Cllr Tim Hallchurch, County Councillor for Otmoor/Kirtlington Division


Eco Towns - Weston Otmoor (I prefer to call it Weston Housing Estate)



Otmoor main site

The decision was announced on 16th July - Weston Otmoor will NOT go ahead

but may come back in the future

The Government are putting £60 Million behind four developments Hampshire, Cornwall, Norfolk and NW Bicester  subject to negotiation.

Cherwell District Council Debate 21 July - Bodicote House, Banbury.

Motion to the Council


Weston Front


Secretary of State's Announcement November 2008



EcoTownDocrine.pdf    Parkridge Plans download  Weston On The Green Village Website.

Parliamentary Debate 3 Jun 08

See Westminster Debate 22 April 98

NHPAU Advice to Government

SEERA Press Release 26 Jun 08

BBC News - E-W Rail Link

(Remember that the E-W rail link is a separate matter and does not depend on the Weston/Otmoor going ahead and that the Oxford - Marylebone link via Water Eaton, Islip and Bicester is likely to go ahead in the next two years anyway)

OCC-CDC Joint Report

CPRE Oxfordshire Information

Country Life article about Caroline Flint Oct 08

 NEW Mistral Consultation Report Commissioned by the developer (Parkridge)

Council brands Weston Otmoor eco-town 'appalling' - 23/09/2008 ...

 A local authority has branded an eco-town in its region a “sham” and “appalling” and refused to do any more work on it. -

Cherwell District Council - Eighty per cent opposed to Weston ...

11 Feb 2009 ... Some of the findings from the consultation have now been released in a newsletter and on the Weston Otmoor eco town website. ...



If you are totally stressed out having read all this try  Oxford Aromatherapy



Tony Baldry MP and local Councillor Tim Hallchurch will be supporting the Weston Front action group in opposing the development.

Cherwell District Council ruling Conservative Group has agreed unanimously to oppose the development and this has become CDC Policy as a priority. The leader of Cherwell District Council, Cllr Barry Wood also spoke against the proposal at the meeting in Weston on the Green in April.

Oxfordshire County Council debated a motion by Tim Hallchurch on 17th June that was overwhelmingly supported by a group except the Labour Group and advised the Cabinet to look at all aspects of the proposal and condemned the lack of consultation by Government before short listing Weston Otmoor. The Cabinet on 24th June voted unanimously to oppose the the proposal.

Cherwell DC also debated the motion on 21st July and again the Motion condemning the proposals was passed with only the two Labour members abstaining.

Ms Caroline Flint visited Weston Otmoor 25th July and stated that she would not make a decision until early 2009. The developers have said that it will take 18 months to draw up the plans if a go-ahead is given by the minister. This will mean that the earliest that CDC will receive the application for planning permission is about June 2010, after the next General Election. In the event of CDC Planning Committee turning it down then a Conservative Government would not agree to the plan going forward.  In my view it is very unlikely that we will ever get a new housing estate at Weston Otmoor. There is also a Judicial Review to take place on the Governments legal right to impose Eco Towns that could also prevent it going ahead.



Despite advice from her civil servants, Ms Caroline Flint, the Housing  and Planning Minster wrote to MPs as follows:




Text Box:





Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP

Minister for Housing and Planning


Department for Communities and Local Government

Eland House

Bressenden Place

London SW1E 5DU


Tel: 020 7944 8931

Fax: 020 7944 8953



3 April 2008





 Dear Colleague



Eco-towns: Living a Greener Future


We are today publishing the shortlist of eco-town locations going forward for further assessment and consultation and I wanted to write to give you some further background about the intended process and to enclose a copy of the consultation document – Eco-towns – Living a Greener Future


The consultation document sets out how we are taking forward the eco-towns programme and includes the 15 shortlisted locations.  These are the schemes that we consider have the most potential.  We are looking for clear evidence that each location:

·         achieves the highest possible environmental standards, not only mitigating the impact of development, but positively enhancing the site, as well as reducing the need for residents to rely on cars

·         is clearly deliverable, with funding identified and proper management arrangements set out

·         is affordable, with a clearly agreed basis for contributions from private investors and public sector agencies


The consultation document sets out the questions that we are seeking views on along with details on how to respond.


I thought it would also be useful to set out the four key stages of the eco-towns process:

·         Stage One: Three month consultation on preliminary views on eco-town benefits and the shortlisted locations;

·         Stage Two: Further consultation this summer on a Sustainability Appraisal, which provides a more detailed assessment of these locations, and a draft Planning Policy Statement.

·         Stage Three: A decision on the final list of locations with the potential to be an eco-town and the publication of a final Planning Policy Statement, later this year.

·         Stage Four: Like any other proposed development, individual schemes on the final shortlist will then need to submit planning applications which will be decided on the merits of the proposal.


Eco-towns are an opportunity to not only build much needed new homes but completely redesign our way of life to tackle and adapt to climate change.  To assist you with any information requests please contact Henry Cleary on 020 7944 8850.






She also told MPs in a conference call on 3rd April that none of the selected locations were in the Green Belt. She had been obviously not read her brief as about one third of the proposed area is greenbelt land.


Tony Baldry has replied as follows:


Rt. Hon. Caroline Flint, MP

Minister for Housing and Planning

Department for Communities and Local Government

Eland House

Bressenden Place

London SW1E 5DU

 7 April 2008



Weston/Otmoor Ecotown Proposal


Thank you for the conference call briefing last Thursday.   Clearly with so many colleagues taking part, there was limited opportunity to ask a number of questions.  

I do have a number of questions relation to the Weston/Otmoor proposal, which I thought it might helpful to you and ask, although if it is more convenient, I will table a whole host of written PQs once the House returns.  

As I understand it, the Government had initially had over 40 Ecotown proposals, which you then whittled down to the existing 15.  

In respect of the Weston/Otmoor new town proposal, I would be grateful to know what were, and are, the criteria and factors relating to that proposal that caused you to include in the remaining 15, and not exclude as with a whole number of the other proposals.  

You said that it would be Ministers who would decide the “at least ten” proposals for Ecotowns that would go forward to planning application stage.   

What are the criteria or tests by which Ministers  are going to decide which proposals to take forward?  

During the conference call, I got the impression that this next phase was very much a phase of Ministers seeking to see the extent to which the developers still involved in this process are willing to put forward further benefits, i.e. more social housing, greater contributions to infrastructure costs, etc.  In other words, this is a  sort of large-scale Section 106 negotiation before the planning application stage.  Am I correct in that surmise?  

Where do proposals such as the Weston/Otmoor new town proposal fit it with any concept of Regional Spatial Strategy?  

Will they have any relevance to Regional Spatial Strategy?

Will Regional Spatial Strategy be re-written after Ministers have decided which Ecotown proposals to take forward?

 During the conference call you indicated that you would anticipate planning authorities determining any planning applications that come forward in due course in accord with the local development plan and the local development framework.  Cherwell District Council is conscientiously working on its local development plan and framework, but is some distance away from completing and with  the best will in the world, is unlikely to be able to complete it within the next few months. In these circumstances, are you anticipating including a Local Development Framework on Local Authorities?  Or presenting them with a particular timetable in which they have to complete their local development framework and plan? 

A development as large as Weston/Otmoor will have a considerable impact on the viability and vitality of neighbouring towns such as Bicester.  To what extent are you going to give time for studies to be done of the likely impact of new town development on existing towns and settlements?  

A new town development such as Weston/Otmoor is likely to contribute heavily to traffic congestion in and around Oxford – already a very heavily congested area.  To what extent is there going to be time for studies to be done of the impact of such proposals?   

Simply  placing a railway station within the development will not mean that residents of any such new town will necessarily use the train.  

In relation to railway and new station proposals, I assume that the Government is going to get confirmation from Network Rail and the operators, that such proposals are realistic and viable, and not simply aspirations by developers.  

The initial Weston/Otmoor new town proposal includes within the land area Weston-on-the-Green air field, which is at present owned by the Ministry of Defence.  Has the MOD agreed to sell that land to the developers?  

There is at present no planning guidance in relation to how Local Authorities should consider Ecotown proposals. I understand that you are working up and preparing such guidance, presumably so that such guidance can be a “material consideration” if any Ecotown proposals in due course go to appeal before an Inspector.  When do you expect to have such planning guidance in place?  

There was some suggestion at one time that the Government would not take forward Ecotown proposals where they didn’t command the support of the local planning authority.  Clearly from what you said in the conference call on Thursday, this is no longer the case, i.e. as I understand it, Ministers will decide the short list of “at least ten” to go forward to the stage of a planning application.   Such planning application will be dealt with through the planning system.  If the local planning authority turn down the planning application, the developer will be allowed to appeal to an Independent Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, and even if the Independent Inspector upholds the local planning authority’s decision to refuse planning permission, it will at that stage be open to Ministers to overturn the Inspector’s decision and grant planning permission to a new town development – locally we have some experience approach by Minister, on the way in which the Government dealt with the Bicester Accommodation Centre application where the former Deputy Prime Minister  overturned an Independent Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for the accommodation centre  which was eventually aborted with a loss to the tax payer of some £23 million and, not surprisingly, an extremely critical Report by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee – but my basic point is that at every stage of the Ecotown new town proposals, it will be Ministers who either will take, or will be able to take decisions as to whether or not they go ahead.

I should be grateful for your comments on the above points.  

Tony Baldry


Letter to Caroline Flint 20 May:



Rt. Hon. Caroline Flint, MP

Minister for Housing and Planning

Department for Communities and Local Government

Eland House

Bressenden Place

London SW1E 5DU




20 May 2008



I refer to the exchange that I had last week with the Leader of the House – a copy of which I enclose – and also the Answers to my Written Parliamentary Questions which were answered the following day.


