to Cherwell District Council directly.

 

To BicesterTAG, this looks like further evidence of Cherwell District Council's ill-thought through growth plans for Bicester including 13,000 new homes and no infrastructure to support the expansion.  Not only does it look like our council is deficient in risk assessment but also our current councillors do not have the foresight to challenge shortsighted proposals. 

 

QUESTIONS WE ASKED OF COUNCILLOR ILLOT

  1. What has brought this issue to light now?
  2. How long has the issue been known about?
  3. What monitoring devices/regime are in place?
  4. How do the measured levels compare to safe and EU legal limits?
  5. How are current levels predicted to change in the future?
  6. What is the Council's current strategy on tackling this issue?
  7. What measures are you considering to limit traffic in the affected areas?

NEXT STEPS

We will keep you informed of the response we have from Cherwell District Council.  It is also important to recognise that the Government wish to limit or remove the powers of the Freedom of Information Act.  The Oxford Mail are running a campaign to highlight the importance of the public's ability to discover information on official and public policy.

 

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What a quiet weekend...

WHAT A QUIET WEEKEND

It is the week after the weekend before but not just any weekend Black Friday weekend.

 

We are amazed but extremely happy to report that Bicester was not swapped with hordes of bargain crazed shoppers heading to Bicester Village outlet centre as occurred last year.  Instead everything remained calm and quiet throughout town.  We are also pleased to report that the Saturday and Sunday following Black Friday were also calm and well managed too.

 

It is significant to note that Bicester Traffic Action Group did not receive a single complaint regarding congestion or illegal parking on Black Friday itself.  Our team of observers were active throughout the day and all reported the whole town to be very quiet.  The only complaints we did receive across the whole weekend regarded the 'emergency exit' onto London Road being opened and causing congestion in that vicinity with the road works and railway level crossing.  We will be discussing this issue with Value Retail.

 

We know that Value Retail put a huge amount of planning into Black Friday 2015 following the debacle of last year and we would like to thank them publicly that their strategy was successful.  Possibly too successful as even market traders in town reported reduced footfall in the town centre on Friday with people possibly staying away out of fear of last year's gridlock.

Miranda Markham, Value Retail
Miranda Markham, Value Retail

It has also been widely reported that 'Black Friday' across the country saw fewer physical and more online shoppers than last year which came as a surprise to many retail pundits.

 

So we would like to officially thank Value Retail and in particular Miranda Markham (Community Relations Manager) and Jonathan Ellison (Senior Operations and Services Manager) as well as their team members for listening to the concerns of the people and businesses in our area.  Miranda told us that she was answering emails from concerned residents as early as 1am on Friday morning! We would also like to thank our own team of observers who were very active on Friday.

 

Black Friday 2015 seems to have been a success for residents, local businesses and Bicester Village.    We wish Bicester Village well and hope that this marks a new chapter in their traffic management programme and dealing with their success as an international shopping destination and look forward to a less congested future.

 

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Black Friday 2015 at Bicester Village

BLACK FRIDAY 2015

Black Friday 2014 burned an impression into the memory of every resident who experienced the chaos and gridlock caused by Bicester Village.  Traffic came to a standstill, businesses were forced to close early, people were late for work, people couldn't get home and some of us even had our front gardens used as car parks.  


This year the management of Bicester Village tell us that they are doing everything possible to avoid a re-occurence by not having a Black Friday.


Yet with opening times from 7am to midnight, openingly advertising for staff for Black Friday and covering our town once more with signs to tell their customers how to behave reasonably many of the folk remain sceptical.

Black Friday Watch
Black Friday Watch

THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

 If you witness any traffic congestion or anti-social behaviour on Friday 27th November related to Black Friday at Bicester Village, please photograph or video it and upload direct to us via this link:

Alternatively, if you would prefer to email them to us, please use this email address: <removed>.  For legal purposes, we must inform you that by submitting any photographs and/or videos you hereby grant permission for Bicester Traffic Action Group or any other body to reproduce the item(s), in any format, without recognition or reward. 

 

Whether it be traffic gridlock, illegal parking, overly judicious behaviour by Bicester Village's employees or traffic management company or simply behaviour which makes our neighbour appear anti-social to the rest of the town and villages please let us know.


IMPORTANT:  Please note we ask you to act responsibly at all times, not endanger your own or others safety and respect other's personal privacy.

 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

We are also interested in your personal stories too.  Were you late for work?  Did it affect your children getting home from school?  Was your business impacted?  Has your property been damaged?  Please contact us as the media organisations would also be interested in how Black Friday has affected individuals lives.

 

If you have a personal experience you would like to share with the media, please email us and we will put you in contact with the relevant journalists.  If you prefer to remain anonymous, please be sure to clearly highlight this.

 

PHOTO GALLERY

Thank you to those of you have already uploaded photos.  Here are a selection.

8 Comments

Southern Periphery Road - Public Consultation 12-14th November

Southern Periphery Road - Public Consultation

Oxfordshire County Council will be asking for views from the public on two route options for a South East Perimeter Road in Bicester.  The consultation will take place between 12 and 14th November 2015.


Options for the proposed Southerly Perimeter Road, Bicester
You are asked to consult on 3 options for the road (not whether you want one). Click for access to OCC website.

WHERE IS THE CONSULTATION

  • Thursday 12th:  2.30pm and 8pm. The Lion, Wendlebury Rd, Wendlebury, OX25 2PW
  • Friday 13th:  12 noon and 7pm. Littlebury Hotel, Kings End, Bicester, OX26 6DR
  • Saturday 14th: 10am – 4pm.  John Paul II Centre, Webb Court, Causeway, Bicester OX26 6AW

why are your views important?

The people of Bicester and the surrounding villages have not been asked for their consent for their town to grow by over 13,000 new homes for what are largely political reasons (David Cameron's own patch etc.) and not for the benefit of the existing townspeople.  In contrast over the border our neighbours in Buckingham held a public referendum regarding development proposals. 


So there are two key reasons why you do need to give your view on this matter;

  • Firstly this development is less about alleviating Bicester's worsening traffic situation with air pollution problems that even Cherwell District Council are monitoring and more about opening up green space for developers.   Oxfordshire County Council's own website even says this: "The Perimeter Road will support employment and housing growth in the town.".


  • Secondly, neither Oxfordshire County Council nor Cherwell District Council can be trusted to successfully manage infrastructure projects.  Look at the London Road debacle, Oxfordshire County Council have been part of the project since 1995 and still have no solution for it.  Cherwell District Council designated Bicester an 'eco-town' but still can't build a single cycle path and now propose to make Howes Lane a 30mph, six set of traffic lights 'urban boulevard' because that's the way the developers want it. 


So you must speak up.  Make your voice and your opinions heard.


FIND OUT MORE

Find out more about the plans and options on Oxfordshire County Council's public consultations website:

 

www.oxfordshire.gov.uk

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Wretchwick Green Public Consultation

WRETCHWICK GREEN, SOUTH EAST BICESTER

A public consultation has been held in Pioneer Square on 20th and 21st October.


