Two empty shops in Banbury town centre now have new tenants as part of ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme

Local recycling shop and youth charity secure spaces in Banbury town centre through ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme

Monday, 20th September 2021, 5:50 pm
Orinoco Team & Neil Wild, Meanwhile in Oxfordshire Project Partner, during the handover the big red key (photo credit Makespace Oxford)

Makespace Oxford, who are the lead delivery partner on the county-wide economic regeneration programme, have supported two local organisations, Orinoco and Oxfordshire Youth, into spaces in the town centre of Banbury.

The leases on both spaces were signed and keys handed over last week. Both ‘meanwhile’ or short-term leases will run for one year, with potential to be extended.

Orinoco is a community organisation that seeks to ‘banish boredom’ by encouraging the creative reuse of materials, and Oxfordshire Youth are a youth development charity supporting young people to reach their potential.

Heather Morison, head of operations & finance at Oxfordshire Youth, with the big red key outside the new unit in the town centre of Banbury (photo credit Makespace Oxford)

Orinoco will be opening a retail shop selling recycled goods at 15 High Street, including arts and craft supplies, materials, refurbished tools and household items, as well as DIY kit. Oxfordshire Youth will be running a youth hub from 26a Market Place until they move into another ‘meanwhile’ space located nearby this winter.

Orinoco and Oxfordshire Youth are amongst the first organisations that Makespace will work with through ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ in an effort to support local, community-driven organisations to access affordable space in Oxfordshire’s urban centres.

The programme aims to break down barriers to space and give organisations like Orinoco and Oxfordshire Youth a unique opportunity to develop, test and deliver their services. It also aims to breathe life back into the high number of underused spaces on Oxfordshire’s high streets, supporting economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

Since running a successful pop-up shop in Banbury in December of last year, Orinoco had been struggling in their search for affordable premises in the town centre.

Lisa Hawtin & the Orinoco team putting signs up in their new High Street unit (photo credit Makespace Oxford)

Project coordinator Lisa Hawtin said: “We were finding it difficult to find somewhere both suitable and affordable, and so were thrilled when Makespace were able to help us secure a High Street location through the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ project.

“We are so excited we will soon be able to offer Orinoco's unique blend of recycling and creativity again to everyone in Banbury.”

Orinoco’s new shop will open at 15 High Street on October 2.

Oxfordshire Youth offers a variety of youth-focused programs including sector support and training; mental health and wellbeing services; skills for life and support for young people living in supported accommodation.

Heather Morison, head of operations at the charity, said: “We are extremely excited to announce the opening of our Youth Hub right in the centre of Banbury, allowing us to provide more support than ever to the young people of Banbury.

“Having this space on the high street will give increased visibility to our work and allow us to reach more young people. Finding high street shop front property at charity budgets is a hugely difficult task. Makespace has put in so much hard work to support us and make sure that the space is everything which we need.”

Andy Edwards, programme lead at Makespace Oxford, said: “We’re delighted to see Orinoco and Oxfordshire Youth moving into these Banbury spaces. These are brilliant, purpose-led organisations that will help us bring to life a new and more sustainable vision for our high streets and urban centres.”

‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ is led by Oxford City Council, and is a county-wide partnership between Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) and the District Councils, including Cherwell. OxLEP secured £1.9m of funding for the project via the Government’s Getting Building Fund in summer 2020.

Nigel Tipple, chief executive of OxLEP, said: “We're very pleased to welcome these organisations to their new premises and hope that a secure tenancy will give them the opportunity and confidence to get their ideas off the ground.

“We are delighted to learn of the latest successes of ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ – a key programme that we secured funding for, designed to reinvigorate our city and town centres. Creating imaginative and attractive spaces within our urban centres is key following the COVID-19 pandemic and we hope many other businesses and projects across the county will engage with the programme moving forward.”

As a county-wide initiative, Cherwell has been one of the first areas of focus for the programme.

Cllr Lynn Pratt, lead member for economy, regeneration and property at Cherwell Council, said: “Town centres everywhere are still on a journey of rediscovery following COVID restrictions, and we are delighted to see the Meanwhile in Oxfordshire programme delivering results for Banbury.

“The town centre is full of potential for social enterprises and charities – as well as for more traditional retail businesses. I believe Orinoco and Oxfordshire Youth – with their strong focus on social and environmental value – will offer a great deal to the community and to the vibrancy of central Banbury.”

The ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme launched in February of 2021, and Makespace have received over 295 applications for space from a diverse range of organisations, including small charities, start-ups, independent retailers and creatives. They have inspected over 175 vacant properties, are negotiating leases on 30, and aim to bring many more spaces online in the coming months.