Design Review challenged the thinking... and led to improvements to the emerging masterplan.

Jenny Barker, Cherwell District Council, Client team

The development of an eco-town in North West Bicester set ambitious goals for a new sustainable community. Cabe’s Design Review panel has been involved since the early stages of the masterplan in 2010, raising design ambitions and ensuring that the vision and execution of the project set an exemplary standard for a new kind of eco-development.

The project

NW Bicester is one of four government-designated eco-towns announced in 2008. The masterplan by Farrells Architects includes 6,000 zero-carbon homes with a good mix of affordable housing as well as infrastructure, schools and leisure facilities. In the Exemplar phase, the developers are building 393 zero carbon homes, a primary school, a local shop, an eco-pub and a community centre.

The Design Review panel ensured that this trial phase lived up to the high expectations - namely, allowing residents to live a truly sustainable lifestyle -  while delivering exemplary design that set the standard for the rest of the development.

The challenge

It's imperative that Bicester’s eco-town doesn't feel gimmicky or unnatural. It has to be a place that people genuinely want to live. The challenge facing the client was to make sure that the new development still felt part of the existing town of Bicester and integrated into the surrounding countryside - while delivering all of their design and sustainability ambitions.

The project aspires to:

  • Ensure Britain’s first eco-town succeeds and thrives
  • Make sure the scheme’s design enhances the natural surroundings
  • Limit negative impact of cars by increasing strong public transport links

Design Reviews helped the client to achieve the high quality of design required in the context of the EcoTown.

Gary Young, Farrells Architects


Cabe’s Design Review panel took a "critical friend" approach, working with the local authority to push excellence and sustainability in the scheme, from increasing housing density to improving the use of greenspace.

By challenging the developer to limit the dominance of cars, they strengthened the eco-credentials of the scheme. The panel emphasised the need to integrate amenities with the surrounding area so both residents and local communities could share in them, making the town far more than an isolated estate. It was essential that, along with the immense sustainability ambition, the project deliver the level of design innovation required. For example, the panel advised integrating the watercourse and village green more to provide “a useable and magical resource for children”.
Work has started on site and the first residents will start to move into their homes in 2015.


For more information please contact:

Cabe Design Review

Find out more about Cabe's Design Review service and how it can add value to your scheme.  

Cabe Design Review

News & opinion

Design Review: The Old Vinyl Factory An exclusive look at the process to reveal how Design Review brings true value to new architectural schemes. An exclusive look at the process to reveal how Design Review brings true value to new architectural schemes.

Feature — 30/07/2016

Applications Closed: Design Council recruits for a new network of experts! Building on the success of our long-standing built environment expert network, Design Council is now looking to bring in a wider range of active leaders and change-makers – from various professions, backgrounds and localities – to join a refreshed network of experts. We are acutely aware that the design and built environment sectors lack diversity.

News — 26/11/2020

Inclusive Design: Beyond Accessibility What does it mean to feel excluded? Imagine for a moment you use a wheelchair. You try to take the train to work – but the lift at the train station hasn't been maintained and you can't access the platform. What does it mean to feel excluded? Imagine for a moment you use a wheelchair.

Feature — 28/10/2019