Cherwell to fund Banbury’s town team co-ordinators for another year

Neil Wild, left and Iain Nicholson are working to get empty town centre units back open again. NNL-151003-124012009
Neil Wild, left and Iain Nicholson are working to get empty town centre units back open again. NNL-151003-124012009

Banbury’s town team co-ordinators will continue their work into a second year after Cherwell District Council agreed to fund an extension of the town centre vitality initiatve.

Neil Wild and Iain Nicholson were appointed in April last year on the project which focused on boosting footfall, working with landlords and agents to reduce the number of empty town centre shops and identifying gaps in the town’s retail and leisure offer.

In their first year their part-time role used the Government’s High Street Innovation Funds, and to build on the work done so far the councl has agreed its own funding for the project.

Councillor Kieron Mallon, Cherwell’s lead member for Banbury Futures, said: Like all town centres Banbury faces many challenges and it is vital to have a town team working on its behalf.

“In the first year we saw how the team had a positive impact on things like encouraging new businesses to come into the town, both in units of their own and in pop up shops. They also made it possible for those like Edinburgh Woollen Mill, whose lease was coming to an end, to stay.”

This year’s project has £15,000 funding with Mr Wild and Mr Nicholson retaining their part-time role as co-ordinators.

Their aim is to continue to tackle obstacles to town centre empty property being let and encourage more businesses to take up units.

They work to strengthen links between stakeholders including councils, business groups, Castle Quay, landlords, agents and community groups, and build on the partnership working that sparked initiatives like Banbury Presents and the Old Town Spring Festival.

There were 53 empty and available ground floor units in Banbury’s town centre back in April 2014, and at the last audit that figure was down to 45 with a number of new independent businesses setting up business in the town.

They include Fresh Air Junkie, Whistling Kettle Cafe, Lucha Burrito, Little Amsterdam Cafe and The Atic.

Further additions in the coming weeks will include menswear and denim clothing specialists Union Clothing and Adderbury-based baby wear and toddler clothes store MerryGoRound.

Mr Wild said: “Put simply the role is about being proactive and focusing efforts to revive our community’s biggest asset - our town centre; we are delighted to be carrying on the task.”
Mr Nicholson added: “Our experience in other towns is that momentum starts to build when all those involved work together to tackle the challenges and build and promote strengths.

“We’ve had a positive first year but there remains a huge amount to do and a big part for everyone to play.”

For more information call Mr Wild on 07801 164034 or Mr Nicholson on 07930 453883.