Acquisition of Banbury’s Castle Quay is applauded

Cllrs Tony Ilott (left) and Barry Wood at Castle Quay Shopping Centre. Photo: Cherwell District Council NNL-170211-134928001
Cllrs Tony Ilott (left) and Barry Wood at Castle Quay Shopping Centre. Photo: Cherwell District Council NNL-170211-134928001

The decision taken by Cherwell District Council last week to both purchase the existing Castle Quay Shopping Centre and cement the future of the CQ2 development, has been met by widespread approval.

The Conservative-led council voted unanimously to buy the other 85 per cent share of Castle Quay from long-time current owners Aberdeen Standard Investments after they decided to pull out of the Castle Quay 2 development.

No monetary value has been released as to the cost of that purchase but the CQ2 development will cost the council around £60 million which will be paid for via a loan and repaid using rental and other charges. No public money has been used in its acquisition.

Sean Woodcock, leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council said: “When Aberdeen Investments pulled out it was disappointing. The proposed new cinema, hotel, restaurants and supermarket promised increased footfall, which would benefit the existing retailers in Castle Quay and the town centre as a whole.

“Borrowing to invest in growth makes good economic sense but given the way in which online retailing has affected traditional outlets we had to ascertain whether taking over the existing Castle Quay and the Castle Quay 2 development was viable for the council to take on.

“Looking at the evidence and taking into account the due diligence and views of stakeholders, Labour is supporting this endeavour.

He added: “But we are not handing the council a blank cheque and will be demanding planning transparency and a sound economic vision, which will regenerate Banbury town centre and deliver a desirable and prosperous destination for local people, businesses and visitors alike.”

The Banbury and Bicester Chamber of Commerce (BBoC)was equally as positive about the move.

Nick Poole, chairman of the BBoC said: “The Banbury Chamber of Commerce is broadly supportive of the decision that Cherwell District Council is to become the new landlord at Castle Quay, and in particular that it is committing to the development of CQ2 – we can be sure this much delayed project will now go ahead.

“We believe that an interested landlord such as CDC will be a very good thing for Castle Quay and for Banbury.

He added: “However, it is hoped that this substantial undertaking does not absorb all CDC’s energies and that the other projects in the Banbury Masterplan will not be neglected, there are several key areas of Banbury which also need investment.”

Meanwhile Banbury Town Team Coordinators Neil Wild and Iain Nicholson, said in a joint statement: “Our work across the region has shown us that it is becoming more commonplace for councils to purchase commercial real estate within their town centres as part of an investment and regeneration strategy.

“This provides an opportunity for Cherwell District Council to be positive and proactive landlords for the good of the town.

“We will do all we can to support them with this work.”

The CQ2 development wasbeen delayed last summer due to slight alterations to the planning of the access points.

Shortly afterwards came the announcement that investors Aberdeen Standard Investment was no longer committed to the build.

Cherwell District Council is hoping the development would break ground next summer with a completion date of winter 2019.