Five years after it began a major regeneration project at the derelict former RAF Bicester and creating Bicester Heritage, a home for motoring past, present and future, the organisation is pushing forward to the next stage in its vision to create the world’s leading automotive leisure destination at its 425 acre prime Oxfordshire location.
Designed by Dexter Moren, a full planning application has been submitted for a five-storey 344-room hotel to be built adjacent to, and on the same footprint as, an existing 1936 C-Type hangar, with the intention that this new development contributes to regional employment, economy, tourism and amenities, says the company.
Bicester Heritage says the conservation-led development would further deliver on the Cherwell Local Plan Tourism Development designation for the site, first laid out in 2011 and adopted in 2015, where the former RAF Bicester site is identified for Strategic Development.
The planning permission cites a hotel with 252 guestrooms and 92 aparthotel rooms for a total of 344 keys on an approximately 5,200 square metre footprint.
The entire facility will have a total floor area of around 18,500 square metres. A five-storey atrium has been designed to showcase automotive themed exhibitions and displays, as well as offering conferencing and events opportunities with ballroom and meeting rooms. An internal courtyard will also add green space within the structure.
Subtle details, such as the expanded steel mesh covering the curve of the building in homage to RAF Bicester’s past as a camouflage training centre, keep the contemporary design in tune with the incredible heritage of the site, with the overall structure also follows the lines of adjacent hangars.
A 300 cover restaurant with bar and terrace will sit on the ground floor alongside leisure facilities including gym, swimming pool and sauna, with children’s areas for family visitors. Alongside planned Bicester Heritage facilities, including private recreational driver’s circuit, 77-acre country park and OEM brand centre, this hotel will give visitors and locals more time to enjoy all that the site has to offer.
Several international operators have already expressed interest in the scheme, with the location offering a landmark opportunity to operate a flagship hotel and conference facility within a 425-acre automotive resort environment. It benefits from being at the heart of the Oxfordshire tourism economy but also international business, particularly Formula One and automotive.
Bicester is one of the fastest growing towns in Europe, accessible in under an hour from London by car and train. As the gateway to the Cotswolds, it is in close proximity to Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Waddesdon Manor and Stowe Gardens. The addition of a high-end hotel of scale to the area will boost tourism and increase dwell time to the area.
Dan Geoghegan, Managing Director of Bicester Heritage, said: “There is a significant gap in the market for a large hotel with meaningful conferencing facilities to take advantage of the industry-leading tourism and business landscape here, this scheme grasps that opportunity.”
“Alongside business visitors, around 7.6 million tourists visit Bicester – and 29 million to Oxfordshire – annually, but have very limited accommodation choices.”
Designer Dexter Moren said “We are thrilled to have been selected to design a landmark hotel within a former RAF base. The design objective has been to respond in a contemporary manner to the site’s rich and unique story, drawing inspiration from its historic position at the forefront of aviation, engineering, and innovation while complementing the existing period buildings.”