Banbury so close to high street success

Banbury town centre. NNL-161018-164814009
Banbury town centre. NNL-161018-164814009

After months of campaigning, thousands of votes and the critical eyes of a panel judges, Banbury’s attempt to be crowned High Street of the Year has ended with the runner-up position.

From an initial pool of over 900 entries Banbury , along with Hemel Hempstead and Blackburn made the podium position shortlist for the category of Town Centre.

CDC's Julia Aratoon, BYHP's Tim-Tarby Donald, Deborah Owen-Ellis Clark, Ann Sewel, Hilary Paxman, Iain Nicholson, Barry Whitehouse from The Artery and Neil Wild NNL-160711-130656001

CDC's Julia Aratoon, BYHP's Tim-Tarby Donald, Deborah Owen-Ellis Clark, Ann Sewel, Hilary Paxman, Iain Nicholson, Barry Whitehouse from The Artery and Neil Wild NNL-160711-130656001

The eventual winners were crowned on Monday December 12, with Blackburn victorious. Judges summed up the victory for the Lancashire town saying “Blackburn wowed the judges with the range of improvements put in place by the collaboration between the Business Improvement District and the council.

“The Best High Street in Britain for 2016, their hard work to turn around the town is an inspiration to high streets across the country.”

Banbury’s bid for the top spot was supported by Cherwell District Council, Banbury Old Town Association, Banbury and Bicester College and a host of independent business owners and community groups such as BYHP.

Cllr Lynn Pratt, Cherwell District Council’s lead member for estates and the economy, said: “I am incredibly proud of Banbury for doing so well in this prestigious national competition. There is important work being done to support high streets all across the country and Banbury has put its best foot forward against some worthy competition.

Banbury. High Street. NNL-160305-155333009

Banbury. High Street. NNL-160305-155333009

“By being named a finalist in the Great British High Street competition, we have put Banbury on the national stage and brought attention to everything that’s being done to promote excellence on our high street, from events to pop-ups, independent traders and partnership working.

“I would like to thank everyone who voted for Banbury, and all those retailers, officers and event organisers who have lent their efforts to supporting the town centre.

“This campaign has been a real highlight of the year for Banbury, and we will now look to harness the positive feeling it has captured to continue to make the town a more vibrant, interesting and friendly place to live, shop and work.”

There were similar results for other finalists in the area who had also reached the last three in a number of different categories.

Chipping Norton reached the final three in the ‘Small Town’ category which was won by Hebden Bridge in west Yorkshire.

Judges were impressed by its bouncebackability after severe floods of last year to return to a 95% occupancy for high street retail outlets.

It also received a special ‘People’s Choice’ Award for the most votes ever cast for one place in the history of the competition, some 40,000.

This year social media giant Twitter got in on the action with a new category for retailers making innovative inroads online; The Best Shop on Twitter.

Once again Banbury was represented with Parson Street art shop the Artery making the final three. The winner of the category was a Lancastrian coffee shop named Fleetwood Beach who judges said was ‘an example of how even the smallest shop can take to social media to build a business, support their local community and really get customers engaging with you on a daily basis.’

Barry Whitehouse, proprietor of the Artery, said: “Personally for my shop to be recognised as the top three shops on Twitter in the country is something I am very proud of, and of my staff here who always find creative ways to promote the shop through social media.

He added: “I believe it really has raised the profile of the town and perhaps shown those who think the town is dying that there are people who care about their town and that are doing all they can to help make it better.”

The overall winner of winners was Blackburn.