The former RAF Bicester has a vision to become the world’s leading automotive destination for motoring past, present and future.
For historic motoring, Bicester Heritage is now the industry focus for the future alongside creating a revolution in historic vehicle ownership. The unique location is the UK’s only centre for historic motoring excellence and is the national centre for a £5.5bn per annum industry that employs over 34,000 skilled people. Founded in 2013 Bicester Heritage has gone from a standing start to a home for 40 specialist businesses, and growing, with a collective turnover of over £40m, making it the largest player in the industry and set to grow exponentially with a global reach.
The unique ecosystem of businesses based at a beautiful 444-acre former WW2 RAF Bomber Training Station acts as ‘marina-like’ cluster, promoting skills and expertise, employment, qualified customer footfall, shared business incubation and aggregate growth. Collectively, Bicester Heritage is all about driving the future of the past.
The former RAF Bicester site, on which Bicester Heritage is now based, is of national historic importance. Neglected for the best part of 40 years, it was added to Historic England’s ‘At Risk Register’ in 2008 and designated the most ‘at risk’ of all Defence Estates in the UK.
Since Bicester Heritage’s tenure, over 93% of the buildings have been delicately restored or re-activated for modern business use, with the site now held as a national exemplar of constructive conservation by Historic England. The time-warp base is truly unmatched in evocative character, with even the paint colours being correct to 1930s British Standards. An active airfield and test track complete its dynamic operation.
The location of Bicester Heritage, of course, is key. Bicester is one of the fastest growing towns in Europe with unrivalled connections via road, rail and air, situated in close proximity to the globally known City of Oxford and within 90 minutes of upwards of 30 million people.
Bicester Heritage, a Centre of Excellence for the historic motoring industry in the UK, has announced the completion of the flagship ‘Building 141’ in The Command Works – the latest development within the former RAF ‘Technical Site’.
Taking styling cues from the original state-of-the-art RAF buildings built-in 1926, Building 141, and The Command Works, in general, will add an additional 70,000 ft2 of premier-grade business accommodation within the ambient setting of a renowned and verdant Conservation Area.
Built sympathetically and in-keeping with their Grade II-listed surroundings, the new buildings, ranging in size from 5,000 sq/ft to Building 141’s 17,000 sq/ft will create a host of new skilled employment and training at Bicester Heritage.
Firmly established as the UK’s premier hub for the classic automotive industry, Bicester Heritage has 42 specialist businesses located within its 1920s and 1930s red brick buildings. The Command Works represents a significant expansion of business accommodation at Bicester Heritage. These have been designed and constructed to the highest standards using local specialists Ridge & Partners LLP and Buckingham Group Contracting.
The unique ecosystem of businesses based at this beautiful 444-acre former WW2 RAF Bomber Training Station acts as ‘marina-like’ cluster, promoting skills and expertise, employment, qualified customer footfall, shared business incubation and aggregate growth. Collectively, Bicester Heritage is all about driving the future of the past, helping to deliver more than £40m annually in turnover for the businesses gathered there
Occupying land which, just 18 months ago, lay derelict alongside Skimmingdish Lane, The Command Works was once the location of the RAF Bomber Station’s ‘Works’ buildings, rail and coal yards and is situated behind the Station Headquarters, home of the Station Commander’s Office and Operations Block. This landmark development represents the first new buildings to be constructed at the best-preserved, pre-war Bomber Station in over 80 years.
Being the largest and most significant building within The Command Works, 141 drew inspiration from the stand-out architectural features which characterise the other prominent buildings at Bicester Heritage, such as The Station Headquarters, The Powerhouse and The Parachute Store. Architectural details such as these, coupled with the beautiful setting at Bicester Heritage create a tangible atmosphere and quality of surroundings which offer a working environment unlike any other.
Interestingly the round windows attracted some controversy during the early planning consultation stages. Jonty Ashworth says “We felt that they would be a great feature to include on heritage and architectural grounds. This attractive precedent had been set on a number of the historic designs and we recognised that the continuation of this theme would create an essential link between Bicester Heritage’s past, present and future”.
Building 141 has been created as a potential headquarters building and the new occupiers will be at the heart of this thriving and visionary community. Building 141 comprises two units 141A offers a spacious two-storey office and business hub, whilst 141B, also flooded with light, creates a stunning showroom or clubroom space. When combined the building offers a total of 17,027ft2 and sits at the front of The Command Works on the Southern Avenue of Bicester Heritage.
The Command Works will form part of the larger vision for Bicester Motion, Chief Executive Dan Geoghegan commented:
“Building 141 encapsulates several features from the most iconic of the Grade II Listed buildings from 1926 and, set in the RAF Bicester Conservation Area amidst World War II air-raid shelters, stands out as a very positive contribution to this beautiful place. Moreover, the low density, parkland environment makes it a great place to work as well as engendering a sense of pride and community.”
“In renovating and repurposing the last remaining in-tact pre-war bomber station that, although surviving almost 100 years, lay derelict just a few years ago, we have taken an approach to regenerate it with a quality threshold and business model that should see it well-positioned for the next 100. The Command Works demonstrates this commitment to design, quality and investment in Bicester’s future that sees thoughtful enterprise preserve our past for the future.”
The Command Works is a prominent new addition to this historic location. Based at the former RAF Bicester, the site is the best-preserved of the UK’s pre-WW2 bomber stations which were constructed as the principal arm of Sir Hugh Trenchard’s expansion of the RAF in1923, using the philosophy of offensive deterrence. The RAF’s ‘Technical Site’ retains, better than any other military airbase in Britain, the layout and fabric relating to both pre-1930s military aviation and the development of Britain’s strategic bomber force in the period up to 1939.
The new development represents a significant investment from Bicester Motion in the region of £10.4m that has both regional and national impact.
For more information about the site and the team behind it, see www.bicesterheritage.co.uk