In the run-up to World War II, it was the pride of the RAF. Supermarine Spitfires and Bristol Blenheims were stationed here and the prototype of the Handley Page Halifax, an Avro Lancaster rival, made its first flight here in 1938.

Prince Charles learned to fly a glider here and the Queen came in 1965 to inspect what was by then a busy unit of aircraft and transport maintenance. Flying stopped in 1976.

It’s the biggest and best-developed Quarter at present, but Heritage is only part of it. Elsewhere, modern architecture and planning is much more in evidence. In the south-east, the Innovation Centre will encourage mobility businesses involved in future tech, housing them in “high-performance” buildings to match. Construction is just starting, but interest from potential occupants who like Bicester’s history-meets-the-future narrative has been strong.

Geoghegan enjoys pointing out Bicester’s long association with cutting-edge tech. “The original idea for this place was that it would be an important technical centre for the nation,” he explains. “We had done steam, we were developing petrol and right here we were developing aircraft and flying. Given Bicester started as a major R&D hub, why shouldn’t we return it to its roots?”

Away to the north (almost out of sight across the airfield, because the site is so large), the Wilderness Quarter will concentrate on the needs of short-term visitors. It will have around 100 acres of eco-focused green space with its own lake, the whole layout designed to encourage exploration by day visitors, campers and occupants of overnight cabins.


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