Castle Quay II: Society Fears

The proposed Castle Quay extension
The proposed Castle Quay extension

This evening (Thursday) members of Cherwell District Council will be considering the proposed extension of Castle Quay over the canal and old Spiceball site to include a hotel, supermaket, multiplex cinema, bars and restaurants.

This application, by Castle Quay’s owners (Scottish Widows), is the biggest town-centre application since Castle Quay itself. Cherwell’s officers are recommending the application for approval.

Banbury Civic Society, the Inland Waterways Association, the Canal & River Trust and many others are united in opposition to two key aspects of the proposal.

As the application is by Scottish Widows, we regret it does not take the opportunity to address the shortcomings of the existing Castle Quay development, most especially with regard to the existing ‘backs and bins’ facing the canal.

The development is being promoted as a ‘town centre extension’ but for pedestrians the development site is currently locked behind the existing Castle Quay.

Simple townscape improvements at either end of Castle Quay could unlock this site. Instead, the appalling access through the bus station is left unchanged. Similarly, the signage and landscaping improvements needed to improve the Market Place-Castle Street-Spiceball pedestrian access are also not provided.

As proposed, the only pedestrian access between the town centre to this ‘town centre extension’ will be through the existing Castle Quay. This is an unacceptable situation for what is being touted as a ‘town centre extension’.

Cherwell District Council is a key partner in this development. The council owns much of this key site and its approaches. Scottish Widows is reliant on CDC’s compulsory purchase powers for the remainder.

We are relying on Cherwell’s elected members to direct their officers to re-negotiate this proposal so that it genuinely extends the existing town centre, rather than allowing Scottish Widows to create their own land-locked rival to it.

Rob Kinchin-Smith

Chairman, Banbury Civic Society

gateway: Let’s have vision

I read the articles concerning the Banbury Gateway Retail Park with interest.

I’m not in favour of change for change’s sake, but I think Banbury needs to have a good look at what it has to offer – not only for the local population but also those from further afield.

I have lived in one of the outlying villages for approximately 11 years and think Banbury is a great place to live and visit but has missed a trick or two.

Banbury is one of the best connected towns in the UK for both business and tourism; it has the motorway network right on its doorstep, fantastic railway connectivity, easy access to both Heathrow and Birmingham airports and the canal running right through the town.

Banbury also has history and a wonderful nursery rhyme, the Lady on the White Horse at Banbury Cross – people come from all over the world to have a look at it. Banbury needs to be a destination, where people want to come to have a day out and, as a centre, to enjoy the surrounding country side.

The Gateway development will attract people to the area so the town centre needs to attract these people into the town. Therefore, the local authorities need to have a strategic plan that looks at the best way to capitalise on all the disparate attractions and amenities the town has to offer and bring them together, as well as what improvements and additions are required – a good quality town centre hotel with at least 100 rooms is desperately needed.

One example of a missed opportunity is the new railway station car park. This will cause chaos to an already congested area of town so the council should have pressed for a new road bridge south of the station as part of an overall road improvement scheme.

When putting such a plan together the planners just need to think what would they like if they where visiting or working in Banbury.

I would hazard, at a guess, it would be, clean attractive buildings, easy access, somewhere to eat and stay and easy movement between the various attractions. For example, many visitors arrive by train but accessing the town from the railway station at present is not a pleasant experience.

If Bicester Village, which is basically a load of fancy retail sheds, can attract people from all over the world, I am sure Banbury with its history and good quality amenities could do so much better.

So come on you councillors, let’s see a bit imagination and vision.

Nigel Davis

Via e-mail

More letters in this week’s Banbury Guardian