THE proposed Weston Otmoor eco-town would have a damaging impact in Kidlington and Bicester if it was built, says an independent assessment published today.
Major development schemes and even spending on schools could all be threatened if faced with competition from the new town near the A34/M40 junction, according to the Government-funded study.
The report into the likely economic and social impact of creating the 15,000-home settlement near Weston-on-the-Green was commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government,
Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council and the South East
England Development Agency.
Its conclusion that Weston Otmoor would adversely affect its two biggest neighbours could prove crucial as the eco-town selection process enters a key phase, with the final shortlist expected in
The report by consultants Arup said Weston Otmoor would compete with Bicester and Kidlington, rather than complement their future growth and prosperity.
“The scale of growth envisaged at the eco-town must mean that it will both absorb and displace growth,” says the report, with new leisure facilities and job opportunities planned for Bicester at
It says: “Most recently there have been tentative signs that Bicester is reaching a turning point in its economic fortunes, with significant new developments in the pipeline including new business
space and leisure facilities. It is these improved fortunes that are potentially most vulnerable to the eco-town, or other developments north of Oxford.
“The scale and proximity of Weston Otmoor to Bicester may have a destabilising effect on Bicester’s local primary care services, as it would directly compete for investment and may have
implications for new infrastructure already planned for Bicester.”
Cherwell council leader Barry Wood said: “We have said Weston Otmoor was bad news for Bicester right from the start. This report clearly concludes that there will be a negative impact on both the
economy and quality of life.”
Parkridge, the company behind the eco-town, said the report failed to recognise the positive contributions it would make to the economy, including an East-West rail link and improvements to
junction 9 of the M40, at Wendlebury.
Director Roger Sporle said: “The report draws no conclusions about the significant investment that we will make in public transport and how this will benefit not just the residents of Weston Otmoor
but also existing communities in Bicester and the wider area.
“It is our firm view that Weston Otmoor will support, and indeed enhance, the economic development and prosperity of Bicester, Kidlington, Oxford and the wider region.”
County council leader Keith Mitchell said: “It comes as no surprise to me that this report has confirmed that the impact on Bicester, as well as Kidlington, would be disastrous. This report
represents yet another real blow for the proposal."