The UK’s first eco-town

Elmsbrook is a 393-home One Planet Living community, and the first phase of the eco-town North West (NW) Bicester. Once complete, NW Bicester will be a 6,000-home extension to the market town of Bicester, with highly sustainable homes plus workplaces, schools, community facilities and abundant green space.

It is the only development to be built to the original high sustainability standards outlined in the UK’s official government Eco Towns Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 2009. The policy was scrapped in 2015.

Bioregional got involved with the eco-town process in 2008 when our CEO Sue Riddlestone OBE sat on its advisory panel, helping to define the standards for the PPS. Following this work, Bioregional started working with NW Bicester’s lead developer A2Dominion and the planning authority, Cherwell District Council, to help deliver the exemplar phase of the eco-town.

Working across the traditional planning divide, Bioregional took a collaborative approach to understanding the PPS standards and developing the strategies to deliver them. Bioregional provided advice on energy, waste, water, landscape, transport, green space and nature, and employment strategies. Bioregional has also helped deliver sustainability benefits across the wider town by working with the local authority and other organisations through the Eco-Bicester initiative.

Take a tour of Elmsbrook with our Senior Project Officer, Hannah Scott

What makes a One Planet Living community?

Bioregional helped A2Dominion to prepare an ambitious sustainability action plan for Elmsbrook using the One Planet Living framework, which Bioregional endorsed in 2012.

Construction of Elmsbrook began in spring 2014, with the first residents moving in mid-2016. With a local office nearby in Bicester, Bioregional Oxfordshire worked with A2Dominion during the first phase to ensure it fulfilled its sustainability promises. The 393-home One Planet Living community includes a primary school, community centre, the UK’s first Passivhaus Plus eco-business centre, and local neighbourhood shops, creating a village feel.

  • All homes are built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 incorporating triple glazing, rainwater harvesting and water recycling.
  • Electricity is generated from PV solar panels on every home (34 square metres per property on average) which, when complete, will make this the UK’s largest residential solar array.
  • Heat and hot water come from the community’s own combined heat and power plant. The ambition is to eventually use waste heat from the existing Ardley energy-from-waste facility nearby.
  • With cycle and pedestrian routes, a bus stop within 400 metres of every home, live timetable updates in each home, charging points for electric vehicles and an electric car club, residents are being encouraged to adopt sustainable modes of travel.

Design for a changing climate

Like communities everywhere, Elmsbrook and the rest of NW Bicester will have to cope with a changing climate. Funded by Innovate UK (the UK's innovation agency) and working with the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development, Farrells and PRP Architects, we’ve shown how the super-insulated, well-sealed homes at Elmsbrook will avoid overheating in the hotter summers and longer, more frequent heatwaves that are coming. Shading from trees and appropriate orientation will also be used to keep homes cool. As a result of this work, a planning condition set by Cherwell District Council will require all homes in the One Planet Living community to be designed to adapt to forecast climate change.

84%
lower carbon emissions compared to the average UK household (894 kgCO2 vs 5,424 kgCO2)
74%
lower carbon emissions compared to the average UK newbuild (3,500 kgCO2)
29%
less electricity used compared to an average Bicester household
64%
lower heating demand compared to the UK average
Join Lewis Knight, our Head of Sustainable Places, for a tour of Elmsbrook with Alter Vego

Zero carbon energy
The development as a whole was designed to be zero carbon at the time it was built

Health and happiness
In a survey, 83% of residents said they feel healthy or very healthy compared to the national average of 57.8%

Equity and local economy
Lower bills: Residents saved an average of £400 on electricity and heating and hot water bills compared to their Bicester neighbours.

Sustainable water
Elmsbrook residents used 83 litres of water per person per day. On average 54% of households in Elmsbrook meet their water-use targets of 80 litres per-person-per-day through water-efficient design measures, compared to the UK average of 150 litres per-person-per-day

One Planet Living is our vision of a world where we can live happily within the Earth’s resources, and a straightforward framework to achieve this
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Patrick Clift
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