This article originally appeared in The Herald Newspaper on 14th March 2018.
Didcot is changing. Didcot is growing. None of this is new news of course, but how do you go about making sure those changes are for the best? How do you ensure a growing town becomes a better place to live? The Didcot Garden Town project aims to do just that. It has set out principles to bring visionary science and advanced technologies and to create new and protect existing green spaces.
Since the Didcot Garden Town Delivery Plan was published last year, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils have been working hard to introduce various projects that introduce these principles. Working with stakeholders, businesses and developers the district council has submitted an application to government for a detailed feasibility study into building heat networks throughout the Didcot Garden Town and Science Vale area. Heat networks use a central energy source to distribute the heat through underground pipes to other buildings in the area. They are a reliable and cost-effective way to provide heating that can reduce pollution. One potential heat network could use waste heat from Didcot B Power Station to heat buildings on a new business parks and public buildings with the garden town. Other possible schemes could be introduced at Culham Science Centre and Harwell.
Another technology project recently received £2.3 million from Innovative UK for a trial of autonomous vehicles to run from Didcot Parkway to Milton Park. This is a public and private scheme, which aims to provide an electronic driverless shuttle service between the two sites to reduce traffic and improve air quality. With traffic increasing in the town, the district council have completed a base model to create various scenarios that show the impact of future development on traffic flows in and around Didcot. This will provide developers and planners the necessary information to relieve problems in the future.
A cross-council growth deal and infrastructure bids to government have recently been submitted. These could see major infrastructure projects such as a new Science Bridge that helps traffic to go around the A4130 instead of going through Didcot, a Didcot to Culham link road and improved cycle networks around the town. We should find out if the funds are allocated in the next few months. A pilot study on green spaces around the garden town has been started. The results of the study will define green buffer zones for the garden town development plans and help protect open spaces and pedestrian routes around the whole garden town area.
Throughout the South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Council’s region Science Vale UK provides the perfect location for local businesses. New offices, laboratories and warehouses are being built and planned at Harwell Campus, Culham Science Centre and Milton Park that can accommodate the smallest of organisations such as new start-ups all the way to large established corporations such as The Rosalind Franklin Institute who are set to move here. The unique business environment of the Science Vale hosts ground-breaking organisations in space science, life science and advanced engineering. Industries are supported by two enterprise zones that offer discounts on business rates – making a saving of up to £55,000 per year for five years. This encourages business growth and helps to create the anticipated 20,000 new jobs by 2031. More information, and an excellent video, can be found at www.sciencevale.com.