Construction begins on the UK’s first eco town


Construction of the UK’s first eco town (watch here), North West Bicester (NW Bicester), in Oxfordshire has begun.

Lead developer A2Dominion has started preparing the site for building works to commence for the initial phase, which will form part of the long-term vision to provide up to 6,000 sustainable new homes for Bicester.

The first phase of this pioneering development, known as the Exemplar, will see the construction of 393 highly energy efficient, zero carbon homes, creating the UK’s first true zero carbon community. This ground-breaking development will comprise of 40% green space, integrating cutting edge technology, economic opportunities and community engagement, with environmental integrity at its core.

A2Dominion’s Group Chief Commercial Officer and Deputy Group Chief Executive, John Knevett, said:

“A2Dominion is proud to be at the forefront of the country’s first eco town. NW Bicester will be an example to future developments in establishing sustainable new communities in the UK.

“We will create an outstanding living environment, which will provide exceptional quality of life for residents, without compromising the needs of our future generations.”

The Exemplar will include a primary school, community centre, eco pub and an eco-business and retail centre, creating a village feel and providing important social hubs.

Watch the video here.

The core elements that make the Exemplar phase unique are:

  • It is the only eco development in the UK that continues to adhere to the strict Planning Policy Statements (PPS1) originally set out by the Government for the delivery of eco towns.
  • As well as being true zero carbon, all homes will be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 incorporating triple glazing, rainwater harvesting and water recycling. They have been designed to cope with climate change peaks of up to 10 degrees Celsius ensuring they remain warmer in winter but do not overheat during the summer.
  • There will be dramatic reductions in waste, including zero waste to landfill during construction; only the London 2012 Olympics construction has achieved this.
  • The development will retain 40% green space including community allotments to encourage outdoor lifestyles and nurture wildlife and biodiversity. Natural landscaping will be used to create safe play areas.
  • Electricity will be generated from PV solar panels on every home (averaging 34m2 per property), making this the UK’s largest residential solar array capable of generating enough power to supply 550 homes.
  • Heat and hot water will come from a combined heat and power plant (CHP). One of the first elements of the scheme to be completed later this year. Excess electricity generated by the CHP will be exported back to the national grid.
  • With specially designed cycle and pedestrian routes, a bus service within 400m of every home with live timetable updates in each house, charging points for electric vehicles and an electric car club, residents will be encouraged to adopt more sustainable modes of travel.

Steve Hornblow, NW Bicester Project Director at A2Dominion, explained: “NW Bicester is about enabling people to live modern-day lifestyles but with traditional values. We want the Exemplar to become a vibrant and resilient community where people know their neighbours. We’ve designed community space to incorporate communal barbecue areas, herb boxes and seating with features to encourage children to play safely in the street.

“We want to approach sustainable living realistically, providing people with the tools to benefit from a real community environment, reduced home running costs and access to the latest green technologies.”

A2Dominion is committed to ensuring that NW Bicester is fully integrated with the wider town and has been working closely with local Bicester businesses and the existing community to achieve this. A community led management organisation will give residents a say in the decisions that affect their local area and community projects have already been implemented to encourage participation and build a strong sense of identity.

A2Dominion will continue to have a long-term interest in the site as the housing provider of the 119 affordable homes on the Exemplar. These will provide high quality and much needed affordable homes for local residents.

The Exemplar phase has also been internationally recognised having been awarded BioRegional’s One Planet Living status; one of only seven developments in the world to achieve this coveted mark of progress in sustainability.

Commenting on this unique development Sue Riddlestone, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of BioRegional, added:

“We’re excited that the work of building this new One Planet Community is getting underway, and we can’t wait to see the first residents move in and bring it to life.”

First residents are expected to move into their new homes in Spring 2015.