One of my Parliamentary Questions was to ask whether you would place in the Library a copy of the transcript of the telephone conference of 3rd April 2008 between yourself and those members whose constituencies contained short-listed Ecotowns.


You have responded that there is no transcript of the telephone conference.


For anyone who has been a Minister, this Answer simply beggars belief.


It beggars belief that your Private Secretary and other officials would not have taken a very comprehensive record of the conference call that you had with myself and other Parliamentary colleagues.


In the circumstances, I find it disingenuous of you and disappointing that you pretend that no such record exists.  It does nothing to inspire any confidence whatsoever in the integrity of the Ecotown planning process.

 I strongly suspect that the reason why you are anxious that there should be no record of your conference call with myself and other Members of Parliament is that during that conference call you very clearly said “in terms” that none of these Ecotown proposals would be built on Green Belt land.

 One of my further written Questions to you was to ask you “how many of these short-listed proposed Ecotowns contained Green Belt land and what percentage of Green Belt land each contains?”  You could not bring yourself to give a straightforward answer to that question.  You have given a complete non reply.

 You say “in terms of development on the Green belt, I refer the Hon. Member to the Answer given to the Hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar on 7th May Official Report Column 1037 W.  All the short-listed locations for Ecotowns are subject to consultation and further assessment.”


Doubtless the reason why you did not want to give a straightforward answer to a straightforward question is that by now officials will have explained to you that some 25% of the proposed Weston/Otmoor Ecotown is proposed to be built on Green Belt land.


In a further Written Answer to me you say that the planning guidance for Ecotowns will be place specific.

Perhaps you could explain to me how place specific planning guidance is going to decree that Ecotowns can be substantially built on existing Green Belt.


I am copying this letter and the relevant Parliamentary replies to all those Parliamentary colleagues who took part in the conference call.



Tony Baldry




The Press Release from Cherwell DC is as follows:

04 April 2008

For Immediate Release

Eco Towns - statement by the Leader of the Council and the Portfolio Holder for Planning

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) yesterday published a consultation document outlining a shortlist of 15 candidate sites for the construction of Eco-Towns. It follows the announcement earlier this year that  the Government had received 57 bids from private development interests following the publication of its Eco-Town Prospectus. The consultation period on this document and the proposed sites continues until 30 June, after which the Government intends that up to 10 Eco-Towns from this shortlist will be identified, towards the end of 2008, with the first construction taking place as early as 2010. 

Leader of Cherwell District Council, Cllr Barry Wood, said: "This announcement is a big deal for Cherwell District.  We have already told the Government that we don't see how the roads and infrastructure will cope.  We will play a leading role in the next round of consultation."


The Weston Otmoor Eco-Town proposal is to the west of junction 9 of the M40 motorway. The site area is approximately 800 hectares, extending from RAF Weston on the Green in the north to the Oxford-Bicester railway line in the south.  Approximately one-third of the site, (south of the A34) lies within the Oxford Green Belt.


The Council considered the emerging schemes within Cherwell (Shipton on Cherwell and Weston Otmoor) at its Executive meeting on 18 February.  Whilst recognising the wider issues surrounding the delivery of housing at a national level, the Council considered that Cherwell’s housing target as set out in the draft South East Plan represented a significant level of growth through the regeneration and development of existing towns. The potential of additional growth arising from the progression of an Eco-Town proposal within Cherwell would be very significant.  It was recognised that the two candidate locations in the District did offer some advantages, such as the reuse of previously developed land and the potential to improve public transport links. But, there are many significant disadvantages associated with the proposals, including adverse effects on the character of the Green Belt, impact upon the strategic road network, effects on rural roads, impact on sites of nature conservation value, loss of agricultural land and impacts upon the regeneration of existing towns.


The location of the shortlisted Weston Otmoor proposal causes serious concern, not only in relation to the issues set out above, but also in relation to potential impacts on Bicester.  The Weston scheme proposes a settlement in close proximity to the town and creates a potential threat to the planned growth and regeneration of that settlement where there are already issues of homes/jobs balance with a high level of out-commuting. Road infrastructure in the area north of Oxford, particularly in the A34 and M40 corridors is already under serious stress and the schemes are likely to increase this.


Reliance on free standing new settlements to accommodate growth is not an appropriate solution in Cherwell. It will threaten our existing towns and have significant impacts upon the rural area through the loss of greenfield land and an increased demand for travel, even if a significant proportion of trips are made by more sustainable modes. Cherwell is already home to the two largest towns in Oxfordshire; the addition of a further large settlement of at least 20,000 people would create a ‘top heavy’ settlement hierarchy concentrated in the north of the County.


The Government and other public agencies will now assess shortlisted sites by examining the component parts of each submission in further detail and a Sustainability Appraisal will also be carried out on each proposal. The Government also intends to publish a new draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS) for Eco-Towns in July to provide further policy background.


All of the 15 potential sites are being promoted by private development interests and will be required to apply for planning permission in the usual way. The Government has emphasised that community involvement and partnership working with local authorities will also form part of this process.


The Government expects that proposals would be progressed through the normal development plan process and that many authorities have the policy framework in place to enable this. However, the Government does accept that there may need to be partial reviews of Regional Spatial Strategies (the Regional Plans) to achieve this. 

It is not considered that new legislation will be required to bring forward Eco-Town proposals; however, the New Towns Act 1981 could be used to overcome particular land assembly or infrastructure issues. 

Cllr Michael Gibbard, Cherwell's Portfolio Holder for Planning and Housing added: "The Minister for Planning and Housing, Caroline Flint, has given assurance that the eco town will be subject to a planning application and full local consultation. However it is difficult to see how this proposal, one third of which is in the Green Belt, can ever meet the requirements of the Cherwell Local Plan and the Oxfordshire Structure Plan, being the key policies in our planning process. I am concerned that the Government's promised Planning Policy Statement on Eco Towns, to be published in July, will render our current policies ineffective."

The Oxfordshire CC Press Release was as follows:


“We receive the announcement about the Weston-on-the-Green proposed eco-town with considerable scepticism.  We have two substantial fears:

Firstly, if this proposed eco-town was built, it would be as large as its rather older neighbour, Bicester, when completed.  However, the Weston eco-town would be bright, shiny and new while Bicester would still be trying to come to terms with its huge housing growth, with a low-wage and low-skill economy that is severely under-developed and a town centre that is wholly inadequate for the size to which Bicester has been propelled.   

Secondly, the developers promise huge infrastructure investment (parkway station, substantial rail investment, huge park & ride facility, a tram system around housing and to Oxford City, considerable affordable housing).  Our initial calculations lead us to believe they simply do not stack up financially and this is something we need to explore very carefully.

In addition, we need to test the assumptions contained in the Weston-on-the -Green bid about environmentally-friendly policies and the extent to which these are realistic.”


The Chairman of Islip Parish Council has written to CDC as follows:


Weston-Otmoor Ecotown Proposal (WG8) 

Islip Parish Council is appalled at the prospect of a major new town being built in this part of Oxfordshire. 

We believe this proposal has been put forward by developers and land owners as a means of circumventing the usual local planning requirements and we note and approve the opposition to it by both Cherwell District Council and Oxford County Council. 

Our specific points of objection may be summarised as follows: 

1. The development would create a new town adjacent to an enlarged Bicester and pave the way to a rural conurbation stretching from Bicester through Kidlington to Yarnton and Oxford. 

2. Little regard appears to be paid to the Wendlebury Meads SSI which it would cover or to the Mansmoor Close SSI which it abuts. The developers clearly disregard the Oxford Green Belt into which it would intrude and care little for the loss of good agricultural land at a time of growing demand for food worldwide and the use of grain and oilseed crops for biofuel. 

3. Essential services such as water supply, sewage disposal, energy supply, schools and health provision are already stretched in this area. A new town, despite its “eco” label, would put further, unacceptable strain on these essential requirements. 

4. Ecotowns are intended to be largely self sufficient in infrastructure, particularly with regard to transport. The M40 / A34 junction is already a traffic bottleneck which would be even further congested by additional traffic from a town of the size proposed. Even if only half the intended families used a car there would be an additional 15,000 vehicle journeys each day. Minor roads would also suffer severe overloading. The B4027 and the Otmoor Road from Bicester to Islip are congested even now at peak times. Islip, a village deep in the Green Belt, would suffer intolerably by motorists accessing the A40, North Oxford, the Hospitals at Headington and the overloaded A34. 

We seek the support of all elected representatives and professional advisors in resisting the folly of planting a new town which would degrade still further the tranquillity in this part of rural Oxfordshire. Once approved and built the damage to our rural landscape and fragile village culture would be irreparable.

 Yours sincerely

John Sargent

Chairman, Islip Parish Council


John Sargent, I believe sums up the feelings of most of us who live in the area.

 Chairman of Charlton on Otmoor PC has written:

Head Planning Policy

Cherwell District Council

Bodicote House



Oxon OX15 4AA

4 April 2008


ldf consultation supplemental sites 

Your document of 22 February 2008 refers. The proposed development site WG8 is part of our Parish (7 of the fields in the south east corner bordering on the railway). Our Council would like to register its strong opposition to any such development.  

The site appears  in places to intrude on the Oxford Green Belt, and, apart from the MOD’s air strip at Weston-on-the-Green, is wholly situated on greenfield agricultural land. To the south west it encroaches on a site of national importance for species rich-grassland, which, inter alia, would make any claims to ecological credentials a complete nonsense. Farmers in our Parish have advised us of their concerns over such a development affecting their drainage patterns. The community at large is deeply worried about the traffic such a development would inevitably engender on already crowded country roads, and makes the general observation that a proposal of this size and in such a location converts what is a rural environment into essentially an urban one. All this seems totally unnecessary given the plans in place for the ordered expansion of Bicester, which include additional provision for additional “affordable” accommodation within a properly prepared infrastructure.

