New Plans for our Oxfordshire Neighbour
2nd December 2014
Listening to Radio 4's Today programme each morning, I often hear the name of Oxford mentioned, even if only in the credentials of some learned commentator, brought in in an attempt to add academic rigour to one of the day's hot topics. However, this morning, our close neighbour Bicester received the publicity, thanks to an announcement that it is going to receive the accolade - and investment - of Garden City status. There's more on the BBC website.
Wikipedia tells us that the Garden City movement was pioneered in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard, a name I have to confess was unfamiliar to me before today. The first Garden City, Letchworth, was founded at the start of the twentieth century, mainly with private funding. The second was Welwyn, the only other Garden City to come into existence before the Second World War. However, the New Towns Act 1946 brought about government involvement and the movement made significant advances both in the UK and elsewhere around the world.
Bicester is to have government support (good) and 13,000 new homes (also good?) as part of this transformation. Those of us who use (and very much approve of) Chiltern Railways are already appreciative of the creation or resurrection of railway links around Oxfordshire, and will be gratified to hear that, as part of the process, Bicester also will get a new station. If the planners are true to the principles of the Garden City movement, there will also be plenty of green space in the revamped conurbation.
Should we be optimistic? Time will tell. I certainly would not like to guess whether, in a couple of decades' time, the good people of Bicester will be blessing or cursing the name of Sir Ebenezer Howard.