Berkshire

Heyford Park open days to discuss school and homes plans

Artist's impression of Heyford Park Free School
Image caption Heyford Park Free School will be based at a former officers' mess

Heyford Park residents in Oxfordshire are being invited to open days to discuss school and housing plans on the former US air force base.

The Dorchester Group is developing 1,078 properties, 309 of which will become affordable homes, on the old Cold War site.

Plans for a free school in an old officers' mess will be submitted at the end of the month.

The open days for people living in the local area are on 15 and 20 February.

'Diner experience'

Dorchester Group executive director Paul Silver said the move towards the development phase of the master plan was "really exciting" and that completion was planned for 2020.

Image caption Existing former military bungalows will be refurbished

During the open days, existing and potential residents can give their views on the new homes and the refurbishment of the existing military bungalows on site.

"Anyone who already lives at Heyford will get priority for affordable housing," said Mr Silver.

He added that there were ideas to reflect the American heritage of the site with a "diner experience" and hints of art deco in the building designs.

"To be able to create your own village in Oxfordshire is an amazing opportunity," he said.

'Traditional subjects'

Resident Patricia Kirby, former chairman of the local residents' association, called the plans "visionary" and "as a whole a change for the better".

But, apart from concerns over potential increased rent in social housing, she was against the current proposals to move long-term residents into different renovated homes on site.

"A core 90% of houses and bungalows have been lived in for the past eight or nine years," she said. "I am a keen gardener and have a greenhouse, I don't want to move. But the proposals are to renovate a home and move those residents out permanently into an already refurbished home."

The first open day will also discuss the plans for Heyford Park Free School, for 990 pupils aged four to 19, which could open in 2013 if approved by the Department for Education.

Image caption The full development should be completed by 2020

"We've been especially lucky," said Mr Silver. "We have some great governors on board and we have links to Oxford University.

"It's all about doing traditional subjects, focusing on history, in particular the Cold War, seeing as we are in the most well-preserved air base in Europe."

But resident Patricia Dempsey said she was "not interested" in sending her two children to school there as her children already felt established at their existing schools.

Plans to develop the former base were approved by Cherwell District Council last year following a 15-year battle between developers and tenants.

RAF Heyford played a vital role during the two World Wars as a training base and was handed over to the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command.

During that time about 15,000 American servicemen lived and worked at Heyford, which was known as Little America in Big Oxfordshire.

The site was handed back to Ministry of Defence in 1994.

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