An eco-conscious councillor has argued that if a housing developer wins its appeal and builds houses that do not meet the environmental standards of Bicester’s ecotown, then “we all lose.”

Councillor John Broad said: “The ecotown is supposed to be held to the highest environmental building standards, any houses built there must meet these requirements.”

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Mr Broad’s comments follow an appeal hearing with Firethorn Developments Ltd, who had previously had an application to build 530 houses within the perimeter of Elmsbrook, northwest Bicester’s ecotown, rejected by Cherwell’s planning committee.

One householder in the ecotown, Robert Fellows, who spoke on behalf of a committee concerned about the development, said that originally the developer had not shared how it would achieve zero carbon, or what proportion of its process would use carbon offsetting.

However, Mr Fellows added: “One day before the appeal began, Firethorn reversed this position and said it promised to meet zero carbon without the use of any carbon offsetting.

“This is a very positive thing. But we still don’t think they did enough in terms of showing how they would meet their zero carbon promise.”

At present, Elmsbrook is a 393-home development that is the first phase of a much larger planned ecotown.

Mr Broad said: “There are eventually supposed to be 7,000 houses in the ecotown, as stated in the local plan, but all the developers will be watching this appeal hearing, so we need to make sure we hold Firethorn to the high eco standards Elmsbrook deserves.

“The government started ecotowns a few years ago, but they all got wiped out. Bicester is the only one left. We embraced the idea in Bicester and this ecotown should be our gold standard.

“If developers think the requirements for sustainability can be knocked down, and they can build not to a very high eco standard, then they’ll be on Elmsbrook like a shot, and we’ll all lose.”

When asked whether it is possible for developers to build homes to high eco standards and still make a profit, James Pritchett, comms manager at Greencore, a company in Bicester that builds ‘climate positive’ homes, said: “It is absolutely possible.

“It’s possible to be doing a hell of a lot better than people are now. We’re proving this by doing what we’re doing now.”

Mr Pritchett explained that Greencore is able to build climate positive homes because it targets the whole structure of the home, using sustainable materials like wood fibre and building closed timber framed panel systems.

“We make sure our homes are airtight, powered by electricity rather than gas and utilize renewable energy sources.”

Firethorn have declined to comment at this time.


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

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