The following questionnaire has been issued by the developers in paper form at the consultation.  However BicesterTAG feels that the public consultation, although well attended will not reach sufficient people. Therefore we are extending the questionnaire into an online format and we will forward the results onto the developers, Cherwell District Council as well as publishing the information for you to see.

If you were not able to attend the public consultation, you can download a PDF of the exhibition here.

You can download the Wretchwick Green information pack by clicking on the image.
You can download the Wretchwick Green information pack by clicking on this image above.


Otherwise, the questionnaire is reproduced almost identically from the paper version except for small changes to make it appropriate for online.  At the end, we are also asking two additional questions of our own.

Please note, that no relationship exists between BicesterTAG or any of the parties connected to the proposed development.  The official website for the Wretchwick Green development is:  www.wretchwickgreen.co.uk


Please note, the survey may not work on some mobile devices.


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Update on Launton Road roadworks from SGN

update on launton road roadworks direct from sgn

We have received direct communications from SGN's Press Office.  We are providing it to you direct and in full;

As you’ll be aware, we’re working to upgrade our gas network in the Launton Road area. Our project will ensure a continued safe and reliable gas supply to Bicester homes and businesses now and into the future, as well as ensuring our network can meet increasing demand as the town grows.

 

We’ll have two teams working simultaneously in Launton Road for approximately five weeks.

 

The first team will be working between London Road and Victoria Road. As the road is narrow here, we need to close this section of Launton Road around our work area to keep motorists and engineers safe. A signed diversion will be in place with access maintained via Skimmingdish Lane (A4421).

 

Our second team will be working between Victoria Road and Longfields under temporary two-way traffic lights. We’ll be manually controlling these lights to ease congestion. 

 

Once we’ve completed the Launton Road phase of the work, we’ll then move to London Road. We’ll be working between Launton Road and the level crossing under temporary two-way traffic lights for three weeks.

 

We’ll be moving to London Road once we’ve completed our work in Launton Road. We have another four weeks of work in Launton Road before we progress into London Road for three weeks.

 

Our phase in London Road is a continuation of our work to upgrade our network in Bicester. We’ll be replacing the old metal gas main between Launton Road and the level crossing with modern plastic pipe. As with our work in Launton Road, this will ensure a continued safe and reliable gas supply to Bicester homes and businesses now and as the town grows in the future.

 

To ensure everyone’s safety around our work area, we need to implement two-way temporary traffic lights in London Road between Launton Road and the level crossing. We will be manually controlling these lights during peak traffic times to ease congestion in the area.


Our dedicated project page can be found here: https://www.sgn.co.uk/Roadworks/Southern-projects/Bicester,-Launton-Road/

 

 

If you have any specific questions, you can contact SGN via social media: Facebook and Twitter.  We have asked SGN their plans for London Road and if it will cause any additional closures of the road.  We are awaiting their reply.  Please check back here.

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MORE ROADWORKS: Launton Road

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO DRIVE IN BICESTER

After two months of London Road level crossing being closed, we are all looking forward to seeing it finally re-opening on, well we honestly don't know.  The latest official estimate is 7am, Thursday 15th October (details here). Now we discover that Launton Road may be closed for up to 9 weeks!

 

Launton Road, Bicester to close for up to 9 weeks for essential gas maintenance causing traffic congestion in Bicester.
Launton Road, Bicester to close for up to 9 weeks for essential gas maintenance.


Bicester Town Council's Chief Officer Sue Mackrell, has already contacted the contractor with some questions and informed us that the closure will take place over two phases.  Phase I will be from London Road to Victoria Road and Phase II will be from Victoria Road to the junction with Longfields.   Please note, the work will only impact Launton Road itself, not the side roads.


Timeline for Launton Road gas main maintenance in Bicester causing congestion and air pollution for the residents of Bicester and extra costs for businesses
This plan shows the two phases although timelines are unknown.

 

We contacted SGN ourselves and received this reply:

 

Thank you for your enquiry about our forthcoming Gas mains work in Bicester.

 

Due to the continuing development of the town in has been necessary to reinforce our local Gas main network to cope with the ever increasing demand. Although the majority of this new development is North of the town it is necessary to upgrade our areas pipe systems back to where we have sufficient capacity i.e. South of the town.

 

You may recall last year’s work in Launton Road which was phase 1 of this project.

 

Phase 2 of our work will be from junction of Longfields through to Bicester towns new station in London Road.

 

The majority of this work will be done under temporary traffic lights, however the section of Launton Road between Victoria Road and London Road, due to the very narrow width, we will need to close the road here for an estimated 5 weeks. This closure was due to start on Monday 12th October but as the work at the level crossing is over running we have delayed the closure until Thursday 15th October.  Access to the day centre and The Garth will be maintained.  There will be a signed diversion around the works to minimise disruption.

 

You can of course call SGN yourself on 0800 912 1700 for the latest updates or email here.

 

crm1038835

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BicesterTAG meets Bicester Village

BICESTERTAG MEETS BICESTER VILLAGE

Today (12th October), Bicester Traffic Action Group met with Value Retail (parent company of Bicester Village) representatives Miranda Markham (Community Relations Manager) and Jonathan Ellison (Senior Operations and Services Manager).

 

Black Friday jams on A41, 2014
Black Friday jams on A41, 2014

The meeting was organized to discuss several traffic related issues and specifically to understand Bicester Village’s preparation for ‘Black Friday 2015’ (27th November) and Christmas 2015.

 

We are very pleased to report that Value Retail do acutely appreciate the impact they have had on our town and how it has damaged their reputation within the local community.  Therefore avoiding a re-occurrence of the town-wide gridlock witnessed in 2014 is critical to them.  Value Retail’s preparations do genuinely appear thorough and well thought through.  Of all the questions we asked, none were avoided and the answers they offered appear to be sensible.

 

BicesterTAG will remain in contact with Miranda and Jon throughout the period and report to them any problems.  It is therefore of vital importance that any issues you see should be reported either to us or to Value Retail directly as soon as possible so that they can address them.


Below is a short summary of each of the issues we discussed:

 

New Park & Ride Car Park (A41/Vendee Drive)

The 580 space car park will open on 14th November at the junction of the A41 and Vendee Drive.  This allows two weekends prior to ‘Black Friday’ to iron out any operational issues.  The plan is that during the week, ‘transport hub’ users (people commuting to Oxford) will be in the majority and at weekends Bicester Village shoppers will be in the majority. 


Bicester Heritage Temporary Park & Ride Car Park

We have received several reports of over officious traffic marshalling at the entrance/exit on the A4421 opposite Thompson Drive.  This included 50mph main road traffic, with priority, being stopped unnecessarily to allow one/two cars to exit the car park.  Jon has promised to investigate and hopes it will not re-occur.


Traffic Management Company

The current traffic management company with limited police powers will be retained for the foreseeable future.  Yellow cones will continue to be placed on strategic roads most susceptible to illegal parking during peak periods.  In residential areas, cones may be swapped for signage to improve the aesthetics for residents.


