BICESTER is “bucking the economic trend” and it is boom in the town instead of gloom.
That view comes as a string of multi-million pound initiatives are either underway or in the process of getting started.
Rail links will improve dramatically over the next few years, and the town’s population is set to increase by 20,000 within 20 years.
Chiltern Railways is waiting for permission to press ahead with its Oxford/London link via Bicester – cutting the journey between Bicester and Oxford to just 14 minutes. And the East West rail link – linking Bicester and Oxford with Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire – could be open by 2017.
But transport is not the town’s only success story. The face of retail and housing is changing fast.
This week supermarket chain Aldi opened its doors in Launton Road, following hot on the heels of hardware firm Wilkinson, who took a prime town centre spot, and Lidl.
A Premier Inn hotel is also waiting for planning approval for land on Kingsmere.
And Unipart Automotive is set to move its operation from Cowley to Bicester later this year.
Construction of the new £70m town centre, which will include a Sainsbury’s and a cinema, is under way and expected to open next summer.
Cherwell District Council’s executive member for estates Norman Bolster said: “There is a lot going on in Bicester and it is showing signs of bucking the trend. Bicester is now on most people’s maps. There is a tipping point in all these things and I think we have reached it. We have got large retailers and businesses interested in the town.”
Over the next 20 years 5,000 homes will be built at North West Bicester, creating one of only four eco towns in the country. A total of 1,593 homes will be built at Kingsmere, off Oxford and Middleton Stoney roads, a further 500 at Gavray Drive Langford Village, and potentially 1,900 at surplus MOD land at Graven Hill.
Ben Jackson, chairman of Bicester and District Chamber of Commerce, said: “The attraction of Bicester is quite possibly built on the combination of its location and connectivity.”
Jon Russell opened a hair and day spa in Market Square just before Christmas and said business was thriving. He said: “The reason I opened in Bicester is there is a huge market for good service.”
Estate agent Matthew Fleming, of Barton Fleming, in North Street, said: “I would say the value we are selling houses for has risen slightly since the beginning of this year.
“There is certainly more demand than last year and I think that’s down to the town centre re-development starting.”
- NHS Oxfordshire has just revealed plans for its £5m new hospital.
- Unipart Automotive is set to move its headquarters from Cowley to Bicester in September.
- Industrial estate Murdock Road is undergoing refurbishment.
- There are plans to create a Bomber Command Heritage Centre at the former RAF Bicester airfield. Fundraising has been launched, but the MOD has yet to sell the land.
- Education leaders have made a bid for Government funding for Bicester University Technical College.
- Designer outlet Bicester Village, employing about 1,000 people, has become one of the UK’s top attractions, second only to Alton Towers.