EcoBicester is a new development to the north of Bicester. The map below shows the area earmarked for development which combines EcoBicester, to the right of Bucknell Road and NWBicester to the left.
EcoBicester plans to build 5,000-6,000 new homes (depending on press release). It aims to create a more sustainable (they never say how much) community by design. The houses are supposedly designed to be more energy efficient, local shops will be centralised so that it is unnecessary or inconvenient to drive there.
What Councillor Wood and most our other councillors do not seem to realise is that 5,000+ new homes will bring approximately 10,000+ more cars to Bicester. Where are they going to go?
How are they going to get to the M40? The 'urban boulevard' downgrading of Hawes Lane linking Vendee Drive and Skimmingdish Lane and a new bridge under the Chiltern railway line is not
scheduled to take place before 2020.
Our councils are happy to talk about EcoTowns having green spaces and cycle lanes. But have you seen an integrated network of cycle paths in Bicester? No, us neither. We have seen a few token pavement markings but not enough to encourage widespread bicycle adoption.
In 2010, Cherwell District Council released their 'Eco Bicester - One Shared Vision' document where they extolled the benefits of Bicester adopting eco practices. Unfortunately in 2015, as those
developments start to become reality some of that vision appears to be fading and is starting to look just another housing estate whilst no new road infrastructure appropriate to the needs of the
existing or future residents is on the horizon.
A2Dominion is one of the key developers of EcoBicester. The video below is their promotional video listing all of the goals they aim to achieve to make the development deserve the title 'Eco'.
One of the goals is for 40% of the development to be open green areas. We find this surprising because even from their animation it looks like most of the open green space is actually the resident's gardens. I wonder if they will be told that their back gardens are actually 'open space' and free for anyone to roam through?
But wait, what is that? It looks like some of the small secondary buildings which could possibly be garages have grassed roofs! They must be the open green spaces, how 'blue-sky thinking'. Great! Local children will be able to kick a football, run around and ride their bikes on top of their neighbour's garage. Surely there is some mistake?
Please do not misunderstand BicesterTAG, we are very much in favour of improving the environment through reducing carbon dioxide, landfill and energy waste. What we are against however is building just another housing development on a greenfield site and drowning it in 'greenwash'. That is what we feel we are witnessing. Whilst the result might be a housing estate that does consume less energy than existing developments what we are definitely going to see is around 10,000 new vehicles introduced onto the roads around Bicester. Trying to squeeze your way down Queens Avenue is already difficult at peak times. Imagine the rest of with 10,000 extra cars?
So you've watched the video with it's lovely jolly music (everyone loves guitars) and the pictures of homemade jam. Nothing says digging up green fields cannot be justified by a mouthful of homemade jam. However can you see our point about where exactly is that 40% green space?
Also remember that ecological transport options is another one of EcoBicester/NWBicester's key aims. In fact NWBicester's FAQ section on their website
"To reduce the number of trips made by car, alternative, environmentally friendly options will be made easy to access. For example, real-time bus timetable information, cycle networks and the
UK’s first semi-rural car club."
And, there's more;
"Attaining a modal shift in travel patterns to encourage non-car use" (reference)
You would expect them to have a wonderful presentation on their cycle network then? Telling us how easy it was going to be to cycle down to Sainsburys or if cycling isn't your thing how to
catch a bus to the railway station. No you're wrong. We met with members of the EcoBicester team and we are very disappointed to report that six years into the project, EcoBicester
still not produced a cycle transport plan for Bicester.
We had expected to receive a shiny presentation with lots of cycling facts. All we have been able to find on Cherwell's website is a fuzzy map that is so out of focus it is unreadable,
more about this here. However they have had time to make provision for an
'eco-pub' (apparently it will brew its own beer onsite).
Yet again, we the people of Bicester seem to have decisions forced upon us by government departments, quasi-government bodies (Local Enterprise Partnerships), and large commercial bodies who have
no longterm stake in our town or villages. All of this is overseen by local politicians who either fail to challenge decisions, ask the necessary questions and are happy to be part of a
domineering political bloc for their own advancement.
More energy efficient homes with less polluting heating systems is good but dumping 5,000+ homes on the periphery of a town without an adequate ring road or an integrated cycle path appears to be
plain stupidity in terms of traffic if your original goal was to improve the environment.
These images come from live feeds on the EcoBicester 'examplar' site. They are sourced from NWBicester.co.uk
Our friends at Langford Village Community Association (www.langfordlife.org.uk) recently spotted this article in the Garth Gazette.
It attempts to define what a 'Garden Town' means.
After ignoring all the buzz words (community, engagement, leadership, generous, integtated community stewardship etc.) can you see how EcoBicester as a 'green' development differs from any other development in Bicester since 2000?
We can't either. Looks like it is just camouflage to build more houses.
And remember, 10,000 extra cars trying to get down Queens Avenue each rush hour!