There appears to us no merit whatsoever in this grandiose scheme whatever clever “benefits” are dreamt up to make it more palatable. It all seems to be about is a few farmers and a large development company wanting to destroy the much loved character of our local countryside to make large sums of money. We believe that it should have no place in your future plans for the District.  

B. A. Tremayne




 1          Purpose of Note 

1.1       To provide a summary of the DCLG document; Eco-Towns – Living a Greener Future, published on 3 April that shortlists 15 candidate Eco-Town proposals. 

2          Timetable

 2.1       The consultation period closes on 30 June.  Following this, DCLG will consider the responses received and select a final list of up to 10 Eco-Town proposals later in 2008.

 3          Key Criteria

 3.1       Eco-Towns are required to comply with the following criteria:

 3.2       The selected communities should also demonstrate the application of environmental technologies, achieve high standards of design, develop travel plans, demonstrate community empowerment, crate a healthy and sustainable environment, develop an economic strategy and create additional green infrastructure.

4          Assessment Process

4.1       All Eco-Town schemes will be the subject of a planning application and DCLG expects that most will be determined by the local planning authority.  Any application must be determined in the context of the Planning policy framework.

4.2       The 15 shortlisted submissions will now be subject to a more detailed Sustainability Appraisal (SA); this will be published for consultation purposes in July.

4.3       A draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on Eco-Towns will also be published in July.  This will set out the key assessment criteria and a refined list of potential locations; this could also include other alternative sites (currently not shortlisted) arising from the consideration of alternatives in the SA.  Government statements on planning policy will be material considerations in the assessment of any proposal and this will include the new PPS.

4.4       Statutory development plans should provide the starting point for the assessment of any planning application; the Government considers that in some places, Eco-Town proposals are already in line with this framework.  In those authorities where replacement development plans are some way off, Government considers that the evidence gathered in the preparation of the PPS will support the development of appropriate policies.

4.5       At a regional level, Government considers that relevant Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) already consider growth options that are compatible with Eco-Towns.  In some instances, there will be partial reviews of other RSSs to re-examine housing numbers.

4.6       DCLG’s assessment of the shortlist will now continue by agreeing, clarifying and costing the infrastructure required, evaluating the proposed environmental technologies, assessing the delivery plan and receiving input from other public agencies, such as Department for Transport, DEFRA, Environment Agency, Natural England and the Highways Agency in relation to potential impacts and the implications for future public investment.

4.7       The three key tests for the proposals are:

 4.8       Successful proposals are expected to generate substantial benefits in relation to: 

 4.9       Scheme promoters are required to demonstrate a robust costs base and undertake further infrastructure assessment, the preparation of a transport assessment, housing market analysis and the appraisal of environmental technologies.

 4.10     To assist in the review and assessment process, the Government is creating the Eco-Towns Challenge Panel; this body will liaise with bidders to refine their schemes and also provide support to local authorities in their assessment of the proposals.  DCLG is emphasising a ‘partnership’ approach in its discussions with affected authorities.

 5          Delivery

 5.1       As with New Towns previously, the Government considers that there is scope for Eco-Towns to contribute more to the provision of new infrastructure as land values are low within the shortlisted sites; it is assumed that infrastructure improvements will be secured through the s.106 process.  As part of the assessment of the shortlisted sites, Government intends to bring together major infrastructure providers from the public and private sectors, together with local authorities to agree a robust list of infrastructure requirements that are properly costed.

 5.2       Government has emphasised that it wishes to work with local authorities on the best approach to delivery through the creation of a partnership agreement.  Government does not expect to introduce further statutory measures to bring forward Eco-Towns.  Existing legislation contained within the New Towns Act 1981 could be used to deliver proposals in certain circumstances where land assembly or infrastructure provision is an issue, but this is not Government’s preferred approach.

 5.3       It is expected that the newly created Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), a merger of English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation will play a significant leadership role.


4 April 2008




Site Name


Site Area (hectares)


Current Use

Number of Dwellings

Affordable Housing

Housing Affordability Pressure






Greenfield/brownfield/surplus public sector




Transport, energy solutions, community involvement.


Water and sewage capacity, contamination, biodiversity, archaeology, congestion on A6.




Disused airfield



Very High

Away from areas of flood risk.

Drainage, transport links, ecology. 




Disused airfield (part)



Very High


Flooding, water treatment, transport, built heritage. 

Middle Qunton



Former MoD depot



Very High

Zero carbon homes.

AONB, flood risk, built heritage, landscape. 




Former MoD depot



Very High


Transport, water and sewage treatment, flood risk, ecology. 

Weston Otmoor



MoD airstrip, greenfield




Rail and public transport investment, traffic management measures.

Ecology, Green Belt, flood risk, water and sewerage capacity, transport, impact upon Bicester.





Brownfield, former airfield



Very High

Energy solutions, transport improvements, regeneration.

Flood risk, water resources, contamination, ecology, transport, landscape, built heritage. 

St Austell



Former mineral workings, former industrial land





Drainage, groundwater, ecology, transport, landscape. 









Water resources, sewage, contamination, transport, M18 improvement, built heritage, ecology. 




Former airfield



Very High

Zero carbon, green infrastructure

Water treatment, rail services, transport, ecology. 

Hanley Grange








Water supply, drainage, ecology, transport, impact on A11, A505 and A1303, built heritage. 





Greenfield, former mineral wokings




Regeneration of former industrial sites

Flooding, water resources, ecology, transport, rail service improvement, built heritage.


North East Elsenham




5,000 min



Low carbon initiatives

Water resources, ecology, built heritage, transport.









Regeneration, Environmental technology

Road and rail infrastructure, environment.










Road and rail infrastructure, environment.



Eco-town experts named

The former chief executive of the British Urban Regeneration Association, John Walker, is to chair a panel of experts chosen to advise the Government on its eco-towns programme. Since leaving Bura, Walker has chaired the Central Milton Keynes Project Board, which is overseeing housing growth plans in Milton Keynes. 

The other panellists are:

*   Dr Liz Goodwin, chief executive, Waste and Resource Action Programme

*   Stephen Hale, director, Green Alliance

*   Sir Peter Hall, president, Town and Country Planning Association

*   Wayne Hemingway, founder, Red or Dead

*   Stephen Joseph, executive director, Campaign for Better Transport

*   Nick Mabey, chief executive, E3G

*   Kris Murrin, TV presenter

*   Sunand Prasad, president-elect, Royal Institute of British Architects

*   Liz Reason, director, Reasons to Be Cheerful consultancy

*   Sue Riddlestone, director, BioRegional Development Group

*   Joanna Yarrow - TV presenter, and founder of sustainability  company Beyond Green


The Bicester Advertiser has done a rather nice collage of photos in their "video" view of the Weston Otmoor project. It can be seen by clicking on the link below.

Westminster Hall debate:  Housing Developments (Consultation) 22 April 2008

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): In the dying days of any Government, Ministers think that they need to introduce initiatives to keep the media at bay. Before the right hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) trucked off to the Treasury to explain how the Government are raiding money from one group of poor people to fund another, she came up with what she thought was a whizz-bang idea for eco-towns. She thought that eco-towns had everything—they were green and gave the impression that the Government were building more affordable housing on brownfield sites.

The difficulty is that eco-town programmes have absolutely no public participation. I have with me the 2008-11 regional housing strategy for the south-east in which there is absolutely no mention of any eco-town. That strategy was developed by the Government office for the south-east, the Housing Corporation, South East England Development Agency, English Partnerships and every local authority in the south-east. How in God’s name is anyone meant to plan anything and involve local people in a bottom-up planning system, if suddenly the Government come along and say, “Hey guys, we’re going to impose on you a number of so-called eco-towns”?

Eco-towns are just that—towns. The one proposed in my constituency, Weston Otmoor, will be larger than Bicester, which is already one of the fastest growing towns in the UK. If it is built, the Weston Otmoor eco-town will be home to 25,000 people, growing eventually to 35,000, with 10 schools—two secondary and eight primary—and 15,500 properties. Apart from the fact that such a development might well undermine the vitality and viability of a town such as Bicester, it seems bizarre that it is to be imposed by Ministers with no local consultation or involvement. Effectively, developers bought options on land, produced pretty maps and said to the Department for Communities and Local Government, “Give us a run on this.”

22 Apr 2008 : Column 386WH

In fact, the only brownfield land on that site consists of a former RAF airstrip still used for adventure training and parachute jumps by the RAF. The developers have not even secured it, and some 25 per cent. of the site is green-belt land. It straddles a main road, over which developers have proposed to build something like the Ponte Vecchio—they say—with shops that will go over the A34. It is absolutely crazy that the Government are threatening to develop a whole new town largely on green-belt land, and on very little brownfield land, undermining the viability of one of the fastest growing towns in the UK—Bicester. Unsurprisingly, organisations such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the local naturalist trust are aghast. The CPRE estimates that the development, if it goes ahead, will lead to at least 7,500 extra car movements a day on the A34 and M40.

I can never persuade Ministers to visit my constituency, which I really do not understand—it must have something to do with my aftershave. However, I would welcome a visit from the Minister to the site of the proposed eco-town. He would observe the congested A34 where it meets the slow-moving M40, and its nearest junctions—9 and 10—which are already a nightmare, as a result of traffic from the south coast and Southampton travelling towards Oxford. It takes a dogleg down the M40 and up towards Northampton. Those two junctions are congested, and begging meetings with transport Ministers have been held to discuss proposals to enhance them. The idea of putting a whole new town in the midst of that traffic congestion defies belief.

