LETTERS: Town Centre - Retail Reality

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Over the past few months I have read with interest articles in your paper with regard to the decline of the High Street, the debate regarding the possibility of an element of free parking, the proposals and decisions made regarding “out of town” developments.

I am an independent retailer in Old Town, Banbury and feel that through your columns I should let you know just how bad the situation is for me and a lot of other independents that I talk to on a regular basis.

There are days where I don’t cover my overheads, where customers come in and try to haggle over prices – something I assume they wouldn’t try in a major supermarket or department store – and compare our prices to those on the internet, even though they are not comparing like for like.

The government says it is doing everything to support small businesses, the major banks say the same but continue to charge small businesses for every aspect of business banking.

I feel that both the town and district councillors “talk a good game” about supporting local businesses and “keep it local” but do very little to actually support us in any way.

Cherwell has recently announced that council tax has not increased again; pity the same can’t be said for business rates.

After the Prodrive decision was made for the Banbury Gateway development it was stated in your columns that we must all work together for the sake of the town centre – I see very little evidence of that happening.

I am not saying that “free parking” would solve all the problems, but it’s about time that those who claim they care about the town centre actually stood up to be counted.

In rugby union you often hear the referee say “use it or lose it”, well the same applies to us independents – use us or lose us.

Name supplied

Old Town, Banbury

Local plan

Answers please

By its own admission Cherwell District Council failed to submit it’s Draft Local Plan to the Minister of Sate for Communities and Local Government by the due date.

By its own further admission it has failed to be able to prove it has a five-year supply of land allocated for residential development.

As a direct result, planning permission has been granted on appeal by the minister for unwanted developments in Hook Norton, Bloxham, Adderbury and Deddington. Permission was also granted for a further 145 houses outside Banbury close to the Tudor Hall gates.

None of these sites are included in the draft local plan. This draft local plan was unanimously approved by CDC in October last year and finally submitted to the minister of state on January 31.

A week later CDC granted planning permission for another 40 houses on land which a week before it had zoned as open countryside and a buffer against development on land forming part of Crouch Hill. As a direct result of the failure of CDC, a great number of existing properties on the edge of these villages and of Banbury have been devalued blighted – Burns Road and St Mary’s Road spring to mind.

Are the owners of these properties entitled to financial compensation by CDC for it’s admitted failures?

Is any employee of CDC liable for dismissal for specific non performance? Are councillors responsible either individually or collectively?

Should the chairman of CDC, individual councillors or even the entire council consider resignation?

I believe the electorate and those whose properties have been devalued are entitled to answers.

Iain Stirling

Broughton Road, Banbury

More letters in this week’s Banbury Guardian.