Banbury’s 40 closed shops offer opportunities, say experts

Closed shops in Banbury collage NNL-190409-121051001
Closed shops in Banbury collage NNL-190409-121051001

A check of Banbury town centre reveals 40 empty shops – but this may offer an opportunity for change.

The Banbury Guardian empty shops gallery is featured on the paper’s website.

Out of town retail parks, online shopping, expensive parking and costly rates have been cited on social media as deterrents to shopping – and trading – in the town centre.

Cherwell District Council blamed changing trends towards online shopping affecting towns across the UK while commercial property agent Neil Wild, chair of the Chamber of Commerce, said challenges to town centres offer opportunities.

Cllr Tony Ilott, lead member for finance, said: “We are determined to make the most of the opportunities by investing and planning proactively for the town’s future.

“We have identified trends towards leisure experiences and street food which cannot be replicated online.

“That’s why we are delivering new experiences through our plans for Castle Quay Waterfront and Lock29 that will draw visitors in from further afield and boost trading.

“Only two per cent of Castle Quay floor area is truly empty. Most empty shops there are already let to new tenants or are being prepared for handover.”

Mr Ilott said small businesses were encouraged to apply for rates relief which can be up to 100 per cent.

Mr Wild said: “I receive regular enquiries (and) small shop units are in high demand.”

He said some buyers are converting upper floors into flats. Others are changing use of shops for education, training and recreation. Such redevelopments take time, during which the shops stay empty.

“It’s critical we all recognise the excellent Banbury town centre businesses who provide a specialist and niche offer worthy of our support, he added.”

Jo Holland of Banbury Business Improvement District (BID) said it is analysing crucial information from a 1,000 person survey that will give important information to help current businesses optimise trade and to inform what is needed to attract more successful companies to the town centre. The results will be shared in October.