Resident's Access to Tesco

A common complaint has been residents being unable to legitimately access Tesco.  Value Retail do assure us that this is a problem they are concentrating on and should not be re-occuring. 

 

We will ask more about the redesign of the Bicester Village entrance once Tesco has moved and particularly timings and co-ordination with Oxfordshire County Council's 'Hamburger Roundabout' at the A41 at our next meeting.


Thames Valley Police

Value Retail will be paying Thames Valley Police to have Police Officers on site on 27th November.  That means that the police presence will be in addition to Bicester’s normal establishment and thus not detracting.


However if there are scenes of mass illegal parking as witnessed last year, we need to see the Police proactively ticketing vehicles and towing.

 

Traffic Integration

During peak periods, Jon has 1-2 hourly conference calls with Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire County Council and Highways England to monitor wider traffic issues.  Value Retail have also created a ‘pack’ of approved messages which can be displayed to prevent [hopefully] excessive visitor numbers even reaching Junction 9 of the M40.


USE OF STATION APPROACH/LONDON ROAD AS AN EXIT

Jon did admit that Station Approach and London Road had been used recently but he assured us that was in exceptional circumstances due to other factors causing congestion elsewhere.

 

New Railway line to London

Currently 300,000 people travel to Bicester Village by rail each year.  However over recent years the number has remained flat.  Value Retail hope that the new station will increase this number although disappointingly they have no predictions of numbers.  There will be information on their website to lure visitors from their cars. 

 

If numbers do not increase, will we be able to convince Network Rail/ORR to revert the station's name back to Bicester Town?


23% Expansion

More of a future issue than a 2015 one.  You may recall that Cherwell District Council agreed approximately two years ago to Bicester Village expanding by approximately 23% (by retail space) when they expand to occupy the current Tesco site.  We asked how the additional traffic/customers this will attract would be accommodated.  Miranda told us that their predictions are that overall visitor numbers (footfall) will not increase significantly (~2%) over current numbers and their business model is to expand the width (more of the same type of stores) of their offering and increasing spending per visitor.


Call us old-fashioned but we are skeptical of this prediction.


AND FINALLY

In summary, we are satisfied that Value Retail do recognize the impact they can have upon Bicester and are genuinely concerned about it.  They have committed to us that they are as best prepared as they have ever been and considered a wide range of contingencies.  Importantly they are more willing to listen to the residents and act upon issues that may arise immediately than we have experienced previously.

 

We are satisfied that their preparations are sensible and realistic.  Based on our experiences since Black Friday 2014, their ability to manage large peaks has improved.  Value Retail are also not anticipating a Black Friday peak of the same magnitude as last year for several reasons they did outline to us.

 

So that’s it.  They’ve done their preparations, they’ve battened down the hatches and now all we can do is wait for the storm [not] to arrive.  If they do not get it right this year they will be in trouble with the local community and businesses however we hope that through a combination of planning and other measures the issues will not re-occur.

 

Nearer the time we will advise you how to report issues related to Bicester Village traffic to us or directly to Value Retail. 

 

If you have any questions, please post them here as a comment.  Value Retail do monitor social media.

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Bicester Gateway refused permission by Cherwell District Council

Bicester Gateway REFUSED permission by Cherwell District Council

Common sense prevailed at Cherwell District Council today when the Bicester Gateway development was refused by the Planning Committee on the grounds of size, scale and traffic congestion.

Cherwell District Council Rejected Bicester Gateway's Planning Application
Cherwell District Council Rejected Bicester Gateway's Planning Application

The Committee, spent almost an hour hearing information about the development from the planning officer and points from the committee members.  BicesterTAG and a representative of Bicester Vision, spoke against the proposal.  Speaking for the proposal was a representative of the developer and a member of Kingsmere Residents Association.

 

Several Councillors spoke out against the proposals including robust rejections of the scheme from Bicester Councillors Richard Mould, Lawrie Stratford and Rose Stratford.  Their reasons included; impact on Town Centre, insufficient car parking, A41 junction congestion, overflow parking into Kingsmere, goes against Cherwell's Local Plan, opposition from local businesses, no firm commitment M&S/Next would actually sign tenancy agreements, peak traffic congestion, loss of higher salaried employment, inappropriate site, and proximity to school to name but a few. 

 

It is important to note that the Councillors were not against such retailers coming to Bicester but just the location.  All said they would like to see the stores come to Bicester but not in that precise location (see below for the Council's full reasons).

 

Those who spoke for approving the development were Councillors Lynn Pratt and David Hughes.  Mrs Pratt's reasons included Bicester being the fastest growing town and Bicester residents expecting infrastructure to keep pace with expansion.  Mr Hughes noted that employees would have to walk to work to save parking spaces, he had received many letters from residents in favour and driving to Oxford instead of to a store in Bicester was less 'eco-friendly'.


WHY ARE THE COUNCIL AGAINST THE PROPOSAL?

Cherwell's Planning Officer has TWICE recommended this proposal to be refused.  After the first occasion, the Committee allowed the Developer to speak with the Planning Officer regarding the objections.  The Officer, still recommended refusal.  The Officer's reasons in summary, are;

  • Did not demonstrate that the development would potentially significant adverse impact upon the vitality and viability of Bicester Town centre
  • The development proposed, by virtue of its form, scale and height, together with substandard car parking and landscaping provision, would be out of scale and character with the adjacent residential development
  • In the absence of a satisfactory planning obligation, the Local Planning authority is not convinced that the necessary infrastructure directly required as a result of this scheme will be delivered
  • A full copy is available here

 

Councillors rejected the proposal on the following grounds:

  • The reasons the Planning Officer gave
  • They also added traffic congestion.  We are awaiting a full copy of the wording

 

The show of hands was 9 for refusing the development, 3 for approval and 2 abstentions (tbc).


WHY IS BICESTERTAG AGAINST the scheme?

Our submission was prepared by Bicester resident Mr Gerry Harvey, a Fellow of Institute of Highway Engineers, a past member of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation and someone with over 30 years experience in planning and traffic assessment.  It is fair to say that Gerry knows his stuff!

 

Gerry's analysis of the Traffic Assessment which accompanied the Planning Application was;

  • Insufficient parking
  • Risk of overflow parking into Kingsmere's residential streets
  • Proximity to school
  • That the developers submission had used figures akin to a office block, not a retail park
  • No account was made for Pingle Drive traffic (i.e. entrance to Bicester Village)
  • No other infrastructure was planned

 

Two other independently commissioned traffic assessments came to almost identical conclusions.  Oddly enough they were commissioned by Value Retail (Bicester Village) who ironically are worried about traffic congestion to their own site.  Shocking!  Many local businesses including Sainsburys, Bicester Office Park and Bicester Sports Association also objected.

 

On top of these issues, we must also remember that also at the A41 junction;

  • Value Retail (Bicester Village) have been granted a 23% increase of their site
  • The new, relocated Tesco will be twice the size of the current store
  • Bicester Office Park, a new office park of 500,000sq ft employing up to 3,000 people

 

To help illustrate where all this CURRENTLY approved development is going to be located we have produced this map showing the approximate sites of each of the plans including the site of the proposed Bicester Gateway and the Kingsmere development.

