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UK's first eco town in the pipeline
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Phase one of the NW Bicester eco development, Exemplar, has become the first eco town scheme in the country to receive the green light for work to start, with construction due to begin later this year.

Constructed in four stages over the next five years, Exemplar’s ground-breaking development will integrate cutting-edge eco technology, economic opportunities and community engagement to provide the flagship homes of tomorrow for Bicester.

Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee approved A2Dominion and P3Eco’s application last August, subject to a legal agreement ensuring community infrastructure for the benefit of existing and future residents of the town. This process is now complete, after close collaboration with Oxfordshire County Council and Bicester Town Council, giving the development full planning approval to proceed.

Conditions of the agreement meet with Eco Bicester’s aspirations for a more sustainable community as a whole. The first Exemplar phase, set within 50 acres of which 40 per cent will be green space, will contain 393 highly-efficient homes, constructed by A2Dominion, for existing and new residents of Bicester.

The houses are designed to be truly zero-carbon and deliver exceptional quality of life for residents. Built to a high level of sustainability (Code Level 5), the development will include significant levels of insulation, high thermal performance and rainwater harvesting. Exemplar will encompass the UK’s largest residential solar array to generate electricity and benefit from a highly-efficient district heating system, all of which will lead to much lower household bills for residents.

Cherwell, in conjunction with P3Eco, is also set to spend a portion of the pump-prime funding it received from the Government to provide a school and an Eco Business Centre. The aim is to ensure no additional pressure is placed on existing schools and that small businesses have the facilities available to them from which to take root.

These elements combine to benefit the whole town and the money being spent up-front will be recouped from developers as building progresses. The Exemplar will encompass specially designed cycle and pedestrian routes throughout, include a bus service with real time information and have charging points for electric vehicles.

The school, retail and business elements are designed to be central to the development creating a village feel. Community space will incorporate communal barbecue areas, herb boxes, allotments and seating and will be designed to encourage children to play in the street safely.

Together, the council and A2Domininion are committed to achieving 20 per cent local labour on site and A2Dominion is already working with Bicester Job Club and Jobcentre Plus to accomplish this. A minimum of ten apprenticeships will also be made available over the next five years.

Councillor Michael Gibbard, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said: “We have made sure that the first Exemplar phase of development at NW Bicester will set the scene for what follows. We are proud that the scheme will include many unique features to reduce the impact of the new development on the environment. We have put our money where our mouth is to guarantee that infrastructure is delivered along with housing rather than afterwards.”

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