Banbury's shopping mall is getting 'strong interest' from potential tenants as Debenhams prepares to leave, says council

Cherwell District Council says it is getting 'strong interest' in space in Castle Quay as Debenhams prepares to close its Banbury store for ever.

By Roseanne Edwards
Monday, 1st February 2021, 3:57 pm
Updated Monday, 1st February 2021, 4:38 pm
Debenhams is in the final stages of a closing down sale and will vacate their Castle Quay store this spring
Debenhams is in the final stages of a closing down sale and will vacate their Castle Quay store this spring

The store - which was the flagship attraction at the Castle Quay Shopping Centre - is set to close for good early this year. The company has not said exactly when the closure will be but a 70 per cent closing down sale has been running online since December, when the closure announcement was made.

It had been hoped JD Sports might step in and save Debenhams after the department store went into administration last April but hopes of this rescue were dashed late last year.

Debenhams spokeswoman Isabelle Saber said: "Stores will reopen once lockdown ends to complete the stock clearance-– anticipated to take 4-6 weeks - and then close permanently."

Cllr Tony Ilott, lead member for finance, and Cllr Barry Wood, council leader as Cherwell District Council took on ownership of the Castle Quay shopping mall

The news meant that the two major stores in Castle Quay, Marks and Spencer (which closed in favour of its Banbury Gateway store) and Debenhams will have been lost to the town centre within less than a year.

However, district councillors are upbeat about the shopping centre's prospects including Castle Quay Waterfront, the second phase of the Castle Quay extension, whose building is well under way. The Conservative-led council decided in December 2017 to buy an 85 per cent share from owners Aberdeen Standard Investments after they decided to pull out of the Castle Quay 2 development.

No monetary value was released on how much that cost but at that time, the CQ2 development was expected to cost the council around £60 million, paid for through a loan which would be repaid using rental and other charges.

Cllr Tony Ilott, Lead Member for Finance at Cherwell District Council, said: "The challenges facing retail on a national level, which have undoubtedly been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, have left many town centres and high streets facing difficulty, with the loss of department stores like Debenhams as a result.

“We know that the retail landscape is constantly changing. When we acquired Castle Quay, we recognised the challenges facing retail and how our centre needed to evolve.

"We continue to take a proactive, forward-thinking approach to delivering a town centre that is better aligned to the changing requirements of residents and visitors and believe our focus on diversifying our offer to incorporate a wider range of uses will achieve this.

"This includes Lock29 – re-purposing a former department store (BHS) - and Castle Quay Waterfront, which will both add new dimensions to the Castle Quay line-up.

“We are continuing to explore a range of options and growth areas to fill vacant space in line with our vision to make the town a more vibrant place, seeing strong interest from potential tenants. We look forward to sharing further news and updates very soon.”

Oliver Wren, Centre Director at Castle Quay Shopping Centre, commented: “We were saddened to hear the news about Debenhams’ store closures and our thoughts are with those who are affected. We will be working closely with their management teams regarding their store in Castle Quay and will share further updates when we are able to.

“This national news is part of the wider challenging picture for town centres throughout the country. We continue to progress plans for a more vibrant town centre, one that will offer a wider range of uses and experiences for the local community, with Castle Quay Waterfront central to those plans.”