UPDATE: 2nd October 2015 - Cherwell District Council Planning Committee has refused planning permission for this application. Details can be found here.
Bicester Gateway is a recently (February 2015) proposed development by CPG (Consolidated Property Group) and WCEC in Bicester, Oxfordshire. To give you an overview of the planning proposals, BicesterTAG has extracted some images and information from the 'Design and Access Statement' the developers have published. You can download the original document from the bottom of this page.
The site is positioned between Brewers Fayre/Premier Travel Inn and Bicester Services. The slightly out of date photograph below illustrates the size and positioning. Since this photograph was taken the Kingsmere development has grown up substantially and will eventually surround it.
The site will offer 7 units comprising 10,376 m2 (111,691 ft2) of retail space. The space will be split between 3 larger multilevel stores and 4 smaller ones. The image below
illustrates the individual layouts.
The developers have been keen to suggest that two of the larger sites will be occupied by Marks and Spencer and Next. The planning application includes a letter from Next in which the retailer states that they are actively seeking a new location of precisely this
type/size in the Bicester area. Unfortunately, the letter is just that, an expression of intent. CPG and Next have no contractual arrangements or agreements in place at this
time. The Next letter also dates from prior to the announcement of Tesco Metro in Sheep Street closing. Unfortunately we are unable to show you a copy of Next's letter because it has
been removed from the planning application on Cherwell District Council's website.
As the development is within the Kingsmere area, it should have to comply with the architectural style consistent throughout
the rest of the development. However it seems to abandon that style completely. If you are wondering what the architectural design influences were, apparently they are
'juxtaposed furniture pieces'. To translate, that is architect's speak for 'bits of contrasting (e.g. odd) furniture in a pile'.
This image shows the developers suggestions for reaching the development. Blue lines show pedestrian/cycleways and the green vehicle
The developer has since suggested that a pedestrian access bridge would be built to link directly with Bicester Village.
The developer's representative has also suggested that a second road access point would be added directly from the A41 which is not shown on this original plan.
THE DEVELOPER IS ACTUALLY SERIOUSLY PROPOSING THAT THE CUSTOMERS USE WHITELANDS WAY ON
KINGSMERE AS A PRIMARY ACCESS ROUTE TO BY-PASS BICESTER VILLAGE'S CONGESTION. Whitelands Ways is not a primary route and is only suitable for residents vehicles, not as a main
This map illustrates the approximate location of Bicester Gateway (shown in green) and Bicester Village's new park and ride facility (shown in red). BicesterTAG worry that the Village's bargain hunters will drive past Bicester Village's park and ride and park in the Gateway's 200+ (estimated) parking spaces. So where do the residents of Bicester and the villages park when we want to use these facilities?
In short, BicesterTAG says;
"great development, wrong location".
The people of Bicester have been calling for a wider range of shops for many years. This was clearly demonstrated by our own survey on shopping habits in Bicester Town Centre. Currently we have to travel to another town. In the case of Next, our nearest stores are either 11 miles to Oxford City Centre or 12 miles to Cowley Retail park. The only problem we have identified with this proposal is the location. Originally this site was anticipated to provide local stores for Kingsmere residents with similar facilities to Bure Park's Barberry Place with a mini-supermarket, pharmacist and located close to the Kingsmere school's.
The issues we foresee are the well known problems Bicester Village congestion causes and the re-location of Tesco supermarket. The 'Bicester Gateway' site will be inaccessible at
weekends for the residents of Bicester and the surrounding villages. The Gateway development is well and truly in the Bicester Village Congestion Zone! We have
witnessed on numerous occasions, particularly in late 2014, residents actively avoided Tesco's Pingle Drive store because of traffic congestion around Bicester Village.
Oxfordshire County Council have committed to redesigning the A41 roundabout converting it into a 'hamburger' style feature, please see the video below for a visualisation. However as the majority traffic flow is not to/from Aylesbury but to/from Bicester it will not be as effective as other locations they have been installed (Headington and Heyford Hill roundabouts in Oxford).
It is also important to remember that after Tesco relocate, Bicester Village is scheduled to increase by 23% in size. This will only increase the discount centre's attraction, bringing yet
more visitors from further afield. Bicester Village's new park and ride facility is located on the new A41/Vendee Road roundabout (as shown above). Savvy Bicester Village customers will
soon realise that by parking in Bicester Gateway's car park they will only be a short walk away. As a result, the Gateway's car park will be full but the stores empty. Our experience
of Tesco has shown this to be true.
As residents we all desire a wider range of retail facilities but if those amenities are not readily reachable, particularly during busy/holiday periods such as the lead up to Christmas, we are not going to be able to use them. When stores are empty during the busiest periods, the brands will not remain in town very long.
Bicester Town, Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County Councillors are against this development. Instead they wish to see a large store like Marks and Spencer or Next move into Sheep Street, especially as the Tesco Metro store will soon be empty. However as our recent survey has shown, 73% of visitor to Bicester Town Centre travel by car, just under 60% cite insufficient car parking yet over 55% say they would visit more frequently if there was free car parking. So if our councillors do want to see the type of developments they envisage, they will need to listen to the people of Bicester and the surrounding villages.
This video shows the proposed redesign of the A41 roundabout about and new entrance to Bicester Village. The new layout will improve flow to/from Aylesbury but the majority of traffic goes to/from Bicester. The roundabout does not account for additional volumes of traffic that a 'Bicester Gateway' type development would generate.