CONSTRUCTION has begun on an EU-funded office block in Bicester.

'Perch' is one of two new 'co-working' spaces being built in the town by Cherwell District Council with finance from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Both will provide entrepreneurs will free business support and aim to provide 'networking' opportunities.

The £4m, 1,400sq m Perch building on the Elmsbrook estate has benefitted from £175,000 ERDF cash.

It will span three floors and accommodate up to 125 people.

The council said it would be 'unique' in providing office space for individuals and small businesses in a 'highly-sustainable building'.

It also said the block met the standards of the 6,000-home North West Bicester Eco Town, of which Elmsbrook makes up the first 393 homes.

Architect practice Architype, which designed the building said: "In synergy with the pioneering eco town's master-plan, the business centre will be exemplar in sustainable architecture and construction and has been designed to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating."

The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), established by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in 1990, describes itself as 'the world's leading sustainability assessment method for buildings'.

Cherwell District Council lead member for estates Lynn Pratt said: "Cherwell is fully-committed to investing in new projects that have a strong social, economic and environmental impact.

"This building has been carefully designed to maximise natural resources, provide a healthy environment, and to be as energy efficient as possible."

The council said Perch benefited from being in an 'accessible area where people can travel to work in sustainable ways, either on foot, by bike or public transport', meaning the use of private cars would be reduced.

Kier construction, which is building the block, said it was 'exciting and innovative'.

Operations director Ben Ramsay said: "Our focus is now to build and integrate the concept seamlessly into the new Bicester Eco Town.

"We will be engaging with the local community to ensure our construction activities are well communicated and that we create opportunities to contribute back into the area."

The company also said it was using a 'fabric-first' approach to create a building that was well insulated to reduce heat loss during the winter, and 'combining natural and mechanical ventilation' bring in fresh air throughout the year.

Rooftop solar panels will also be installed, and the smart design will help minimise energy and water consumption.