Below you can find our official response to the proposals and download a pdf copy of the document:
Submissions on proposed housing in NW Bicester
Overall, the provision for active travel is underwhelming and limited thought appears to have been given to walking and cycling.
Though the plans are currently underdeveloped, Bicester Bike Users’ Group (‘Bicester BUG’) has concerns about the traffic flows and active travel provision through and to the development.
Further engagement by Bicester BUG with the developers and planning authority would be appreciated to enable the plans to develop.
Aspirations for Active Travel
The proposal does not seem to make sufficient effort to attain the aims of the EcoBicester Planning Policy Standards, namely:
“enable at least 50 per cent of trips originating in North West Bicester or on any other large mixed-use development, to be made by non-car means, with the potential for this to increase over time to at least 60 per cent“EcoBicester Planning Policy Standards
Nor would the current designs be sufficient to permit the attainment of the policy goal of a 200% increase (tripling) of cycling and a 50% increase in walking as committed to in the Oxfordshire County Council (‘OCC’) Local Walking and Cycling Plan (‘LCWIP’) for Bicester 2020.
In order to achieve these aspirations, a more ambitious plan for walking and cycling might have been expected, yet to date only a typical generic development street outline has been offered. The design would benefit from the input of a designer with qualifications and skills in active travel.
Pedestrian and Cycle Routes and Facilities
There appear to be few dedicated pedestrian and cycle routes. For an eco-development, the design focus seems to have been mainly, if not wholly, on the motor car. A more ambitious development might have focussed on ensuring swift cycle access to and through the development with the minimum of interruptions. Instead, active travel seems to have been something of an afterthought.
Cherwell Design Standards has high aspiration for cycle storage provision, which is currently not mentioned. Bike storage has been poorly implemented in the existing exemplar (e.g. bike shed layouts unfit for bike storage) therefore the development should aim to address this serious enabling issue for cycling.
New cycling and walking infrastructure should comply with the Department for Transport Local Transport Note (‘LTN’) 1/20 Standards, including measures such as segregated off-road cycle paths and priority for cycle tracks over minor roads.
The plans should also be compliant with the Bicester Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (‘LCWIP’).
Experience with Elmsbrook development has shown that assuming cyclists will use the carriageway is incorrect. The shared pavement facilities are the preferred option for the majority of cyclists. Dedicated, off-carriageway provision ought therefore to be included in the plans, both as a practical matter and to comply with the current standards.
Links to the Local Cycling and Walking Network
It is clearly implied from the documents that the existing network of cycling and walking provision adjoining and linking to the site is deemed to be of sufficient quality. This is not the case. For example, there is no ‘off-carriageway continuous cycle route’ from the Site to Bicester North train station nor to Bicester Village train station. In addition, the existing shared path infrastructure (where existing) is not of high quality or in line with current LTN 1/20 standards. Consideration must be given as part of this planning application to remedying these deficiencies in the existing network. Residents from the east of the development could be expected to use the B4100 to directly access Bicester town by pedal cycle, but the road is shared with fast moving and heavy traffic and as such is completely unsuitable for the vast majority of cyclists. This should also be addressed.
Although prominence is given to maintaining a view of St Lawrence’s Church, no provision for active travel access is made to actually access the church. This is a serious oversight and ought to be remedied.
In order to connect to neighbouring communities, active travel links to the site via Aunt Ems Lane (the lane between the B4100 and the Fringford Road) should be included in the plans. One low cost possibility would be to provide a dedicated active travel corridor between NW Bicester and Caversfield by closing Aunt Elms Lane to motor vehicle traffic.
The proposed access to the development along Charlotte Avenue and Braeburn Avenue will have a negative impact on the walking and cycling provision along those routes. This will be especially problematic on the Charlotte avenue route where this will pass GagleBrook Primary School. Consideration should be given to creating an access point at Home Farm.
General comments on all options: The bus stop on the east side of the B4100 north of the Toucan crossing needs to be linked to these active travel paths, it is currently on a grass verge inaccessible to most users.
EcoBicester Planning Standards https://portal.oxfordshire.gov.uk/content/publicnet/other_sites/EcoBicester/standards.html
Cherwell Design Guide SPD (2017)
Oxfordshire County Council (2020), Local Walking and Cycling Plan for Bicester
Department for Transport (2020), Local Transport Note 1/20