Shaping the UK’s First Eco-Town

Bioregional Oxfordshire supported the development of Elmsbrook, the UK’s first eco-town, in North West Bicester.

Our story

Bioregional is an environmental consultancy, charity, and social enterprise that works with communities around the world to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. Following the development of the UK’s first large-scale sustainable development – BedZED – in Sutton and a pioneering One Planet Community in Brighton, we partnered with developer A2 Dominion and Cherwell District Council to help shape the UK’s first eco-town.

North West Bicester is a sustainable eco-town made up of 6000 homes alongside workplaces, schools, community facilities, and green spaces. It is the only development built to the high sustainability standards outlined in the UK’s official government Eco Towns Planning Policy Statement (PPS), before this policy was cancelled in 2015.

Bioregional CEO Sue Riddlestone sat on the original advisory panel defining standards for the Eco Towns PPS before we began to work with A2 Dominion and Cherwell District Council to support the planning and delivery of the eco-town at North West Bicester. We collaborated across the project, providing expert advice on energy, waste, water, landscape, transport, green space, nature, and employment.

As part of the eco-town development, Bioregional supported A2 Dominion to shape Elmsbrook – a 393-home One Planet Community that represented the first phase of the new eco-town. We helped the developer to create a sustainable action plan using the One Planet Living ® framework.

This is a truly zero-carbon development with all the homes at Elmsbrook built to Sustainable Homes Level 5 Code, with triple glazing, rainwater harvesting, and solar panels. Cycle, pedestrian, and public transport routes are central to the community, with no home being built more than 400m from a bus stop.

Our work at North West Bicester also led to the development of our Building Energy Performance Improvement Toolkit (BEPIT). This toolkit helps developers to manage risk and improve the quality of new-build developments, closing the performance gap between predicted energy savings and what is actually achieved.

Our advice

Use our One Planet Living ® Framework – The framework is free for anyone to use under licence and includes goals and guidance for lots of different types and scales of project. Developers can also make their project a One Planet Living ® development by publishing an action plan that outlines how they will reach the goals outlined in the framework. There is lots of detailed information available around this on our website: https://www.bioregional.com/one-planet-living

Involve all the stakeholders in the design process – It’s important to get everyone involved at a community level and understand their needs and goals. It really needs to be a very consultative and bottom-up process.

Ask us for advice – Bioregional provides consultancy and advisory services whether you need help drafting your action plans or technical support. If you are planning a new development, you can reach out for expertise and insights.

Our metrics

  • Energy savings
  • Ongoing development performance
  • Carbon emissions
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Houses and allotments in Elmsbrook
Primary school in Elmsbrook
Natural space near Elmsbrook