Gateway Park is set to open to the public as part of a wider road and access improvement programme starting at the pioneering Graven Hill development near Bicester, with work due to begin on a new-look entrance from the A41 into the site.
As well as providing landscaped parkland and footpaths, the adjacent 4.6-acre Gateway Park will also prominently feature the relocated (subject to planning approval) Pioneer Memorial from the former Graven Hill Barracks that was home to the Royal Pioneer Corps.
The memorial was originally built and unveiled by the Colonel Commandant of the Royal Pioneer Corps, Gen Sir John Cowley, at Simpson Barracks, Northampton (previous ‘Home of the Royal Pioneer Corps’ HQ) in 1964.
It was relocated to the Bicester St David’s Barracks in 1993, where the 23rd Regiment regularly trained and were deployed on exercises and operations.
An estimated 3,600 Pioneers served in Bicester over the decades until the Regiment and its Reserves (158 Pioneer Regiment) were disbanded on 14 October 2014.
The MoD site surrounding St David’s Barracks was then included in Cherwell District’s Council redevelopment masterplan as part of the Graven Hill development, which broke ground in 2018 and is now home to almost 500 families and growing.
The original bricks that make up the 3m high memorial will carefully be dismantled and transported to Gateway Park, which overlooks the new Graven Hill entrance, featuring a new identical blue remembrance plaque recreated to honour the Pioneer heroes.
As part of the road and access improvements, the old Anniversary Avenue entrance to the former MOD logistics hub and office E25 is being closed, and the new Graven Hill spine road, also named Anniversary Avenue (East) but constructed to up-to-date highway standards, will be opened. This will be accessed from the mini-roundabout on Graven Hill Road.
Graven Hill Managing Director Adrian Unitt said: “We are delighted to be able to open Gateway Park to the public, which has been eagerly anticipated by local residents.
“The park will offer 4.6 acres of open space, landscaped parkland, a lake with islands for wildlife and footpaths for everyone to enjoy. It is another huge boost to the popularity of the Graven Hill development and will undoubtedly appeal to anyone who is looking to move to or relocate within Bicester.
He added: “The fact we are able to incorporate the Pioneer Memorial into the Park was something that was very important to the team and we’re delighted even more people will be able to see and recognise the huge contribution that Pioneer regiment made to our country and the local Bicester community.”
The works, expected to start in the week commencing 27 November, are expected to be completed by early in the New Year with no access impact to Graven Hill residents or visitors.