New centre for motoring skills and technology proposed

A new venue for motoring days out could be coming to north Bicester under plans for the former RAF airfield.

Published: Tuesday, 18th January 2022

Cherwell District Council’s planning committee resolved to grant outline permission for ‘The Experience Quarter’ at a meeting on Thursday 13 January. The plans include a series of exhibition centres, viewing points, and test circuits for use by motoring and aviation brands.

The applicants say it would be used to showcase new technologies to the public and to promote skills and education.

Councillor Colin Clarke, Lead Member for Planning, said: “The plan for a new experience centre at RAF Bicester is being put forward by the operators of Bicester Heritage, which has been central to the successful conservation and regeneration of the site for a number of years. This is something the council supports and wishes to see continue, particularly when it builds on Bicester’s rich links, both past and present, to the motor industry.

“This plan for exhibition centres could bring many skilled jobs with it and attract further tourism to the town. The plans are currently at an outline stage and, as they progress, we will be looking to see high quality development that respects and improves the historic environment of the airfield.”

The former air base is the UK’s best preserved RAF bomber station and it was designated a conservation area in 2002. It was then included in the council’s adopted Local Plan, for the purposes of conservation-led regeneration.

The application focuses on land to the north of the main airfield, with a single building or series of buildings arranged in a ‘V’ shape. But it also features new walkways and cycleways to connect the different areas of the airfield, including the existing Bicester Heritage facilities, and to allow people to explore.

In 2021, The Command Works area of Bicester Heritage was commended in the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence, with judges recognising the role of council planners in protecting and enhancing the site.

Before the planning permission can be issued, conditions are to be drawn up that will ensure a suitable noise management plan will be in place to protect local residents.

As the planning application is at outline stage, a ‘reserved matters’ application will also need to be received and determined before any work can begin. This would detail the design and layout of the new facilities. However, the application approved on 13 January includes parameter plans that set the maximum developable area for the new buildings, as well as their maximum height.

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