Disappointment over approval of Waitrose plans

An artist's impression of the new Waitrose store on Southam Road, Banbury. NNL-150403-131837001
An artist's impression of the new Waitrose store on Southam Road, Banbury. NNL-150403-131837001

Opponents against plans by Waitrose to build a supermarket in an out of town location in Banbury say they feel ‘let down’ by the chain.

Cherwell District Council’s planning committee voted in favour of the plans on Thursday last week, despite Banbury Civic Society, Banbury Town Council and Aberdeen Asset Management, which has interests at Castle Quay Shopping Centre, raising concerns about the proposals.

The application was for a 3,695 sqm supermarket with 220 car parking spaces on Southam Road. The scheme was put forward by Mondelez International and Barwood Capital. It is expected to create 200 new jobs in the town.

Concerns raised over the supermarket included the impact its location could have on town centre retail and traffic congestion caused by cars accessing and leaving the car park via Southam Road.

Cherwell District Council’s lead member for planning, Cllr Michael Gibbard, said: “We are aware some felt that this was not the correct place in Banbury for a new supermarket.

“However the council took independent advice, which showed the store would not have a significant detrimental effect on town centre trade and it will create increased shopping opportunities for residents.”

Banbury Civic Society said although it understood the enthusiasm for having a Waitrose in Banbury, this was the wrong site. Its statement said: “The Southam Road is already notoriously congested, whilst the Southam road is also too far from the town centre for there to be any possibility of the new store generating significant additional town-centre footfall.”

Alternative sites for the supermarket had been put forward but rejected by Waitrose including Bolton Road, Castle Quay 2 and the Spiceball.

Speaking to the Banbury Guardian, Rob Kinchin-Smith, chairman of Banbury Civic Society said: “The chaos at Gateway shows quite how under stress Banbury’s road network is. This new supermarket has the potential to make the Tesco roundabout and Warwick Road traffic lights as bad as what is going on on the roundabout at the top end of Hennef Way.

“We are really just a little bit cross about way the system has worked. The presumption should be town centre first, edge of town centre second and out of town third.

“Waitrose worked long and hard with CDC on the Bolton Road masterplan and then decided the site was too small, then spent an awful lot of time working with Scottish Widows on Spiceball and decided it was too small and now they have got an out of town supermarket just by upping the ante on what they say they need.”

He said the society had put faith in Waitrose owners, the John Lewis Partnership, to come up with a ‘medium supermarket in a sustainable town centre location’ but now felt ‘let down’.

He added the only possible solution to expected traffic problems was a south to east link road.

In its objection, Aberdeen Asset Management said: “The applicant fails to address our comments about planned investment and impact on town centre vitality and viability. Planned investment would be compromised by the development which is evidence of significant adverse impact.”

Banbury Town Council said although Waitrose had dismissed the Castle Quay 2 site as not big enough, it felt the site was suitable and feared without Waitrose as an anchor store, the development ‘could be undermined.’