Showing the approximate sites of the Bicester Office Park, new Tescos and enlarged Bicester Village
An approximation showing the already APPROVED developments in the vicinity of the A41 roundabout
Already approved developments in Bicester
APPROVED DEVELOPMENT: An artist's impression of how Tesco, the Office Park will look from the A41

In our view, this is a perfect store.  We expect traffic congestion to worsen already from what is known throughout the county to be a difficult location.  Add in 'Bicester Gateway' with up to 9,000 vehicle movements per day and this town would be heading for a perfect storm!  Our conclusion is:

 

RIGHT DEVELOPMENT, WRONG LOCATION


Traffic gridlock on the A41 Bicester, Black Friday 2014 on route to Bicester Village
Traffic gridlock on the A41 Bicester, Black Friday 2014

We all remember how bad the A41 can be when Bicester Village is busy.   This image (© David Parker/Daily Mail) shows how bad the road was on Black Friday last year.

 

If another large retail development such as Bicester Gateway, with up to 9,000 vehicle movements predicted per day, would this scene occur every weekend?

 

Reaching the development by car (or the new Tesco store) would be nigh on impossible.  Anyone wishing to leave Bicester would have to seek alternate routes via M40 J10 or via villages such as Chesterton or Ambrosden.

 

 

 

what next?

Bicester still needs more retail facilities that are appropriate to the local community, unlike Bicester Village.  The brands of Marks and Spencer and Next would be very welcome and popular decisions throughout town as our survey back in March clearly demonstrated.

 

The 'Bicester Gateway' proposal was extremely popular amongst Kingsmere residents.  Those who have lived in Bicester slightly longer and see the chaos and congestion Bicester Village cause less so.  However we are all united in wanting more and better services.

 

Other sites are available, there is an opportunity to build near to the airfield or NWBicester on sites already earmarked for future warehousing; the now vacant Sheep Street Tesco store could be re-built and integrated into the Pioneer Square format more deeply with expanded rooftop parking.   Another option already proposed involves redeveloping Claremont Car Park in a similar style to Pioneer Square. 

3 Comments

Good local governance is possible!

GOOD LOCAL POLITICIANS ARE POSSIBLE!

An article published this week in Rail Magazine clearly demonstrates how local politicians, councillors and MPs can act together, regardless of party colours, to work for the benefit of the local community.

Rail Magazine, Issue 784, 30th September 2015
Rail Magazine, Issue 784, 30th September 2015

Less than seven miles from Bicester as the crow flies or the train travels, Oxford City Council (Labour) and Nicola Blackwood MP (Conservative) have successfully worked together over a long period to ensure that the lives of the residents of North Oxford are not disadvantaged by up to 171 train movements per day.

 

Their combined efforts have resulted in points being moved into less noise sensitive areas and the implementation of 2.5m high noise barriers.  Are any of these measures being implemented in Bicester?  No.

 

We would like to publicly applaud Nicola and Oxford City Council for their sterling efforts.  It is such a pity that those seven miles seem a world away from the calibre of local politicians we experience, many of whom were unaware of the problem until Bicester Traffic Action Group brought it to their attention and still fail to act for the benefit of those who elect them.

 

2 Comments

WHAT IS HAPPENING AT LONDON ROAD?

WHAT IS HAPPENING AT LONDON ROAD?

 

It is a huge understatement to say that the INCORRECT map distributed by Bicester Town Council showing that London Road level crossing will close in 2019 has caused some concern in the town.  There has been uproar and outrage from many residents of Bicester and the villages, especially those who depend on the crossing as part of their daily routine.  The Bicester Advertiser even ran a front page story about the concern the map has caused. 

The photograph from Bicester Advertiser's front page coverage of the London Road map controversy.
The photograph from Bicester Advertiser's front page coverage of the London Road map controversy.

so what ACTUALLY HAPPENED?

Bicester Town Council's Chief Officer, Sue Mackrell contacted us very early on with a formal apology from the council and the map's publisher Codair.  You can find Codair's formal apology to the Council here.

 

We also know that the councillors were totally and completely unaware of the map's appearance as much as the rest of the population of the town.

 

Yet we are perplexed as to why Codair, who managed to completely miss out the Pioneer Square development and the changes to North Street were able to add in the new railway line's chord and seemingly from nowhere, arbitarily decide that London Road level crossing was to close from 2019.  No plausible explanation has emerged for this mistake.  We are suspicious that maybe Oxfordshire County Council are confidentially briefing interested parties that the crossing will close but we have zero evidence to back up this hypothesis.

 

 

Bicester Town Council did promised to destroy all copies of the incorrect map at a Council Meeting on 8th September yet on 18th September we were still finding copies of the map freely available around town.  This example was in the Kings Arms, Bicester.  Please let us know if you find any further copies.

SO WHAT IS HAPPENING?

From a discussion with one of our Oxfordshire County Councillors Lawrie Stratford, we understand that Oxfordshire County Council (who have jurisdiction for highway issues) will be making some sort of announcement regarding the London Road crossing at the end of September.

 

However in speaking with Mr Ben Smith, Oxfordshire County Council Highways Department Officer for Cherwell and Bicester we were extremely disappointed.  We asked Mr Smith a number of questions about what will happen at the September meeting, what decisions will be made, what likely next steps will be taken.  We are VERY disappointed to report that he was unable to give us any confidence in the process they are managing to deliver what is a strategic link for the people of Bicester and beyond.


Such was our lack of confidence we have written to all of our councillors and our MP, Victoria Prentis who is also involved in the process as well as sending copies to the local media.  We will update you with their responses.

 

SO IS THE LEVEL CROSSING ACTUALLY CLOSING?

To be honest, we have no idea.  Officially, no but then again there is work going on secretly for alternative solutions, so maybe yes but that depends on someone (i.e. central government) providing the cash to build the alternative.  Could anyone design a worse mess?

 

SO WHAT HAS BICESTER TOWN COUNCIL BEEN DOING?

As we highlighted at the beginning of this article, the map has caused outrage across town and beyond.  People have been rightly upset and asking what is being done.  We regret to say that it appears to BicesterTAG that Bicester Town Council have been doing very little of practical value despite having had ample opportunity. 


The council claims that it is in as much a 'information vacuum' as the rest of us however given their contacts, networks and gravitas we find it very hard to appreciate.

 

Despite their own inaction, on several occasions recently the council and certain councillors have accused BicesterTAG of acting in a libelous manner in regard to our 6th September article.  So let us understand this correctly, their quality control processes are deficient, their record of achievement is lamentable but a group of residents who campaign for their own town are to blame? 


Well to be honest, we are proud that we helped bring this issue to a wider audience and we're very grateful to YOU for supporting us and Naomi and Michael at the Bicester Advertiser for running the story. 