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust is tearing its hair out in despair, because it is concerned that

“the scheme would result in the loss of one of its most important nationally-designated wildlife sites, threatening an ancient woodland site, a nature reserve and numerous protected and priority species.

For the proposed site includes Woodsides Meadow Nature Reserve, and other meadows owned and managed by BBOWT. The grassland habitats found at this site are extremely rare, supporting important species including orchids, snipe and curlew.”

The BBOWT said:

“We just don’t understand how development that would result in damage to a nationally important, protected habitat can be called an ‘eco-town’.

It makes a mockery of the term ‘sustainable’ development.”

It takes some skill to propose a massive new site on primarily greenfield land and sites of special scientific interest with the only brownfield land being a grass-covered runway, used by the RAF for parachute drops, that the developers have not even secured.

The involvement of local people in the proposal is absolutely zero, but that is the world in which we live. I hope that, in the dying days of this Government, Ministers will stop thinking up ideas and concentrate on sorting out the mess of last year’s Budget and the 10p rate, and back away from ideas about imposing 42 day’s detention on us. Successive Governments have developed a planning system that is not perfect, but which is at least plan-led and under which local people have the opportunity to make contributions at different stages, leading to local development plans and regional spatial strategies. In these eco-town proposals, Ministers are threatening to overthrow, undermine and destroy all of that. Why on earth should any local authority or councillor make any
22 Apr 2008 : Column 387WH
contribution to the development of things such as the regional spatial strategy when Ministers who just want a headline dream up eco-towns?


Minister:  Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State  Iain Wright  

 . . . I would like to refer to what I thought was the most important intervention today, by the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes. I am paraphrasing somewhat, but he said that sustainability is dependent on “buy-in” from the local people. I could not agree more; I absolutely agree with that. It is incredibly important that to have housing development with a full buy-in from local people. If we do not have that, any development is unsustainable. The views of the local community are incredibly important and they need to be a key part of the whole planning process.

Tony Baldry: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; he does so with his usual courtesy. In the light of the comments that he has just made, can he give me an undertaking that, if Oxford county council, Cherwell district council and the local community all come down against the proposed “eco-town” of Weston Otmoor, it will not go ahead?

Mr. Wright: In his contribution to the debate, the hon. Gentleman made an important point about eco-towns. He was trying to hint strongly—passionately, if I may say so—that we have somehow dictated that eco-towns would be built without any public consultation and without any due regard for the planning framework and process at all. If he will allow me, I come on to discuss how eco-towns fit into the whole planning process, because it is a very important issue.

 Minister’s final comments:

In the time available to me, I am not able to respond to the point that the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) made about eco-towns. Needless to say, this is the first stage of the process, and it will be completely part of the planning process. However, I will write to him and respond to the points that he made. In conclusion, this is an important issue. We need to address housing needs and we need public consultation, but the debate must be sensible so that we have the homes that we need and deserve in this country.

Press Release from Bicester Councillors 6th June 2008





          Local Conservative County Councillors from Bicester and the surrounding areas are calling on the County Council to reject outright the proposed new town at Weston-on-the-Green, which has been wrapped up as an eco-town to make it sound more attractive.


          In the last thirty years Bicester’s population, since it was selected as a growth town, has increased from 6,000 to 32,000, but jobs, shops and recreational facilities have not been increased proportionately and the current proposals to make up this shortfall are all put at risk by the prospects of a new town for 45,000 people at Weston-on-the-Green.


Ø Bicester Town Centre redevelopment, including the cinema and library, will find it more difficult to attract investment funding.


Ø The proposed Business Park to provide jobs with higher salary levels will be in competition with the new town.


Ø The 40 acres of new sports pitches will be at risk if the houses on the South West option are delayed.


Ø Traffic congestion on the M40, A34 and A41 access to Bicester is already creating delays with long queues and will get worse even if each house in the new town is only restricted to one car.  Access to a rail system will not compensate for an additional 15,000 cars.


Ø Rat running through local villages already a problem will increase with the associated dangers of accidents caused by speeding.


Ø The village of Weston-on-the-Green will be absorbed into the new town and all its history will be obliterated and reduce the quality of life of its present inhabitants who have chosen to live in a rural village community.


Ø Productive farm land will be concreted over notwithstanding that a significant proportion is in the Oxford green belt and should be protected.


Ø Affordable housing in the new town around 5,000 houses will not all be available to people on the Cherwell housing waiting list and will have to be shared with other District Councils.


Ø There is no local need for so many houses in this area which will be additional to proposed 54,000 houses in the South East plan for Oxfordshire over the next 20 years, 2006-2026.  Cherwell’s proportion is 13,000 houses and at 30% would provide 4,000 affordable homes approximately equal to the current waiting list.


Ø The South East plan proposals will increase Oxfordshire’s present population 630,000 to 800,000 by 2026, why does Oxfordshire need another 45,000 residents in a new town?


Ø The Government are likely to ignore the present planning system.


The above reasons will all adversely affect the proper and balanced development of Bicester and not be in the interests of the current and future people living in our town and the surrounding areas.


The County Council will decide its response to the new town required by the Government at the Cabinet meeting on June 24th, please use this opportunity by writing to the Leader of the Council Keith Mitchell and Cabinet members.




Norman Bolster                  Lawrie Stratford                    Charles Shouler.

      Bicester.                             Bicester                              Bicester South.


Catherine Fulljames             Tim Hallchurch

      Ploughley                Otmoor & Kirtlington


Email from Tony Baldry MP 27th May

I tabled a Written Question to the Secretary of State for Defence, which asked:  “Whether his Department plans to sell RAF Weston-on-the-Green to Parkridge Holdings if proposals for the Weston/Otmoor Ecotown proposal proceed; and if he will make  a Statement.

The reply I have received is as follows, from Derek Twigg, who is the Minister with responsibility for Defence Estates:

“Defence Estates Officials have held informal exploratory meetings with Parkridge Holdings.

No undertakings have been given and further discussions would be necessary were Weston-on-the-Green to be included on the final shortlist of proposed Ecotowns.”

I think a couple of points arise from this.

I suspect that Defence Estates are wanting to keep all their options open and if the Weston/Otmoor proposal were to be short listed, would I imagine want to drive the hardest bargain if they were to choose to sell RAF Weston-on-the-Green to Parkridge. 

Secondly, it means that the only piece of “brown field” land in the Parkridge proposal is in no way at present committed to the project, so at present, this is a project 75% on green field, 25% plus on Green belt, and none of it on brown field land.

Motion to Oxfordshire County Council full council meeting 17th June 2008

‘Weston – Otmoor eco-town.  Council asks the Cabinet to give careful consideration to:

a.      the impact of the proposed eco-town of 35,000 people on the successful economic development of Bicester

b.      the impact of the proposed eco-town on the transport network especially congestion on the A34 and M40 at J9 and minor roads and lanes in the area.

c.       whether the proposed  new railway station, tram system and modifications to the M40 J6 are affordable and will provide the benefits claimed by the developer.

d.      the impact of the proposed eco-town on Oxford’s Green Belt as a quarter of the proposed site will be within the Green Belt.

e.       whether the proposed eco-town is environmentally sustainable when it seems inevitable that there will be substantial traffic growth.

f.        the impact of concreting over 2000 acres of farm land to the flooding threat.

g.      the impact on the loss of wildlife habitats as part of the proposed development includes Woodsides Meadow Nature Reserve, and other meadows owned and managed by BBOWT.

h.      the fact that Oxfordshire has had restrictions on water use, how will the eco-town impact on the water supply and  to other services such as sewage and electricity

i.         the impact on Oxfordshire schooling, hospitals, library services,  social services ,waste collection and disposal and other services provided by the local authorities.


The council also deplores the lack of consultation  with Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council and other bodies by the Government before they short listed the proposed Weston-Otmoor eco-town. ‘

We are restricted to 250 words and must obey the Council Rules which restricts me from proposing a plain rejection.  


Letter to the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council from Bruce Tremayme - Chairman CPRE

Keith Mitchell CBE

Neill Bridge House



OX17 3NU

12 June 2008

 “weston otmoor  eco-town” 

We are aware of the full Council debate on the above scheduled for 17 June, and your Cabinet meeting on 24 June. We are also well aware that you will have a complete professional briefing from your officials on all aspects of the scheme.

The purpose of this short letter is to register with you that CPRE, after 10 weeks reflection and research, is convinced the proposal has no merit.  

As recorded in Hansard in its report of the parliamentary debate on Eco-towns which took place on 3 June, CPRE feels strongly about: “the unwarranted level of secrecy surrounding the initiative so far; that it appears to lie outside the planning system; and the lack of evidence demonstrating that these schemes will offer truly sustainable models of living and working”. 

In the case of Weston Otmoor our response to the DCGL consultation centres on: 

1) Intrinsic site-specific problems and constraints in terms of sustainability - The fact that a quarter of it lies in the Oxford Green Belt, including a wildlife site of national importance, and the rest is essentially green fields; the RAF Weston airstrip, even by the interpretation of the appendix to PPS 3, can hardly be termed “brownfield”. We argue that the beauty and character of this part of rural Oxfordshire deserves protection in its own right. Further, transport and water issues present special difficulties which are compounded by the position and nature of the site. 

2) Lack of local engagement on such a significant proposal - Elsewhere in the country it would appear that some of the short listed schemes are backed by their local councils, however in the case of the Weston proposal it is important to note that in recent years there has been extensive detailed consultation on key planning documents but no support for such an idea. Neither previous Structure Plans, nor the Oxford sub regional component of the draft South East Plan, nor the emerging LDF for Cherwell support the idea of new settlements. Moreover none of the local communities feel they have been involved in the process; small wonder therefore that there is a widespread feeling of hostility to the proposal.    

