Makespace Oxford, who are the lead delivery partner on the initiative, have inspected over 13 vacant retail units in the town centre and secured short-term or ‘meanwhile’ leases on four of them. With the units secured, Makespace are now looking for local, purpose-led businesses and organisations to let the spaces in an effort to support Banbury’s local economy.
Each of the units are located in central Banbury - two in the Castle Quay shopping centre and the remaining two on the High Street and Market Place - with leases starting as early as autumn 2021. As part of the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme, the spaces will be let below market rate, with further concessions available for charities and non-profits.
The programme is led by Oxford City Council, and is a county-wide partnership between Oxfordshire Local Enterprise and the district councils with funding from the government’s Getting Building Fund.
Launched in February 2021, it aims to break down barriers to space and give small, early-stage organisations a unique opportunity to develop, test and deliver their ideas. It also aims to breathe life back into the high number of underused spaces in Oxfordshire’s high streets and urban centres, supporting economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.
Penny Lawrence, strategic director at Makespace Oxford, said: “There are so many unaffordable, empty spaces in our urban centres in Oxfordshire, and yet so many local organisations and businesses who could benefit from access to them.
"Through ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’, we’re trying to bridge this gap by facilitating access to affordable space for local businesses and community organisations to grow.”
In line with their existing workspaces in Oxford City, Makespace are looking to house local, independent businesses and organisations that span many different sectors, but that are united by a commitment to positive cultural, social or environmental impact.
By putting people and purpose before profit, the team at Makespace hope to bring to life a new vision for Oxfordshire’s high streets - one that responds to local needs, creates more resilient local communities and builds stronger local economies.
Local property expert, Neil Wild of Wild Property Consultancy, is a delivery partner for the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme.
He said: “This is a great opportunity for organisations, small businesses or entrepreneurs to take up property on a flexible basis, without having to sign a long-term lease. The project also provides support during the process, so we can help an organisation with its next step.”
With the spaces secured, Makespace are now looking for occupiers for the units.
“We’ve got some fantastic occupiers lined up, but are still on the lookout for more, so we’re encouraging everyone to apply and spread the word within their communities.”
Cllr Lynn Pratt, Cherwell District Council’s lead member for economy, regeneration and property, said: “It's wonderful to see the first four Cherwell spaces becoming available in the heart of Banbury. This is such an exciting programme and we know Makespace are also working very hard to secure spaces in Bicester and Kidlington later down the line. I encourage any small businesses, entrepreneurs or community organisations who are interested in Banbury properties to apply as soon as possible.”
The unit at 43 Market Place, a former Oxfam Bookshop, is currently under offer, but applications remain open for the three remaining spaces, and will be accepted on a rolling basis until suitable occupiers are found.
Makespace are encouraging anyone interested in space to apply, but will prioritise local, purpose-led organisations and businesses. Which applicants are successful will also depend on their space requirements, and how these match with the spaces becoming available through the programme.
To find out more about the programme and apply for space, visit makespaceoxford.org/meanwhile-in-oxfordshire
To browse the upcoming spaces in Banbury town centre, visit makespaceoxford.org/upcoming-spaces