 

SO WHAT HAVE OUR COUNCILLORS BEEN DOING?

 

On the 6th September when the discovery of the map first brought to our attention, we emailed all fifteen Bicester Town Councillors.  We asked them three basic questions;

  1. What is your personal position on this councillor?
  2. What are you doing about this as an individual?
  3. Are you willing to work with us to campaign for a replacement?

We thought you would like to know the response we received to these, not unreasonable questions.  We recognise that they are not obliged to engage with us however we do represent the opinion of many people in Bicester and it would at least be nice to talk to us. 

 

Below we have summarised which councillors responsed to our questions.  For space constraints we cannot include each individual response, rather a summary of who gave a positive answer to our questions.  A 'Y' implies that the councillor did answer that question, an 'X' denotes that the question was unanswered.  Eight councillors failed to provide any response.  We know twelve of them definitely opened their emails.

 

If you are unsure which ward you live and who your councillor(s) is, click here.  We apologise for the poor quality of this image, it is taken directly from the Bicester Town Council website.

 

Councillors by Ward

Opened

Mail

Question 1 Question 2 Question 3
South East Ward
Nick Cotter
Y Y Y Y
Dannie Magee
Y No response received
Dan Sames*
Y Y Y Y
East Ward
James Porter
Y Y X
X
Lawrie Stratford**
? No response received
Rose Stratford*
? No response received
North Ward
Dave Magee
Y No response received
Melanie Magee*
Y Y X
X
Lynn Pratt
Y Y X
X
Town Ward
Jim French (Mayor) Y Y X
X
Richard Mould* Y No response received
West Ward
Nicholas Mawer*
Y Y X
Y
Les Sibley**
Y No response received
South West Ward
Debbie Pickford*
Y No response received
Central Ward
Jolanta Lis (Deputy Mayor)
Y No response received

Key:

* = also serves as a Cherwell District Councillor

** = also serves as an Oxfordshire County Councillor

 

2 Comments

London Road Crossing WILL Close 2019 - Confirmed by new Council Map - Councils and Councillors Knew All Along? [UPDATED]

16Sep15 - We have been asked on several occasions by Bicester Town Council with veiled threats of libel action that we remove this story from our website.  We do not think that the story is libelous because at no point did it ever claim that Councillors misinformed the public.  Also at the first possible opportunity the story was updated and clearly states that councillors were unaware.  Therefore we must, to satisfy our council who seem happy to sue local residents yet do not challenge proposals that could have terrible impact on the Town nor check material bearing their logo that they freely distribute, me must bring this information to your attention and ask you to read the entire story including the updates clearly highlighted in red.

 

Although we have suspected this for many months now, it was a shock to learn this weekend that London Road level crossing WILL close from 2019.


The map below was recently commission by Cherwell District Council and approved by Bicester Town Council.  It is freely available to members of the public so it is definitely not secret.  Look at the enlargement below for a closer view of London Road level crossing.

Proof Cherwell District Council knew that London Road crossing will close from 2019.
The new map commissioned by Cherwell District Council and approved by Bicester Town Council.


The image below clearly highlights that London Road level crossing will close from 2019 on this official Council approved map.  The only positive point is that Bicester Town Station is clearly denoted as Bicester Town Station, a minor a very consiliatory point given the massive disruption residents will face.


Proof that Bicester's level crossing at London Road will close from 2019 causing traffic chaos and isolating residents.
An enlargement of the level crossing itself.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR BICESTER?

In short disruption;

  • Bicester divided into a northern and southern 'blocs'
  • Additional traffic congestion throughout town, particularly Queens Avenue and Launton Road
  • Parents no longer able to walk their children to school
  • Disabled people facing arduous and unnecessary detours
  • Businesses with additional costs and time problems
  • Heavy Goods Vehicles having no southerly access to the town
  • Bus timetables being impossible, taxi fares increasing

 

REMEMBER: There will be no pedestrian access via Bicester Town Station either as the station's footbridge will be only accessible to holders of valid train tickets. 

 

SO SORRY MUMS WITH PRAMS, WHEELCHAIR USERS, OFFICE WORKERS WHO FANCY A QUICK WALK INTO TOWN TO BUY LUNCH ETC. YOU'RE NOT CONSIDERED IMPORTANT.  NOW SHUT UP AND PAY YOUR COUNCIL TAX SO YOUR COUNCILLORS CAN HAVE A 19% PAY INCREASE.  Please note: two of Bicester's three County Councillors nobly agreed to refuse the increase, details.

 

HAVE OUR COUNCILLORS BEEN LYING TO US?

In February 2015, BicesterTAG met with Cllrs Sibley, Stratford and Waine, Bicester's Oxfordshire County Councillors to discuss this matter.  We were told that London Road would not close.  We have asked our Bicester Town Councillors and none said that the crossing would close. 

 

Yet now we discover that Bicester Town Council and Cherwell District Council have approved this new map (despite it containing many other mistakes and inconsistencies).  So go figure.

 

UPDATE:  7th September: From speaking with several Councillors, it appears that they have not seen this map and of those who choose to reply to our email (Cllrs: Lynn Pratt, Jim French, Dan Sames, Melanie Magee and Nick Cotter, only 5 of 12) all have clearly stated that they were unaware of this map or any decision regarding London Road.  We have not received any communications from our Oxfordshire County Councillors Sibley, Stratford and Waine despite emailing them each twice.   We have also received an email from BTC's Chief Officer saying that the map is a mistake by the map maker and they do not know why the mistake was included.  More information on this later.

 

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Email/write/call your councillors today.  Voice your opinion directly to them.  It is only by us all acting together can we share our outrage at the deplorable and undemocratic way our town is being managed.

 

HINT:  Most of the Bicester Town Councillors also sit on the other two councils, so despite Bicester Town Council having only slightly more power than a worn out AA battery because it is in effect a Parish Council, by contacting them you are saving yourself work.

 

AND REMEMBER TO JOIN OUR MAILING LIST.  It is only by acting as one co-ordinated body can we make our voices heard.  By joining our email list, we can keep you in touch with the latest news and should we organise a demonstration, we can keep you informed.  We promise strongly, not to abuse your trust and will only send you emails on the issues we campaign on and never disclose your details to any third party.

 

9 Comments

LONDON ROAD CLOSURE EXTENDED TILL 11TH OCTOBER

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME?  We hope not!  London Road level crossing's closure has now been EXTENDED until Sunday 11th October!

That means a vital road that provides key economic and social connections within the rapidly expanding Bicester is going to be closed for a total of 61 days!

 

Originally London Road was only supposed to be closed for 34 days between 10th August and 14th September.

 

However following a request by local resident David Budden, we have discovered that the extension has been caused by safety issues raised by Rail Inspectors regarding the crossing's barriers.  Mr Budden is anticipating further information in writing shortly which we hope to be able to share.

 

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So why have Oxfordshire County Council granted such a long closure of a key access road for motorists as well as pedestrians?  BicesterTAG's own scrutiny shows that even the original closure of 34 days was excessive and in our opinion applied for only because the more practical option of several shorter closures would increase costs for the contractor.