3) Lack of proper examination of alternatives in Oxfordshire which might offer a more effective “eco” solution and better strategic planning “fit” - The Council has a well thought-through policy to 2016 of focussing new development on existing towns, predicated on the existing infrastructure being grown to support the housing increases in the most sustainable manner. To construct a new town of similar size to Bicester midway between Oxford and Bicester out of the blue is bound to divert new physical and social infrastructure from existing settlements in future. If further major growth is being called for over and above that envisaged in the draft South East Plan, the judicious expansion of Kidlington and Bicester would be a better strategic “fit” and work more with the grain of the existing infrastructure.

In short, we urge the Council to join with Cherwell in condemning the proposed “eco-town” at Weston as wholly unsuitable.  

A copy of this letter has been sent to all Cabinet members.

 Bruce Tremayne


Email from Tony Baldry MP 21 June 2008

We had another deeply frustrating debate in the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday 19th June) on Ecotowns.  Frustrating, because yet again only an hour and a half was allowed to debate a topic on which large numbers of colleagues wished to speak both about general principles and about detailed concerns relating to proposals in their own constituencies.

I think the following points are of interest:

Caroline Flint reiterated that the main driver for this initiative is the “significant housing shortages” but as was pointed out to her, if all ten of the Ecotowns that the Government currently propose were built, they would create just a quarter of 1% of all the housing that the Government say they need to be built each year from 2016.

The Minister said that the Government intend to produce a “ . . . . Planning Policy Statement that we will produce in the next month which will help to ensure that Ecotowns are bench marked against very high standards, and it will also help Local Authorities that maybe receiving submissions from developers who put “green” or “eco” in front of their application to assess them”.

There was no mention by the Minister of this Planning Policy Statement being site specific – although earlier Parliamentary Answers to me had made it clear that it will be site specific. 

The Minister also indicated that the “ . . . second phase of consultation would focus on the Sustainability Appraisal which will run for three months in the Ecotowns policy statement that I mentioned earlier.  The Sustainability Appraisal will be a detailed assessment of each of the locations setting out the likely environmental social and economic impact”.

I have also received two separate letters from the Minister.  In one of those letters she asserts categorically that no Ecotown, nor any part of an Ecotown will be built on Green Belt.

So far as the Parkridge proposal is concerned, it will either mean that the Government will have to alter existing Green Belt boundaries, or I suspect it means that the Government have told Parkridge that none of their development will be allowed on any existing Green Belt land.

If that is the case, it is difficult to see how Parkridge can deliver a railway station and much of their infrastructure proposal.

In her second letter, the Minister has offered me a meeting, which I shall take up, reiterating that they are not intending to take any decisions in the near future but are wanting to continue the process.  I take this as being Ministerial shorthand for them wanting to keep as much in play as possible for as long as possible while they try and sort out which of the Ecotown proposals are the least objectionable and the least controversial.  

I think it is fair to note, as I have done in earlier emails, that a number of the Ecotown proposals are actually  supported by some Local Authorities and some Members of Parliament, so it would in fact be perfectly possible for the Government to come forward with a scheme of five or six Ecotowns which actually commanded local support – where they can see the sense of doing that, only time will tell.

Best wishes.

Tony Baldry MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

tel:  020 7219 4476
fax:  020 7219 5826



 Letter from Tony Baldry MP to Carolinf Flint MP 25th June 2008


Rt. Hon. Caroline Flint, MP

Minister for Housing and Planning

Department for Communities and Local Government

Eland House

Bressenden Place

London SW1E 5DU


25 June 2008 


Proposed Ecotown Sites on Green Belt Land  

Yesterday’s lead item for much of the day on BBC Radio Oxford was reporting your Statement that no homes would be built on Green Belt land as part of Ecotown proposals.  

This would seem to confirm what you said to myself and other Parliamentary colleagues when you originally briefed us. 

You again confirmed this point in your letter to me of 17th June, when you said “ . . . with regard to your point on Green Belt land I have previously stated that no homes will be built on Green Belt land as part of the Ecotown proposals.  This position has not changed.” 

I am sure that you would agree that any reasonable person, hearing your statement reported on  BBC Radio Oxford, or reading what you had sent to me, would be led to believe that it was the Government’s intention that so far as Ecotown proposals are concerned, there should be no building on Green Belt land and that Green Belt land should continue to be protected.  

I would therefore be grateful for your comments and observations as to how it was that on the very same day you clearly put out a press release to local media stating that “no homes would be built on Green Belt land” that when Grant Shapps MP, the Shadow Housing Minister,  yesterday – i.e. on the very same day of your press release – met with Parkridge, the developers of the proposed Weston/Otmoor Ecotown, and asked them for their confirmation that it was not their intention to build homes on the Green Belt, they confirmed that they had no intention of building homes, but without a heartbeat, went on to explain to Grant that it was, however, their and their Ecotown proposals intention, that there should be substantial commercial building on the Green Belt.   

When you issued your press release and when you wrote to me, were you aware that it was Parkridge’s intention to seek to have substantial commercial buildings on the Green Belt?  

Does that proposal have your approval? 

Were the words “no homes would be built on Green Belt land” deliberately used, rather than “there will be no building on Green Belt land” to disguise the fact that it was Parkridge’s and the Government’s intention throughout that the Green Belt should be desecrated by commercial buildings?  

Could you please explain to me why Ministers quite rightly think that it is wrong for homes to be built on Green Belt land, why are you going to allow Parkridge to build commercial buildings on the Oxford Green Belt? 

This is a difficulty entirely of the Government’s own making.  

As I understand it, the main reason why you included the Weston/Otmoor proposal in your most recent short list is because of the transport and infrastructure offer.  Your officials will doubtless have seen the Report by Officers of Oxfordshire County Council that the money being set aside in this proposal for transport will almost certainly be inadequate, raising serious questions about the scheme’s deliverability, and I am sure that your officials will have reported to you that the professional judgement of planning officers at Oxfordshire County Council is that the eco-credentials of the Weston/Otmoor proposal are “aspirational in the extreme”, but the further difficulty for the developers and for yourself, is that the developers’ infrastructure and transport proposals largely depend on their being able to build a new railway station and there is no way that you or they can escape the geography that such a railway station and its accompanying car parking and buildings would have to be built, if it were to be built, on the Green Belt.  

The Government cannot both protect the Oxford Green Belt and have the Weston/Otmoor Ecotown proposal.  The two are in direct conflict.  

If the Government’s position is that there should be no building of Ecotowns on the Green Belt, then might I suggest that in the interests of everyone, you make clear that you are immediately taking the Weston/Otmoor proposal off your short list, given that about 30% of Parkridge’s proposed development is on Green Belt land. 

That attack on the Green Belt will, in addition, seriously undermine local ecology, and areas such as the SSSI at Woodside Meadow.  As the local Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust have endeavoured to explain to your officials, the wet grassland of Otmoor is hugely susceptible to nearby development interfering with water flows and if the Weston/Otmoor Ecotown went ahead, the pressures on this fragile landscape of Otmoor would be so great that the habitat would degrade and England’s biodiversity would be dealt a serious blow.  

If it is your intention that the developers are going to be allowed to build commercial development on the Green Belt, I hope that you will agree that the Statements that you gave to myself and the local media were deliberately misleading.  

If it is your intention that there should be no building of Ecotowns on the Green Belt, residential or commercial, then I suggest that you stop now any more speculation about the Weston/Otmoor scheme.  

Tony Baldry


Embargoed until 00.01 hours 26th June 2008


You cannot be serious…

One million homes unsold

Mortgage approvals at a new record low

House-building less than half the rate it was last year

Yet Ministers and their housing advisers ignore the real world and carry on with their top-down housing policy. The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit today wants the South East to test the feasibility of building between 37,800 and 49,700 new houses every year until 2026. Confusingly, the NHPAU also wants the South East, which has built more houses in the last decade than any other region, to examine increasing those building rates to between 38,700 and 53,800, during the first half of the South East Plan, which began in 2006.

"This is economically illiterate and bureaucratic madness, while thousands of hardworking families are struggling to make ends meet the Government and its own advisers recommend a house building programme divorced from reality," says Henry Smith, Chairman of the South East County Leaders and Leader of West Sussex County Council. An analysis of the NHPAU’s own data suggests that even if house-building increased by 50 per cent over the next 20 years, it would only have a marginal impact on house prices.

The South East Counties are committed to delivering more affordable housing for young families and essential workers and support record levels of house-building. But as shares in the big house-builders slump and debts overtake stock market valuations, builders like Persimmon have stopped all new building projects. Not only has government spending on affordable housing fallen, but council tenants in the South East are subsidising affordable housing provision elsewhere in the country to the tune of £951 per household every year. Henry Smith says Ministers need to get a grip on what matters. "Rather than try and impose yet more unrealistic house-building on the South East, Ministers must work with the South East Counties to ensure that development held up by the credit crunch can go ahead, so that those homes that are needed can be built."

Henry Smith, Chairman of the South East County Leaders and Leader of West Sussex County Council is available for interview.


For more information contact South East County Leaders:

Becky Whale, Head of Policy & Public Affairs: 07841 492507

Charles Rhodes, Media Consultant: 07831 709660


Note to Editors

Rightmove’s house price index found that although one million homes are on estate agents’ books there are just 150,000 buyers who want to buy them, a ratio of around 15:1, up from 7:1 in 2007,,aboutus,RTPRArchive.vm

The British Bankers Association reported that the number of loans approved for house purchase fell from a downwardly revised 34,752 in April 2008 to 27,968 per cent in May 2008, 56.1 per cent lower than in May 2007 and by far the lowest since the data began in 1997,


Figures from the National House-building Council (NHBC) are expected to show that 9,432 new homes were registered to be built last month, down from 19,564 in May 2007, a drop of 52 per cent, Financial Times 14th June 2008

NHPAU unveils advice to Government on future housing supply ranges, 26th June 2008

Communities and Local Government Tables on house building: Table 232 compares housing completions in English regions between 1990/91 and 2007/08 and shows that the South East has consistently built more houses than any other region.

