THE chief executive of the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has vowed to secure a test centre for Banbury amid fears for the future of the current site.
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry wrote to Rosemary Thew of the DSA last month after concerns were raised that the lease on the existing test centre in West Bar would not be renewed when it runs out in March.
In a reply to Sir Tony, Ms Thew wrote: “I can confirm the lease at Banbury test centre does expire on March 31, 2013.
“We are in negotiations with the landlord to agree a possible extension, though he has informed us this might not be possible.
“We are searching for other properties in the area should it not prove possible to extend the lease.
“I can assure you we are committed to continuing to offer driving tests at Banbury.”
Sir Tony wrote to the DSA following the launch of a campaign to keep driving tests in Banbury, headed by the Banbury Association of Driving Instructors (BADI), which represents 50 local instructors.
Instructors feared if the current lease was not renewed and an alternative centre not found, tests would be relocated elsewhere – leading to an increase in fuel costs and subsequently lesson charges.
Tim Howard, chairman of BADI said: “I’m really pleased with the letter from Rosemary Thew showing commitment to Banbury.
“I’m looking forward to a re-signature of the existing lease or the certainty that other premises have been found.”
Mr Howard added he hoped that when either the existing lease or a new lease was signed it would be on a long-term basis rather than the current three-year contract. He said: “It seems like we have this fight every three years, so it would be nice to have some long-term commitment on the future of the Banbury test centre.”
An estimated 4,000 people sit their driving tests in Banbury each year and the current pass rate is about 53 per cent.
Support for the Banbury driving test centre has spread as far as Daventry, where the town’s MP Chris Heaton-Harris also pledged his support, stating he is “more than happy to make representations on behalf of my constituents” relating to the issue. Sir Tony added: “I very much welcome the fact that the DSA is committed to staying in Banbury.
“The DSA clearly recognises the Banbury test centre is a very considerable distance away from another test centre.”
Mr Howard is still encouraging anyone who may know of suitable alternative premises to contact him. Ideally the site will have about 50 square metres for an office and parking spaces for about 14 cars.
Anyone who can help should call Mr Howard on 01295 720418.