BicesterTAG show that work is clearly not intensively under after over a week's closure at London Road
Work clearly not intensively under after over a week's closure
Again, no work visible at London Road, Bicester.  Is a 61 day closure necessary?
Again no work visible. Is a 61 day closure necessary?


For the closure to now be extended is a shocking example of how ineffective our county council is in safeguarding the social and economic wellbeing of local people.  We believe that an effective solution would have been for the county council to insist that the closure was shorter or allowed single file traffic using traffic lights.


Cllr David Nimmo-Smith, Cabinet Member for Environment, Oxfordshire County Council
Cllr David Nimmo-Smith

If you would like to register your disapproval of our council's systematic failure to protect the interests of residents and businesses you may wish to contact Councillor David Nimmo-Smith, Cabinet Member for Environment at Oxfordshire County Council.  David has responsibility for transport across Oxfordshire.  He is contactable via:

 

 

You may also wish to contact our local Oxfordshire County Councillors as ask them for their opinion on this 'short term' closure and the potential permanent closure post 2019.

Cllr Lawrie Stratford (Bicester North)
Cllr Lawrie Stratford (Bicester North)

Email Lawrie

Cllr Les Sibley (Bicester West)
Cllr Les Sibley (Bicester West)

Email Les

Cllr Michael Waine (Bicester Town)
Cllr Michael Waine (Bicester Town)

Email Michael


1 Comments

UP TO 13 TRAINS PER HOUR AT LONDON ROAD CROSSING

Bicester Traffic Action Group (BicesterTAG) have recently become aware that the total number of trains passing through Bicester on the new East West Rail link will exceed the original estimate of nine by four making it a total of thirteen.


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A freight train crossing London Road level crossing
A freight train crossing London Road level crossing

The four additional trains per hour will comprise two freight trains and two passenger.  The information was reported in the latest edition of 'Rail Magazine' (Edition 780, 5-18 August 2015).  Part of the article can be downloaded here.

 

The higher figure does not mean that there will be thirteen trains passing through Bicester Town station from the opening of the East West Rail line in 2019, it means that this is the increment possible based on the line capacity.  Yet it is vital to remember that rail freight has increased by 40% in tonnage and from 8%-12% as market share (1993-2012, Source: RFG).  Freight capacity on existing railways is also highly congested.  Consequently it is likely that the new capacity will be quickly exploited by train operators. 

 

The East West Rail link is being built to sustain a capacity of 13 train services per hour in total.
Comparing the initial train frequencies with the future 'incremental' services the line will have capacity for.

 

Whilst the all the passenger trains passing through London Road will be capable of a maximum of 100mph they will be preparing to stop at or accelerating away from Bicester Town station so will be traveling slower.  The freight trains will not stop but only have maximum speeds of between 60 and 75mph however as the line is curved at this point, they travel at lower speeds.

 

What does this mean for bicester?

To date we have worked on estimates that if London Road level crossing were to close nine times per hour, for three minutes each closure then the crossing would be closed for 27 minutes per hour, assuming equally spaced trains.  Yet with thirteen services this number increases to 39 minutes each and every hour.  That means for 65% of each hour, residents and business of Bicester will not be able to use London Road level crossing and will encounter the resulting congestion.

 

Worse still, that assumes that the trains all run evenly spaced.  This is very unlikely.  The probable situation will be that one train passes and another is due shortly so the barriers will remain closed (Network Rail have very detailed rules on these matters).  This means that London Road's crossing gates may be closed for up to 45 minutes each and every hour or 75% of the time.


LONDON ROAD CROSSING WILL CLOSE FOR:

  • From 2019, a minimum of 27 minutes every hour;
  • With a potential of 39 minutes every hour, assuming perfect spacing of trains;
  • However a likely closing of 45 minutes every hour to accommodate actual train spacing.
  • This assumes that Network Rail don't simply close the crossing without consultation on safety grounds as they have the legal power to do.
A worst case scenario closure is 45 minutes EVERY hour
Closed for 75% of EVERY hour


Closing London Road level crossing for anywhere between a minimum of 27 and 45 minutes will have a detrimental effect on Bicester.  London Road is a key transport link not only for inter-town traffic and pedestrians but also traffic to and from the south.

 

Closing this essential link for between 45% and 75% of every hour is going to have many consequences, including;

  • Traffic congestion building up back to Market Square and the Rodney House roundabout
  • Increased journey times for businesses and bus services
  • Fewer shoppers visiting Pioneer Square, Sainburys etc.
  • Increase congestion on Queens Avenue and the A41 roundabout
  • Read more about the issues here in 'Bicester 2019: Carmageddon'

 

WORST CASE SCENARIO

You do not need to be a Traffic Planning Expert or a Professor of Human Psychology to realise that closing a key road through our rapidly growing town is going to create congestion.  So to bring it home here is a little scenario we hope will never come to fruition;

 

It is 2021 in Bicester.  Alfie is 19 and has grown up in Bicester all his life.  He has just bought himself a new Ford Focus GT3.  He worked long and hard for this car and anyone who knows him knows that his car is his pride and joy particularly his girlfriend Carri who wishes he would shut up about it for at least 5 minutes.


Alfie has just picked up Carri who lives on the new estate south of Langford where 2,000 new homes are being built.  They're going to see a movie.  They're late, Alfie is always late.  Well he was waxing his car until 30 minutes ago. 


Worse still, they're stuck in traffic.  They've been queuing to get through the level crossing on London Road.  They have 5 minutes to get to cinema before the film starts.  Alfie knows Carri will be cross if they miss it, she's always on at him about being late.


Oh great Alfie thinks, the traffic starts moving again they're going to make it.  But before more than 20 cars have gone through the crossing lights start flashing again.  It's ok Alfie thinks, the traffic is moving fast we can make it.  The car in front is also going for it.  Cool Alfie thinks, glad he's not some loser.


But unfortunately Alfie and Carri will lose, for unknown to them, the traffic is about to stop suddenly because the frustrated driver of a car waiting to turn ahead unexpectedly pulls out into the traffic causing everyone behind to brake hard, including Alfie. 


Alfie Carri and his pampered car are now stuck on the level crossing as the barriers close. 


Then Driver Mattison comes around the corner driving the 1634 Immingham Docks to Toton container freight.  As soon as Eddie Mattison, driver of 23 years experience sees the situation he recognises that there is a car stuck on the crossing and presses his emergency brake.  Yet with 25 wagons, his train weighs well over 1,000 tonnes and has a theoretical stopping distance of 803 metres.  Eddie later discovered this information from the accident investigator's evidence.  Yet with a Ford Focus under the wheels of his Class 66 locomotive, the train stopped in 738.2 metres.


The accident inquiry also heard from Network Rail that they now planned to close this level crossing as their had been a number of near accidents at this site already.


As this is a theoretical scenario, we're going to let impatient Alfie and hapless Carri walk away from this one uninjured.  We're also going to avoid Driver Eddie Mattison being unable to return to work for six months and having on-going counseling due to this being the second no-fault fatality of his career.  Unfortunately real-life is not always so kind.



why are we in this situation?