Housing and Affordability in the South East, Christine Whitehead, London School of Economics, May 2008,

In May 2008 the South East Regional Housing Board reported that £184 million is taken from South East Local Authorities by the Government and used to subsidise other regions. This means nearly one third (£951) of the rent paid by each South East Council House tenant subsidises rents paid elsewhere in the country.

The South East Counties are amongst the best and most innovative local authorities, who campaign on issues of joint concern. The seventeen members are Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Essex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, West Sussex, and the six Berkshire unitaries. The six Berkshire unitaries of Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, and Wokingham, joined the South East County Leaders in January 2008. The South East County Leaders are committed to nurturing the engine room of the UK economy and delivering democratically accountable and effective public services that improve the quality of life of those we serve

South East Counties, c/o Chief Executive's Department, Room 121, EII Court, Hampshire County Council, The Castle, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 8UJ Tel: 01962 847482



Approximately 30 people from Weston and surrounding villages assembled in Westminster Square on Monday last together with groups from other parts of the UK. The protest was good natured and noisy and the press were out in force and there were lots of interviews and photoshots.

Grant Shapps addressed the crowd and he was well received.

There was a meeting in the House in the Committee Room at 2 o'clock with Grant Shapps and other fellow MPs representing other groups addressed a large gathering, probably 200 odd. Grant Shapps reiterated the Tory viewpoint that there is undoubtedly a housing need across the spectrum of demand but sites need to be carefully considered and to have full local consensus and large scale settlements should be on Brownfield land of which there is a plentiful supply in this country if the will is there. Greenfield sites are the easy quick fix option. The Tories will shut down any other attempt at mass housing that do not fulfil these criteria.

Two to three people from each protest group were then invited to meet Caroline Flint at 3 o’clock. Tony Henman and myself were able to speak to Henry Cleary before the meeting started and Tony repeated his request for a reply to our freedom of invitation letter which is now time expired and Tony again asked Henry Cleary for a copy of the briefing note for specialists as “the answer is often in the question”. Henry Cleary admitted he hadn't done anything about this since the last request put in place at the Cherwell meeting some weeks ago but he promised to act. I handed him a copy of our, hopefully, reasoned  overview and objection statement and I was able to point out to him the list of parishes on page 1 and remind him that he had promised to hold a wider range of departmental consultation meetings with parishes affected. The Cherwell meeting was only attended by four parishes by exclusive invitation. He promised to timetable a further set of meetings and keep us informed.

The Caroline Flint meeting in my view was rushed and unstructured. She declared the now familiar mantra of housing need, under provision, affordable homes, etc. The tone of the meeting was one of dissent with particular regard to secrecy and lack of communication. Various groups spoke under pressure and hurriedly, picking up components that affect them specifically and picking up components that affect all groups. A common thread was again the secrecy of process and a lack of information, the speed with which the matter is being fast tracked, greenfield sites, poor communication links and the affect on local communities.

Tony Henman was able to ask a specific question on greenbelt and the development of greenbelt and he robustly challenged her on her earlier statement that “there would be no building on greenbelt”. This has latterly been modified to “there will no houses built on greenbelt” but in her opinion that did not now preclude significant infrastructure as at Weston Otmoor and namely railway infrastructure and station and the 6,000 place car park with other hard standings and service areas. Tony Henman was insistent and challenged what is now a highly selective form of words but he was brushed aside. I was able to ask a question about status and timing of a site specific PPS. She batted sideways to Henry Cleary who at the end of the meeting gave a totally ambiguous answer. The answer was vested in the terms of “normal planning procedure” with a strong implication that schemes would go through Local Authorities and be determined but a powerful viewpoint is that a site specific PPS will be difficult to resist by Local Authorities and would be expressly accepted by any inspector chairing a public inquiry. He also implied that Local Authorities will a robust LDF may be spared a PPS. As an aside here Cherwell have only had a provisional local plan since 1996 and the LDF is not likely to be finalised until the end of this year or early next.

When challenged about timing and process Caroline Flint was using words like “early days yet”, “all components of plans will be tested by the 12 man challenge panel and by the DCLG appointed consultants put in place”. It is unlikely that the second short list will be published much before the end of the year or even early next year. There was a strong implication that it is early days and anything could happen.

The meeting in my view was rushed, garbled, unstructured and in parts quite theatrical. Caroline Flint declared rather than debated points. I tried to speak to Henry Cleary at the end of the meeting but he left swiftly.

In conclusion, the protest day was a success, we were able to meet other people with a very common agenda and whilst we have not particularly felt isolated, it was good to hear the same viewpoints from like minded colleagues with the same problem. Grant Shapps’ meeting with his colleague and protesters was excellent and obviously with a common agenda. The Caroline Flint meeting was useful in part but would have benefitted from being longer.

 Norman Machin

Weston Front

3  July 2008

House of Commons Exchange 4th July 2008

I set our below  an exchange that I had yesterday in the House of Commons  with the Leader of the House which is self-explanatory.

 Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): In giving her chronology, my hon. Friend needs to draw hon. Members’ attention to an important issue: the planning policy statement. I do not know whether she will come on to that matter, but the process will involve a departure from any planning situation that has occurred since the second world war and the introduction of the present planning system. The Government intend to issue a planning policy statement that lists the 10 shortlisted eco-towns. That statement will then supposedly be a material consideration for local authorities when they consider planning applications. For the first time since 1945, the Government will effectively direct local authorities that they have little alternative but to approve planning applications for those eco-towns identified by the Government under the planning policy statement.

Miss McIntosh: I have not mentioned that simply because I do not know whether that is the case. The question has to be asked about that. If there is such a planning policy statement, why has it not been published, at what stage will it be published, and can local authorities or groups of residents appeal against it? Those questions are important. 

3 Jun 2008 : Column 184WH
My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) does the House a great service by pointing out that there has not been a planning policy statement. We have had planning policy guidance on just about everything else but not on eco-towns. Perhaps the Minister could tell us when he intends to publish one. Will the eco-towns attract new business, because in the prospectus that does not appear to be the case? What will happen if businesses are not attracted to these towns as commercial developments? Will they be unsustainable without jobs or amenities, and simply become isolated blots on the countryside? Will work units be provided, and why are some of the proposed shortlisted sites to be located on greenfield, rather than brownfield, land? That is, after all, part of the Government’s criteria.


18 July 2008


During Oral Questions to DEFRA,  North Oxfordshire MP, Tony Baldry, flagged up the extreme opposition of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust to the so called Ecotown at Weston Otmoor because of the real biodiversity issues in this site of special scientific interest. He said he hoped that DEFRA Ministers would be consulted on them.

Joan Ruddock, the Minister of State for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare gave her assurance that all biodiversity and sustainable development issues would be considered in the development plan

Tony Baldry said:
”There are some real biodiversity issues there, so given that the machinery of government is based in Whitehall, I hope that DEFRA Ministers will be consulted on them.”

Joan Ruddock gave her assurance that all biodiversity and sustainable development issues will be considered in the development plans

The complete text of the exchange with the Minister of State for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare on 17th July 2008 is below. Contact 020 7219 6465.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): As the RSPB survey published today demonstrates, one is more likely to see green parakeets and hear cuckoos in the Thames valley nowadays, largely on account of habitat measures—protecting woodland, hay meadows and other valuable sites of special scientific interest such as Otmoor. That is one reason why—I want to flag this up to DEFRA Ministers—the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire wildlife trust is so opposed to Department for Communities and Local Government proposals for a so-called eco-town at western Otmoor. There are

some real biodiversity issues there, so given that the machinery of government is based in Whitehall, I hope that DEFRA Ministers will be consulted on them.

Joan Ruddock: I commend the work of the hon. Gentleman’s local trust; as a Department, we greatly value what it is doing. However, when it comes to eco-towns, a proper procedure is in place whereby all biodiversity and sustainable development issues have to be considered in the development plans. I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that they will be.

Later, in Business Questions, Tony Baldry  pointed out to the Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, that since the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government first proposed Ecotowns the original list of 15 has dropped to 10.

He asked her to make an undertaking that no more announcements be made until the autumn when a topical debate to discuss the merits of the Ecotown proposals remaining can be had.

Harriet Harman replied that progress will be made on the question of Ecotowns to ensure more sustainable housing.

Tony Baldry said:
“Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that no further announcement will be made on eco-towns until the House returns in the autumn, when we can have a topical debate to discuss the merits of those eco-town proposals remaining?

The complete text of the exchange with the Leader of the House on 17 July 2008 is below. Contact 020 7219 6465

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): When the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government first proposed eco-towns, she brought forward a list of 15 and said that the Government hoped to have at least 10. The only difficulty is that today, the fifth of those dropped out, so from 15 we are now down to 10. Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that no further announcement will be made on eco-towns until the House returns in the autumn, when we can have a topical debate to discuss the merits of those eco-town proposals remaining? That will give the Government an opportunity during the summer recess to reflect on the wisdom of progressing with many of those eco-town proposals.


Ms Harman: Over the past month, the House has had a number of opportunities to discuss eco-towns. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing set out, we will make progress on the question of eco-towns, to ensure that we have more housing and that it is sustainable.


