Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry gave his views on new businesses, car parking and two substantial retail developments in a speech to town businesses last Friday.
Sir Tony spoke at this year’s Banbury Employee of the Year Awards, held at Broughton Castle.
He welcomed news that unemployment has fallen over successive months, stating there are now only 21 constituencies in the whole of the UK with an unemployment level lower than Banbury.
He also talked about what impact Banbury Gateway, approved by the High Court last month, and the extension of Castle Quay shopping centre (CQ2), to be discussed at a meeting tomorrow (Thursday), would have on the town centre. He said: “Banbury Gateway was a planning decision which attracted almost unanimous support from district councillors and, despite delays due to subsequent appeals, has recently been approved. What I think is important to emphasise is that this is intended as a regional shopping facility.
“It is expected that many of those visiting Gateway will not be people who would otherwise be shopping in Banbury town centre.”
Today, Cherwell district councillors will decide whether to approve plans to extend Castle Quay shopping centre, which would see a 92-bed hotel, cinema, restaurants, supermarket and a car park built over the canal and into the Spiceball site.
Sir Tony also touched upon the issue of free car parking in the town centre, a measure which is being campaigned for by businesses in the Old Town. He said: “I think CQ2 has enormous potential for Banbury town centre, but I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by small businesses based in the High Street, Market Square and Parsons Street.
“It is clearly important to ensure that as much can be done to preserve and protect all those independent businesses based at the heart of Banbury and who make Banbury such a vibrant market town. I appreciate that car parking is an ongoing issue in the town centre. Ultimately any change to car parking charges and arrangements will be a decision for the district council and I think we need to appreciate that any decision will be something of a balancing act for the council and their finances.”
Sir Tony mentioned gardening product firm Stewart Plastics as one example of a new investor that has recently moved into Banbury.
He also mentioned Kannegiesser which has transferred its ‘supertrack’ manufacturing facility to the town and Crompton Technology which has recently expanded.
He said: “The stark reality is that however good a geographical location Banbury might be, however much money is invested in IT, technology and machinery, whatever tax breaks, grants from Government programmes there might be, ultimately the success of our economy depends on the skills, talents and commitment of those in work.”