  • Oxfordshire County Council have been part of the East West Rail Consortium since 1995. 
  • The other 37 level crossings on the East West route are to be replaced by alternative means or closed.  London Road Bicester is the only one not. 
  • Oxfordshire County Council have made a HUGE mistake by ignoring this problem for so long.
  • Oxfordshire County Council, their Leader, their Cabinet Member for the Environment and our local County Councillors are not taking the consequences of this problem seriously.


what's not happening?

Oxfordshire County Council is both a project sponsor of East West Rail and simultaneously has jurisdiction for all public highways within Oxfordshire.  Six months on from the date they said they would publish proposals they have not.  Their engineers have visited the site on numerous occasions and have considered several variants but they have not eluded to anyone what these maybe.  So what are the potential solutions;


  • Bridge - Simply building a bridge is unfeasible because the lead in ramps would stretch almost into Market Square and completely obliterate existing access roads as well as resident's views.
  • Tunnel - A tunnel we are told is also unfeasible for similar reasons and the fact that the water table in that area is very high.


Yet, Oxfordshire County Council have no budget for this project.  Despite being part of this project since 1995 and making provision to replace crossings elsewhere, Oxfordshire County Council seem to have made a HUGE mistake here.


Our Oxfordshire County Councillors had told us that the council was applying to Central Government for funds to manage this task however in this period of prolonged austerity, this solution seems less viable.  We are now hearing rumours (we stress that these are rumours but from someone who is considered knowledgeable of the situation) that no compulsory purchase will be permitted, meaning no funding is available.


So what is going to happen?


At the moment, Plan A is to allow the crossing to remain open.  Network Rail have already questioned this.  Remember that under the powers of the Railway Act they can close the crossing without consultation on safety grounds.


BicesterTAG very much fear that the 'Alfie and Carri' scenario above will force their hand and the crossing will close.  Terminating not only vehicle and but also pedestrian access as the bridge at Bicester Town station will not be accessible except to those who have purchased tickets to travel.


Shocked?  We are!


ARE YOU IMPACTED?

If you are a business owner, a Mum with children, a working person, a student or anyone else and you have been impacted by these issues, please add YOUR thoughts below in the comments section.  Only by recording your voice can we demonstrate to our politicians that these issues are relevant to the people and businesses of Bicester and the surrounding villages.  Thank you.

7 Comments

Update on Bicester town railway opening

OBRAG (Oxford Bicester Rail Action Group) have today published news of the re-opening of the Oxford rail link via Bicester to London Marylebone.  Bicester Town Station is due to reopen on Monday, 26th October.  Their article is reproduced below:


Oxford University Railway Society railtour at Bicester London Road Station on 21st February 1981. Source: http://www.disused-stations.org.uk
Bicester Town Station in it's sleepy days back in 1981. Photo by John Armisthead

Chiltern have confirmed that the line will commence service from Oxford Parkway on Monday 26th October this year, with staff at each station offering a welcome, and probably some promotional offers.


The timetable still awaits confirmation of freight timing from NR but is deemed unlikely to change significantly.  However, there is still no news regarding fares.


Chiltern’s standard cycling policy will apply. “Most of the buses that will operate the 500 bus route between Oxford Parkway and Oxford station (via the city centre) will be able to carry bikes.”


Car parking charges at Oxford Parkway will be at similar pricing to the Water Eaton Park & Ride (but with a simpler structure).” Parking at Islip Station will be free of charge (though limited).


They have been kind enough to supply a timetable specifically for Islip which highlights options to connect at Oxford Parkway to use other fast trains up or down.


There is still no further news regarding when the line into Oxford itself will open. The original intention to open in March 2016 seems impossible now, given the failure of NR to secure either planning permission or acceptance of noise and vibration from Oxford City Council in time.


0 Comments

CDC's Planning Officer recommends refusal of Bicester Gateway proposals

We have learned that Cherwell District Council's Planning Officer has rejected the application for 'Bicester Gateway'.


Bicester Gateway as envisaged by developers CPG

Bicester Traffic Action Group have campaigned against this development in conjunction with local businesses and councillors.

 

Although we know that the people of Bicester would very much welcome the town's retail facilities to be bolstered by high street names such as Next and Marks & Spencer, we feel that the site the developer chose, between the Esso Service Station and Premier Travel Inn has many insurmountable issues.  Our own survey clearly shows that the townsfolk would like to see brand name stores but within the heart of the town centre not on a peripheral development.

 

Although this decision is the Planning Officer's recommendation, it may still be overruled by Cherwell District Councillors when they meet on Thursday 6th August.

 

BicesterTAG feels that the site is too close to Bicester Village which has already been granted planning permission to grow by 23%, the new and enlarged Tesco Superstore and a office park development.  In addition, the site's location could have grave impact for the residents of Kingsmere, especially those who live on and around Whiteland's Way which would effectively become a 'rat run' when the A41 was congested by the existing problems Bicester Village causes.

 

So concerned were we with the proposals that we asked a independent Planning Advisor with a track record in these type of developments to review CPG's proposal.  His feedback was extremely damning highlighting that the developer had used non-standard traffic figures to estimate the traffic flow.  They had also misrepresented the figures using traffic profiles which failed to take account of Saturday afternoon peaks, as would be reasonably expected for a retail site.  Our reviewer was also shocked that Oxfordshire County Council's Road Planning department had failed to raise these points as an issue, a point they refute.

 

BicesterTAG has presented our information to Cherwell District Council Planning Department and also made our councillors aware.  We hope that on August 6th, they will follow the recommendations of their own Planning Officer and reject this application.

 

We hope that the developers will revise their thinking and seek a solution which incorporates the town centre especially as the former Tesco supermarket site has now become vacant.  Many of our councillors are passionate about seeing the expansion of the town centre and we support them.  We know that Councillor Nick Mawer has been particularly vocal on this subject and we support him and his fellow councillors with their work.

 

 

 

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Broadening our appeal

We're broadening our appeal!  After being in existence for approximately 4 months, Bicester Traffic Action Group (BicesterTAG) have achieved a number of significant goals! 


We have come together, from nothing, firmly established ourselves on the local landscape, established our goals and aims, formalised our existence through a constitution, created a website/social media presence and have made contacts with the full spectrum of our elected officials. In addition we have also appeared on television, radio and print. 

 

However the next step of our plan is to increase the awareness of the issues we campaign upon amongst the people of Bicester and the surrounding villages.  The recent local elections saw some discussion of the issues but our research shows that too few people are aware.

 

So we have had 5,000 copies of the below leaflet printed and we will be distributing around Bicester and the villages shortly.  If you would like some for your organisation or to distribute within your own street, please email us: bicesterTag@gmail.com.

 

BicesterTAG's A5 leaflet which will soon be distributed around Bicester and the surrounding villages.
BicesterTAG's A5 leaflet which will soon be distributed around Bicester and the surrounding villages.
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When Will Bicester Village's Park & Ride Construction Actually Begin?