Rosemary Hadow
Office of Tony Baldry MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Tel 020 7219 6465

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Letter to Tany Baldry from Margaret Beckett 24th October 2008


The Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP Minister for Housing

and Local Government

Department for Communities and Local Government

Eland House Bressenden Place London SW1E5DU


Tony Baldry MP House of Commons London SW1A OAA


Tel; 020 7944 8952

Fax: 020 7944 8953



2 4  OCT

Dear Tony,

In last week's topical questions you asked me about our intentions on the eco-towns Planning Policy Statement and in particular whether our forthcoming consultation would include a list of locations. You also wrote on 18 September to my predecessor, Caroline Flint, enclosing a copy of the Opinion prepared by Anthony Crean QC, that stated that there would need to be a comparison of comparative sites before planning permission for an eco-town could be granted.

It was never our intention that the draft PPS would omit all reference to locations. It will include information based on the shortlist published in April, but taking account of alternatives which have emerged in the Sustainability Appraisal work.   We said in April in "Living a Greener Future" - "The shortlist of locations published today will be subject to a more detailed Sustainability Appraisal (SA) which will provide greater detail on environmental Sustainability and other issues and test them against reasonable alternatives" and this was confirmed in July in the "Eco-towns - living a greener future: progress report". We intend to publish the draft PPS soon.

Neither the final PPS nor a finalised list of locations will be published until next year. This will allow sufficient time for Ministerial decisions to be informed by further transport assessments of the kind you describe as well as the outcome of the second period of consultation. In addition, I hope it is clear that even if a scheme were to be successful in the eco-towns process, there would be a substantial period required for working up a planning application and for taking a decision on it, or indeed for the scheme to be considered further in the development plan process before decision point is reached. That is why I emphasized last week that on any scenario we are some way away from decisions on site specific applications.



Letter from Tony Baldry with some explanation of the above letter.






Councillor Major T. T. Hallchurch, MBE

Paddock Cottage


Oxford OX5 1JY

28 October 2008


Dear Tim,


I enclose a copy of a letter I have received from Margaret Beckett. It is not clear what the Minister for Housing is trying to say.

In the House of Commons in answer to my Oral Question, she seemed to indicate that the draft PPS would not refer to specific locations.

In her letter she now says "it was never our intention that the draft PPS would omit all references to locations."

I think these rather curious continuing contradictions will only be resolved when the Department actually publish the draft PPS, but it is quite clear the draft PPS is not going to become the final PPS for a number of months yet, not least because of, in the case of Weston/Otmoor,

•   The further transport assessment; and

•   A second period of consultation.

As you will know, I suggested to Caroline Flint, and reiterated to Margaret Beckett, that before there is any thought of taking forward a planning proposal for Weston/Otmoor, the Government really does need to carry out a thorough appraisal on the implications of whether or not the train solution is deliverable.

You will see that the Minister has such phrases as "we are some way off from decisions". Again, only time will tell, but I have the instinct that this is a certain amount of cover for Ministers to assert that all is on track with this project, whilst simultaneously trying to buy time to beat an orderly retreat, and you will have seen that national newspapers are now openly speculating that at the end of the day the Department might only end up with two or three actual Ecotown proposals.


Email: Website:

Secretary of State announcement 3 November 2008




The Minister for Housing (the Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP): I am today announcing the second round of consultation on eco-towns, based on the draft Planning Policy Statement on eco-towns, and  the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal which has been carried out for the policy and  the shortlisted eco-town locations. 

Eco-towns have been developed in response to two major challenges – the threat of climate change and the national housing shortage.  They will pioneer more sustainable living so that we can learn the lessons for future developments and help meet housing need in areas where this shortage is particularly acute.  

In April, we published a short-list of proposed locations, alongside a consultation document “Living a Greener Future”.  A progress report was published in July, to set out our emerging thinking on eco-town standards.  The documents being published today are the next stage of consultation in delivering eco-towns successfully.  They include an updated programme of shortlisted locations and a summary of responses to the earlier consultation. Copies of these documents will be deposited in the Library of the House and made available on the department’s website at  

The Sustainability Appraisal indicates that there remain some important outstanding issues which need to be addressed before the draft PPS and list of locations can be finalised. Issues of sustainability, viability and deliverability remain.  The eco-town requirements are challenging and I do not expect that all locations will be endorsed.   I have no fixed view on the number of locations that will go forward from this process and the next stages in this ongoing assessment and consultation process will ensure that the necessary further work is completed before decisions are taken. 

Draft Planning Policy Statement      

The draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS) sets out the standards for an eco-town and the planning policy context.  The standards set out in this draft PPS are consistent with other relevant planning policies – including PPS1, PPS3 and PPS Planning and Climate Change.  However, given our higher expectations for eco-towns, it goes further and sets the highest ever environmental standards for new development, reflecting the aspirations we described in the consultation document “Living a Greener Future.”   

The standards set by the eco-towns PPS, on which we are now consulting are, as a package, considerably more stretching than existing standards for development.  Eco-towns will be the UK’s first zero carbon towns: over a year the net carbon dioxide emissions from all energy use within the buildings (homes, commercial and public sector buildings) on the developments will be zero or below.  Achieving zero carbon status across all the town's buildings, will represent a significantly tougher threshold than current national targets, pioneering the way for our policies that new homes in England should be zero carbon from 2016, and our ambition that new non-domestic buildings should be zero carbon from 2019.   For homes the eco-towns standards go further, in requiring that they achieve carbon reductions (from space heating, hot water and fixed lighting) of at least 70% relative to current Building Regulations.  At least 40% of the area of an eco-town will need to be greenspace – half of it publicly accessible and there are ambitious targets on waste and water.  These 'hard' green targets are supported by targets designed to support and promote sustainable development and sustainable living more widely; for example, eco-towns will be unique in being built so that, except where there are natural barriers, no home will be further than 800m from a school for children aged under eleven and the design of the town will enable over half of all the trips originating in the town to be made without a car. 

The draft PPS also sets out the planning process for eco-towns.  Applications for  eco-towns are to be considered in the same way as any other major development proposal.  The development plan remains the starting point for the determination of these applications.  However, where the plan is out of date then any application should be treated on its merits, taking in to account all material considerations which include the PPS. 

Sustainability Appraisal and the Eco-towns programme 

An Eco-Towns Sustainability Appraisal (SA) Report covering the draft PPS, and the programme, including the proposed eco-town locations is also being published today.  The SA report, which has been carried out by consultants Scott Wilson, identifies and evaluates the likely impact of the proposals on the local economy, community and environment and considers reasonable alternatives.  It also suggests measures for improving the proposals. Taking account of the Sustainability Appraisal, and of the effect of promoters withdrawing their schemes from the programme, we will be consulting on the following 12 shortlisted locations in this next stage. They have been assessed in the Sustainability Appraisal in three bands: 

A: locations that are generally suitable for an eco-town;  

B: locations that might be suitable subject to meeting specific planning and design objectives; 

C: locations that are only likely to be suitable as an eco-town with substantial and exceptional innovation. 


- A       Rackheath (Greater Norwich)

- B       Pennbury

- B       Newton-Bingham (Rushcliffe)

- B       Middle Quinton

- B       St Austell

- B       Rossington

- B       North East Elsenham

- B       Marston Vale

- B       Ford

- B       Bordon-Whitehill

- B       North West Bicester (alternative to Weston Otmoor).

- C       Weston Otmoor

 The shortlist includes two local authority schemes, proposed as reasonable alternatives in the course of the Sustainability Appraisal, at Rackheath (Norwich) and North West Bicester (Cherwell).  In the case of the two areas of further review identified in April, in Leeds City Region we have agreed to pursue separately the local authorities’ proposal for an urban eco-community of similar scale which would pilot eco-town standards, while at   Rushcliffe, the Newton/ Bingham scheme has been included for consultation and assessment.   


Public awareness and involvement is crucial to success in this programme.  We want to make it as easy as possible for people to have their say in shaping these towns, particularly the first-time buyers, key workers and young families who will particularly benefit from the affordable housing.  We have therefore set up a website at  This both explains the eco-town concept, and invites comments and ideas through the consultation process.  We will also be holding a series of roadshows in public spaces like shopping centres near to the proposed locations.  These will be interactive exhibitions and will provide the chance for people to offer their comments and views. 

Both the website and the roadshows will concentrate on explaining the national standards and policy.  Local scheme promoters are responsible for carrying out full consultation on the individual schemes.    


The papers published today provide an updated list and description of sites.  In this context I wish to correct errors made in the written ministerial statement of 3rd April 2008, Official Report columns 70-72WS, made by my Rt Hon Friend the Member for Don Valley.  This stated that the majority of development planned for the proposed Curborough development (now withdrawn) would take place on brownfield land.  This is incorrect – the majority of the site is on greenfield land.  The statement also incorrectly referred to the Weston-Otmoor site as brownfield when it is mainly greenfield.  I apologise to the House for these errors.   

Finally I want to make clear that while eco-towns have a unique potential for innovation they are only one part of a much wider programme of creating more sustainable communities which can respond to the challenge of climate change.  Shortly we will be consulting on the definition of zero carbon for the purposes of the Government’s policy that all new homes will be zero-carbon from 2016. The Government also recognises  the urgent need to tackle the energy efficiency of existing homes and will shortly be consulting on measures that could help develop this market as part of its review of energy efficiency strategy overall.





Weston Otmoor - Alternative Eco-Development Proposal for Sustainability Appraisal Testing.



As an alternative to the Weston Otmoor eco-town proposal, consideration has been given to an eco-development on the edge of Bicester, directly abutting the town.





Cherwell District Council has opposed the eco-town at Weston Otmoor.  It considers that a large free-standing town like that at Weston Otmoor would harm Bicester.  The Council has made clear to Government its commitment to making sure that Bicester remains a balanced community, providing new jobs and facilities for the people that live there.


