RESIDENTS are concerned that green spaces are being lost to developments despite Bicester being made a ‘garden town’.
The town is facing huge growth and open spaces are being snapped up by developers, which campaigners feel is against the premise of garden town status.
Calls are being made for more to be done to protect “precious spaces”.
Sites in the firing line have included a wetland meadow in Gavray Drive, where developers recently proposed to build 300 new homes.
Resident and community action group Grassroots Bicester member Pam Roberts said: “It is essential our green space is kept for the health of people as well as the health of wildlife. People need space to walk and breathe as the town gets bigger and bigger.
“The wildlife also needs to be able to move around and when you block off the wildlife crossing like the building proposed for Gavray Drive, it will pinch this off. Wildlife will not be able to migrate. We will end up with little pockets of wildlife which will not be able to move around.”
Plans to build at Gavray Drive have been scaled back from 500 homes to 300 and developer Locke Associates has said it will not build on the wildlife site. It is the area surrounding this where homes are proposed and Locke has argued a “balanced approach” to development is being made in accordance with the Local Plan.
Dr Roberts added: “When Bicester is being made a Garden Town, it does not make sense to be building on green spaces yet having lovely developments with open spaces on the outside of town.”
Garden cities were first developed in the early 20th century and designed to combine open green spaces with large numbers of homes, plus good transport links. Nick Clegg announced last year Bicester would become a garden town, following Ebbsfleet, in a bid to tackle the country’s housing shortage in a sustainable way.
The 2011 Census recorded that the population in Bicester had grown seven per cent in 10 years from 28,672 to 30,854 and the recently adopted Local Plan reports this figure is expected to rise by approximately 10,000 in another 11 years.
North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis said: “I am very excited to be able to watch Bicester continue to blossom into a garden town. What is important in strategic development is ensuring we give due attention to the importance of green and amenity spaces, among our homes, shops and community buildings.”
Lead eco-town developer A2Dominion’s Louise Caves added: “Forty per cent of NW Bicester is designated green space to promote healthy and outdoor lifestyles.”