Blog: SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - Bicester Heritage

13 May 2021

sponsored by Artelia Group

Bicester Heritage (submitted by Bicester Motion)

Conservation & Regeneration SECBE Award 2021 Winner

The former RAF Bicester site was acquired by Bicester Motion in 2013 in a state of severe decay, but with the intention to create the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for historic motoring enterprise named Bicester Heritage, set within the historic buildings of this time-warp location.

RAF Bicester was considered by Historic England to be the most ‘At Risk’ of all Defence Estates in the UK, with the entire aerodrome designated a Conservation Area containing eleven areas of Scheduled Ancient Monuments and nineteen Grade II Listed buildings. It is regarded as the best-preserved WW2 Bomber Station in the country, however, after nearly forty years of neglect, the derelict base was in dire need of attention.

Bicester Motion set about a considered strategic regeneration and planning programme, resulting in the protection and re-purposing of the national heritage asset as well as the creation of a business eco-system and cluster for the historic motoring sector, providing a viable future for this unique location. Over forty specialist businesses now operate from the fifty 1920s-30s buildings (300,000+ ft2), with a collective annual turnover of £40m+ making the Bicester Heritage business campus the focal point for the UK’s £18.8bn historic motoring industry. It has also acted as a blockbuster film backdrop, appearing as a location in The Imitation Game and Darkest Hour, among many other shoots.

Facilities include a 50,000 ft2 indoor events venue in a 1936 C Type Hangar, an automotive test track offering young driver training and an active airfield complete with historic aircraft. The entire site is regularly made accessible to the public as a nationally recognised culture, events and tourism venue. For historic vehicle owners, it is regarded as a one-stop-shop and for the industry, and it represents the future, with over 100 apprentices in training.

The initial planning phases of the regeneration of Bicester Heritage were implemented through a partnership approach and a Heritage Partnership Agreement, a first of its kind developed in collaboration with Cherwell District Council, Historic England and Bicester Heritage. The latter phases have been delivered through individual planning applications, but crucially in a continued collaborative approach, using the pre-application process to achieve shared positive outcomes for the heritage asset and the surrounding community.

Such is the success of the Bicester Heritage that each restoration phase has been fully let, resulting in a constant demand for new commercial space for incoming specialist businesses. With every viable historic structure restored or reactivated, Bicester Heritage required new, larger buildings to meet demand. Thus, the conception and recent delivery of The Command Works as a contemporary extension to the historic ‘Technical Site’ - representing the first significant new-build construction in eighty years and a milestone in the location’s history.

The eight new buildings were delivered in eighteen months, from unanimous planning approval to practical completion and new specialist businesses are now collecting their keys. From the largest organiser of international endurance rally events to the governing body of British Motorsport, a new part of this historic location is bursting into life.

Key facts:

  • Bicester Heritage has saved a site of national historic importance, once ‘At Risk’ of inappropriate development and created a home for a sustainable, thriving modern business and technology campus that is now regarded a ‘national exemplar of constructive conservation’ by Historic England.
  • Bicester Heritage has created a vibrant focal point for an industry, generating employment, encouraging skills transfer and a viable future for historic motoring technology and events through diligent architectural regeneration and sensitive development.
  • Bicester Heritage has seamlessly integrated efficient modern commercial premises within a protected historic site, successfully adding to the location’s architectural story and atmosphere, whilst encouraging exponential commercial growth.

  • Client: Bicester Heritage
  • Project Partners: Bicester Motion, Ridge & Partners LLP, IKS Consulting, Buckingham Group, Worlledge Associates, Edgars and ASA Landscape Architects

About the Conservation & Regeneration Award: 

The conservation or rehabilitation of old or historic buildings and sites is often an important part of neighbourhood revitalisation, providing physical and psychological focus for the community and creating jobs and investment opportunities. Construction work that involves the conservation and regeneration of historic buildings requires great care and specialist skills and techniques.  More info.

Find out who wins at the Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards 2021 Summit & Awards Ceremony on Thurs 1st July 2021. Free attendance.

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