As part of the Government's assessment of its eco town programme in general, and all of the shortlisted schemes, it is carrying out a "sustainability appraisal".  This appraisal is looking at the environmental, economic and social effects of each of the eco-town proposals, including Weston Otmoor.  In the light of the views on the eco-town previously made by Cherwell District Council, the Government asked the Council whether we could identify any alternative option which should be assessed against the Weston Otmoor proposal in the Sustainability Appraisal.  The Council considers that, notwithstanding our opposition to the eco-town in principle, we should see whether, in theory there is an alternative eco-development that is less harmful to local communities than the proposal at Weston Otmoor.


The Council has been working to prepare our own plans for how future housing growth is to be accommodated across the district - based on the figures given to us in the emerging South East Plan (which do not include any eco-town proposal).  As part of this we are currently consulting on a series of "options for growth" and have identified a number of possible alternative major housing sites around Bicester.  This work has given us a basis for suggesting an alternative theoretical location in accordance with the Government’s request.


In putting this alternative forward, the Council would wish to make the following points clear:-


·We are not formally supporting this as an alternative eco-town location.  It is being put forward as a means of testing the "sustainability" of the Weston Otmoor proposal in the event that the Government wishes to see an eco-town in Cherwell District.  The Council continues to support the view that growth within the district should be decided through a plan-led system, such as the process that has been undertaken on the South East Plan, and not through speculative landowner/developer schemes such as the proposal at Weston Otmoor.


·The Council's current "options for growth" public consultation has identified a number of possible major housing sites around Bicester.  These include land at Howes Lane and at Lords Lane.  These sites have formed the basis of the alternative proposal.  We are not saying that the two sites are therefore the Council's "preferred sites" at Bicester for further housing growth.  They are being put forward now because the Government asked us to identify a possible alternative location which could accommodate at least 5,000 houses.  Neither of the other sites around Bicester that we have identified could, in our view, do this.  They are, however, reasonable alternatives for accommodating a smaller number of new homes in accordance with the figures in the South East Plan.


·No specific proposal for an eco-development at north west Bicester has been put together.  The alternative put forward by the Council is based on an emerging understanding of where, theoretically, further housing growth could take place.  It has not been looked at in any detail at this stage and its assumptions and opportunities have not been tested or discussed with other stakeholders.



What follows is the information that was submitted to the Government on the "alternative eco-development proposal".  It should be read in the light of the above.



image depicting Map showing location of the Weston Otmoor - Alternative Eco Town


Cherwell District Council, as part of its Core Strategy, has identified two adjacent sites (land at Howes Lane and Lords Lane) as "reasonable alternative strategic sites" which it believes could yield at least 2,600 homes. The sites, which could be developed together to form the eco town, are on the north-west side of the town and are bounded by the B4030 to the south and the B4100 to the north west.  The farm land here is relatively unconstrained and the nearest settlement is the village of Bucknell 1.9 km away to the north-west.

The area could, theoretically, provide for an eco-town of 5,000 homes or more including related employment and community infrastructure. Some work has already been carried out by Cherwell District Council to explore the constraints on this site, and from this there is no reason to believe that an eco-town of this scale could not be achieved [1]. The attached plan, together with the schedule in Appendix 1, indicates the main constraints and some of the opportunities on the site.

Whilst the site has the capacity to establish a self contained eco-town, there are also positive benefits in the location of the site. Bicester lies within the Oxford2Cambridge Arc and development in this location would benefit from this initiative. More locally, the proposal may bring positive benefits to Bicester. The town has grown significantly in population in recent years (45% between 1991 and 2001 compared with 5% across Oxfordshire). Whilst historically Bicester has attracted a number of large B8 uses, it now is experiencing a shortage of space for new smaller start-up businesses and a lack of expansion space as businesses grow. There are also high commuting levels with 65% of people in Bicester travelling more than 5 miles to work. Cherwell District Council is seeking to develop the employment base in Bicester to create opportunities within other employment sectors. There may therefore be a synergy between the employment opportunities being offered at the eco-town and existing identified needs within Bicester.

[1] An area has been plotted on the plan of approximately 330 hectares. This would be capable of accommodating 5,000 houses at a gross density of 15 dwellings/ha.

Appendix 1


·                Land ownership difficult to assess – no site submissions received for land beyond that assessed for the Reasonable Alternatives identification (see attached plan), so land ownership difficult to identify. Individual farms throughout the area may indicate mixed ownership.


·                No major landscape constraints – predominantly farmland with large scale, regularly shaped fields bounded by hedgerows. No landscape designations within this area. No major landscape impact identified during consideration of Howes Lane or Lords Lane – not particularly sensitive locations. An Ecologically Important Landscape to south of B4030 (Middleton Stoney Road) at Bignell Park. No consultee comments on landscape, i.e. comments from Natural England or OCC. Landscape Sensitivity Analysis required.


·                Ecology constraints include Ardley Cutting and Quarry SSSI between Bucknell and M40, described as 'good quality'. Also UK BAP Habitat (low calcareous grassland). Records of Great Crested Newt near to Howes Lane. Also records of 'Cherwell notable species' 2 'locally protected species records' in this area, with more around Bignell Park to the south. Individual woodland parcels and hedgerows throughout the site (Ancient Woodland at Upper Farm), identified as 'species rich' and having potential for breeding birds. Watercourses running through this area are potentially rich in ecological value.


·                Flood Zones 2 and 3 along the watercourse which crosses the site in the south eastern corner but flooding not a 'show stopper'.


·                No Conservation Areas in close proximity. Grade II listed building at Himley Farm within the site, listed buildings in Bucknell as well as National Monuments. Oxfordshire County Council objected during Non Stat Plan preparation regarding high archaeological potential within this area and a field evaluation is required.


·                Impact in terms of coalescence with Bucknell – population in 2001 of 249. Category 2 village with 'few services, limited public transport, relatively remote".




·                Conservation Target Area north of Bucknell at Tusmore and Shelswell Park presents an opportunity for biodiversity enhancement.


·                Railway runs through site NW – SE – possibility for new rail station. Previously the companies operating this line have not been supportive (Non Stat Plan preparation).


·                M40 crosses western corner of site – possibility for new junction? Alternatively access via the A41 and the new perimeter road at SW Bicester.


·                Thames Valley Police Authority is promoting land along Howes Lane to be allocated for TVPA operational facilities (currently the Police Traffic Base is within this site), potentially as part of an urban extension, so opportunities exist for employment generating development.


·                Also the existing Avonbury Business Park (high tech employment uses) near to the Bucknell Road junction presents opportunities to enhance employment provision, thus increasing balance of provision across Bicester.


·                Opportunities exist to improve accessibility in terms of improvements/upgrade to Howes Lane and potentially the Howes Lane/Bucknell Road/Lords Lane junction.



Motion to Oxfordshire County Council full council meeting 17th June 2008 by Cllr Timothy Hallchurch MBE

 ‘Weston – Otmoor eco-town.  Council asks the Cabinet to give careful consideration to:

·         the impact of the proposed eco-town of 35,000 people on the successful economic development of Bicester

·         the impact of the proposed eco-town on the transport network especially congestion on the A34 and M40 at J9 and minor roads and lanes in the area.

·         whether the proposed  new railway station, tram system and modifications to the M40 J6 are affordable and will provide the benefits claimed by the developer.

·         the impact of the proposed eco-town on Oxford’s Green Belt as a quarter of the proposed site will be within the Green Belt.

·         whether the proposed eco-town is environmentally sustainable when it seems inevitable that there will be substantial traffic growth.

·         the impact of concreting over 2000 acres of farm land to the flooding threat.

·         the impact on the loss of wildlife habitats as part of the proposed development includes Woodsides Meadow Nature Reserve, and other meadows owned and managed by BBOWT.

·         the fact that Oxfordshire has had restrictions on water use, how will the eco-town impact on the water supply and  to other services such as sewage and electricity

·         the impact on Oxfordshire schooling, hospitals, library services,  social services ,waste collection and disposal and other services provided by the local authorities. 

The council also deplores the lack of consultation  with Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council and other bodies by the Government before they short listed the proposed Weston-Otmoor eco-town. ‘

We are restricted to 250 words and must obey the Council Rules which restricts me from proposing a plain rejection.

The motion was carried with support of all political groups except the Labour Group.


Cherwell hosts eco town meeting with housing minister and Bicester residents

I met the Housing minister Margaret Beckett along with residents of Bicester and surrounding parishes to discuss the potential eco town concept proposed by Cherwell District Council, at Bicester Country Club, on Thursday 5 March 2009.

Part of the Government's consultation exercise into the viability of proposed eco towns, the meeting gave local representatives the opportunity to voice their concerns and hear from the minister direct.

Cherwell's concept, to consider building an eco settlement on the north west edge of Bicester, was suggested as an alternative to the proposed eco town, which could be built at Weston on Otmoor.

image depicting Jpg of Margaret Beckett and Barry Wood re Bicester eco town

The council invited Mrs Beckett to meet with representative from Caversfield, Bucknell and Chesterton, as well as district councillors from wards covering those parishes, the Weston Front and other interest groups, including Bicester Vision.

Councillors from Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County Council also spent time with the minister discussing the options for north west Bicester.

Councillor Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, hosted the meetings, which he believes were valuable.

He explains, "The meetings were an opportunity to discuss eco town ideas and concerns with the person who will ultimately make the decision over where they are located. Mrs Beckett will no doubt consider what she saw and heard when she makes her decisions.

Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County Councils remains opposed to the proposal to build an eco town Weston on Otmoor. The meeting gave us another opportunity to explain why we think the Weston plan would be bad news for Bicester and to suggest a potential alternative."

Anyone who would like to comment on the government's eco towns proposal has until the April 30 to make their views known. More information is available from

Mrs Beckett is expected to make decisions on the location of eco towns in the UK in June or July 2009.



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Otmoor main site


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