THE Bicester eco town project has been given a £1.3m boost to test technology that will make homes more environmentally sustainable in the future.

The cash will fund research and development of the building process of the first phase of North West Bicester’s 5,000 home eco town.

The first phase — 393 homes, a pub, shops, a nursery and eco-business centre — is expected to start soon, on land sold by the Phipps family, off Banbury Road.

It is hoped the knowledge gained from the development of the eco town will be used for future house building.

A grant of £668,091 from the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, was match-funded by the consortium partners, including A2 Dominion.

Sustainability consultants BioRegional, Cherwell District Council and A2Dominion will manage the four-year project.

Project director Steve Hornblow, of A2 Dominion, said: “This funding allows us to use the exemplar phase as a working model that can define and improve construction techniques to provide collective knowledge and lessons for wider adoption.”

As people move into the homes, which could be as early as next summer, they will be able to test methods used in the construction for insulation, energy usage and carbon production.

Mr Hornblow added: “NW Bicester is already a flagship scheme, not least in the environmental, social and economic benefits provided for existing and new residents of Bicester, but this funding will guarantee a legacy for the project that will extend beyond the reaches of Bicester itself.”

Michael Gibbard, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said: “This funding means lessons can be learnt from the build process that can help to ensure future developments are built to higher standards, providing comfortable homes and reduced bills.”