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Deputy PM confirms £100m garden city in Bicester

Words: Laura Edgar

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has confirmed that a £100 million garden city will be built in Bicester, Oxfordshire, as part of the government’s plans to tackle the housing shortage.

Forming part of the National Infrastructure Plan announced by Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the proposed 13,000-home extension to Bicester is the second garden city-style development to be announced by the coalition, alongside Ebbsfleet – and the first since it invited bids from local authorities to build a new wave of garden towns in England.

The government has said it would ultimately like to see three new 15,000-home garden city developments.

Cherwell District Council had bid for the garden city extension, which attracts government funding on the basis that certain features “are hardwired into designs from the beginning”. Any garden city development will, however, be expected to incorporate “quality design, gardens, accessible green space near homes, access to employment and local amenities”.

Although few details have been formally published yet, it is also expected that Bicester will be given a new railway station and improved road networks. The new development will also be built on brownfield land.

“I am delighted that Bicester can now be confirmed as a pioneer in what I hope will be another wave of garden cities in this country,” said Nick Clegg. "This is a significant victory for the approach championed by the coalition government.”

But Bicester residents have already expressed their concerns about the level of traffic at weekends and Bank Holidays in and around the town’s popular designer outlet centre (see Reaction, below), setting up an e-petition on the government website.

However, The Telegraph reported that more than £44 million would be spent on infrastructure, including new roads and a junction on the M40 near Bicester. The remaining £55 million would be spent on loans to developers to design the city, including parks and transport links.

Clegg added that Bicester would get help from the government with capital investment as well as helping the developers build the necessary amenities for a “true garden town.”


“At 13,000 new homes, the Bicester proposal does not match up with what many would regard as a new city. The Wolfson Prize-winner, for instance, envisaged town extensions in three sectors of 60,000, and even then the national housing requirement looked daunting. So it would be helpful for a wider, more ambitious context to be part of the announcement.

“However,it is encouraging that there is with the Bicester announcement some evident and welcome joined-up thinking. The improved Bicester rail station will sit on the to-be-upgraded orbital rail line between Oxford and Bedford, with a further pipeline proposal to re-establish the link to Cambridge.

“The parallel announcement of road improvements may help to calm some local fears – the headlines of Black Friday were of Bicester Shopping Village gridlock. And it is probably helpful to many that the new ‘city’ is apparently intended for ex-Ministry of Defence land, demonstrating both a public sector commitment and a brownfield-to-garden first approach.

“Two matters that we will be interested to know more about are: will the MoD land be sold at a price that ensures overall scheme viability, and will this assure the provision of some element of affordable housing?” RTPI statement

“If we look in detail at the new garden city for Bicester - or should we say garden town, or should we say sustainable urban extension or indeed some housing with trees on it – we need to understand that these numbers are part of recovering a deficit following the removal of the previous Regional Spatial Strategy targets and thus in reality represent no net gain of housing at all.” Alister Scott, professor of environment and spatial planning at Birmingham City University.

“We welcome today’s news as a step forward to addressing the country’s housing requirements. Towns and cities need to grow in a way that is attractive and beneficial for local residents and garden cities are a great way of achieving this  - but we need many more.

"It’s not just about investing in bricks and mortar, but investing in better places where communities can thrive.” David Cowans, chief executive of Places for People

“David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s failure to build the homes our country needs is central to the cost-of-living crisis and has locked out thousands of families and young people from the housing market.

“This government has presided over the lowest levels of house building in peacetime since the 1920s and has failed to make any meaningful progress on garden cities - instead of getting on and building them, ministers have spent nearly five years making empty announcements. The Tories and the Lib Dems have no plan to tackle the housing crisis.” Emma Reynolds MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister

"In as much as this is the extension of an existing town rather than a new one it is clearly in line with our Wolfson essay. The issue of course is that Bicester is relatively small, and we suggested four such garden cities in Oxfordshire alone, as well as the expansion of Oxford itself. It also appears that the infrastructure is being directly funded from the public purse, rather than through land value capture. I'm not sure how much of the land is in public ownership but it will be interesting to see how the equation works." Wolfson Prize winner David Rudlin, URBED

On Twitter:

@VinWarr1973 said: Only people happy about #BicesterGardenVillage are the government and the property developers. Bicester residents who don’t want it are ignored.

@Aliye Cornish said: #BicesterGardenCity will only work if the traffic is managed better. We’ve only just come through 6 months of improvements…

@TechnologyRich: As a Bicester resident, very relaxed about #BicesterGardenCity but must make sure the road network is updated to sort out @bicestervillage


Image courtesy of © Jongleur100