THE first contractors in the multi-million Bicester eco town development have been appointed, sparking a row with green campaigners.
A deal to supply windows to almost 400 homes has run into controversy after it was revealed they are manufactured in Poland.
While supplier Rationel Windows has a base at Bicester’s Avonbury Business Park, its manufacturing is carried out in Gdansk.
Susanne Austin, co-founder of the Bicester-based Oxfordshire Green Construction network, said: “It is true to say that Rationel have a UK office based in Bicester – however their head office is based in Denmark and production is in Gdansk, Poland.
“Is this truly local or is it more truthful to seek a more local alternative or a similar product with fewer carbon miles?
“This project is groundbreaking and many are watching. The talk must match the walk, otherwise this project will create great disappointment and do an incredible amount of damage to people’s trust and belief in what is being presented to them.”
Bosses at NW Bicester, the organisation set up to oversee the project, insist that while the windows are made abroad, the order for an undisclosed sum secures 27 jobs in Bicester controlling Rationel’s sales, maintenance and fitting.
Steve Hornblow, NW Bicester project director, said: “We are wholly committed to using local companies and want as many as possible to get involved in this unique scheme.
“Companies are prioritised on their ability to demonstrate a local connection and their ability to supply an exceptional product or service at a competitive price.”
Neil Brooks, sales manager from Rationel, said: “Being a Bicester resident myself, I have been aware of the project from the start and we now look forward to seeing the development begin to take shape using our products.”
Rationel and Witney-based Stewart Milne Timber Systems are the first suppliers to be appointed by contractor Willmott Dixon and developer A2Dominion for the initial phase of the eco town, off Banbury Road, North West Bicester, and work is now under way.
Stewart Milne will provide the timber frame shell for the 393 energy efficient homes. Four phases of construction will be rolled out over five years with a database of local suppliers and contractors being developed.
Charlie Scherer, chief operating officer for Willmott Dixon Housing. said: “Supporting the local pound is a key part of our ethos and with A2Dominion’s investment to create the UK’s first eco town providing a huge boost to the local economy, we want to ensure local companies benefit by working on the project.”
An event giving businesses the chance to speak to the project team and find out more about opportunities to get involved will take place on Wednesday at the John Paul II Centre at Webb Court, Causeway, Bicester, from 8am-3pm.