Work on Bicester Village's new £3.5m Park & Ride facility at the corner of Vendee Drive and the A41 has still not started one month after Oxfordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Environment, David Nimmo-Smith proudly announced in the Bicester Advertiser that;

 

"...the problems have been resolved and the park-and-ride will start to be built next month. We anticipate it to be ready by the busy Christmas period which will be good as we all know what happens. There just is not enough car parking for such a successful shopping outlet as Bicester Village.”

 

One month after Oxfordshire County Council's David Nimmo-Smith announced Bicester Village's new Park & Ride car park, work has still yet to begin.
Work on Bicester Village's new Park & Ride car park still stalled...

 

The plans had been originally granted permission back in 2013 however they have been delayed by unspecified and undisclosed 'legal' issues.  If the car park had been finished as was intended by Christmas 2014, it would have gone a long way to solve the gridlock 'Black Friday' caused for the residents and businesses of Bicester and the surrounding villages.


Bicester Village's traffic problems made national headlines.

Black Friday 2014, was the first time Bicester Village opened until midnight.  Having advertised the event widely, the discount shopping mall was overwhelmed and underprepared by the response which caused seven miles of tailbacks onto the A34 and M40.  The resulting chaos caused mass disruption for the people and businesses of Bicester as well as scenes of overcrowding and arguments between shoppers inside the complex.



 

Some may ask why those 'pesky' legal issues were suddenly cleared after almost two years of impasse between Value Retail and Oxfordshire County Council.  Could it be that Bicester Village's planning permission for a 23% expansion was to be reviewed by Cherwell District Council and the Park & Ride scheme was a condition for the approval?  Permission which was dutifully granted by your Council on 16th April (Bucks Herald).

 

However as our photographs clearly show, even one month after David Nimmo-Smith's announcement, no work has been attempted and is clearly visible, crops are growing on one section of the site.  Farmers are business people and they tend not to waste resources ploughing and sowing land that is about to be built upon. 

 

When will work on this important facility start?  And when will our Councillors cease to be taken in by developers promises and instead demand to see actions?

 

View of the park and ride site from Vendee Drive
View of the site from Vendee Drive, 29th April 2015
The Bicester Village park and ride entrance clearly not ready for construction
The entrance clearly not ready for construction, 29th April 2015

As Cabinet Member for OCC, Cllr Nimmo-Smith is curiously shy of engaging with members of the public.
As Cabinet Member for OCC, Cllr Nimmo-Smith is curiously shy of engaging with members of the public.

the silence of david nimmo-smith

Despite BicesterTAG contacting David Nimmo-Smith via email on several occasions he seems extremely shy to talk with us. 

 

David, as an elected representative of Oxfordshire County Council who claimed £23,147.89 in allowances (2013-14) and member of a council who voted themselves a 19% pay rise in these times of public sector austerity please can you find the time to send us an email at least: bicesterTag@gmail.com, it is only polite.



The scheme's plan.  A combined bus interchange during the week for commuters into Oxford and at weekends additional parking for Bicester Village shoppers.  Funded in majority by the taxpayer.
The scheme's plan. A combined bus interchange during the week for commuters into Oxford and at weekends additional parking for Bicester Village shoppers. Funded in majority by the taxpayer.

As part of a planning application in 2013 to allow additional parking, Bicester Village's owners Value Retail had to consent to building a park and ride facility.  The new car park situated between the A41 and Vendee Drive features 580 car parking spaces, 60 cycle parking spaces, cycle shelter, bus laybys and shelter, fencing, landscaping, attenuation pond and drainage ditch, pedestrian walkways, height restriction barriers and security lighting and cameras



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BicesterTAG in the news again!

Our official press launch this week has seen Bicester's favourtie Traffic Action Group receive much media coverage.  After the earlier coverage on BBC Radio Oxford's Breakfast Show and on the front page of the Bicester Advertiser we have again featured in the Oxford Mail and specialist industry magazine, Rail Magazine.

Oxford Mail's coverage of Bicester Traffic Action Groups launch.  Co-chairs Richard and Sallie are pictured at London Road level crossing.
Oxford Mail's coverage of Bicester Traffic Action Groups launch. Co-chairs Richard and Sallie are pictured at London Road level crossing.


The story in Rail Magazine (issue 772, pg 37) refers to our earlier campaign to highlight the deeply unpopular decision by Chiltern Railways to rename Bicester Town station, Bicester Village.  Our email to managing editor Nigel Harris has been printed and we hope to have more coverage of the issues with them soon.


Bicester Traffic Action Group's letter is published by Rail Magazine
Bicester Traffic Action Group's letter is published by Rail Magazine
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BicesterTAG meets Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council

Today BicesterTAG's co-chairs Sallie and Richard met with Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council and representatives of EcoBicester at Bodicote House, Banbury.


The purpose of the meeting was to introduce ourselves to Barry and brief him on our groups concerns and aims.   Barry was keen to brief us on Cherwell's reponse to Oxfordshire County Council's LTP4 (Local Transport Plan).


Also present at the meeting were representatives of EcoBicester.  We were able to raise with them our concerns that after six years of existence, EcoBicester is still yet to produce any information on how a cycle network will be integrated into the town despite reducing car journeys being a key goal.


We found the meeting to be constructive and look forward to continuing discussions.

Shock Findings From BicesterTAG's Survey Results

Here are the eagerly awaited results of Bicester Traffic Action Group's comprehensive traffic survey carried out in March 2015.

 

We had a total of 388 responses.   To ensure that we have sought the opinions of the largest possible audience the survey was advertised electronically using Facebook, Twitter and Email.  To ensure that we reached users beyond those platforms we have also contacted several village parish councils and residents groups directly.

 

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BicesterTAG gives your opinion about renaming Bicester Town station

Today BicesterTAG committee members found their photos on not only the front page of the Bicester Advertiser but also in the Bicester Review regarding the renaming of Bicester Town railway station to Bicester Village by Chiltern Railways.


BicesterTAG committee members were present at Chiltern Railway's Public Consultation where we heard several councillors including Mayor Pratt and Cllr Pickford speak strongly in favour of retaining the current name.


Although not a core campaigning issue of our group we feel that our identity is more important than that of a discount shopping outlet and that our residents have an opinion that Chiltern should listen to.

We meet with Bicester's three Oxfordshire County Councillors

Les Sibley
Les Sibley
Lawrie Stratford
Lawrie Stratford
Michael Waine
Michael Waine

Today BicesterTAG's Committee met with our three Oxfordshire County Councillors; Les Sibley, Lawrie Stratford and Michael Waine to introduce ourselves and raise our concerns.


We meeting was strong with all BicesterTAG committee members vociferously challenging our councillors on our concerns.  We learned that senior members of Oxfordshire County Council (Ian Hudspeth and David Nimmo-Smith) are not fully briefing them.  Also our three councillors are not at liberty to discuss the options proposed to replace London Road level crossing.


We have agreed to remain in regular contact.