Judges were out and about in Banbury last Friday as part of the town’s bid to be crowned High Street of the Year.
The judges from the Great British High Street competition were taken on a tour by representatives of Cherwell District Council and introduced to some of the towns business owners and community leaders.
Banbury has reached the final of the Town Centre category of the awards with stiff competition coming from Hemel Hempstead and Blackburn.
The competition will be determined by two factors. First by the recommendations of a panel of judges who will look at a number of factors in each of the finalist’s town centres.
More importantly however is the public vote currently running which constitutes half of the overall score for each of the finalists and will be a major determining factor in the outcome.
Deborah Owen-Ellis Clark, who is the head judge and works with British Land who are one of the sponsors of the awards, said: “I am looking for a great mix of independents, pop-ups and multiples so there is good retail on offer.
“I’m also looking for food, people want to come to town centres to eat. Shopping is just one of the things they do these days.
“Also well-kept, a sense of community and culture, what are they doing to enliven the place and make people want to come a visit it.
She added: “However the most important factor is that 50 per cent of the decision will be made by the public so you need to get your Banbury residents, shoppers, business owners all to vote.”
This is the first time on the judging panel for Ms Owen-Ellis Clark but knows what it takes for a town centre to succeed, she said: “I am head of retail marketing so look after all of our shopping centres in the UK. I’m responsible for doing all the B2B and B2C marketing which includes events and working with the retailers ensure we have footfall coming through our centres.”
Hilary Paxman, from the Department for Communities and Local Government, who is also a judge for the awards said: “We’re having a great tour. Meeting lots of business men and women.”
Oxfordshire is well represented in this year’s selection and has a number of towns, individuals and business vying for various honours.
Both Thame and Chipping Norton are fighting it out to be crowned Best Small Market Town. This is the second year running Chipping Norton has been nominated and it received a silver medal last year.
Individual local success stories include Chipping Norton resident Imogen Haverty, 16, who works at the Tea Set Cafe, and has been shortlisted in the category of best under 25 involved in the high street. The Artery, in Banbury, is also a finalist in the best shop on Twitter category.
The public has only until November 18 to vote at www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk/high-street-of-the-year-award.