Was Banbury Gateway the 'death knell' to the town centre? Have council decisions drained the town centre of commerce? Letters to the Editor

Was Banbury Gateway the 'death knell' to the town centre? Have council decisions drained the town centre of commerce?

By Roseanne Edwards
Monday, 2nd May 2022, 9:36 am
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Town centres of all sizes have faced extraordinary challenges over the recent years, which have become particularly acute during the Covid pandemic. Nevertheless, I was shocked and saddened during a recent visit to Banbury to see how ravaged the town centre has been – a stark example of the times in which we live. I, like so many readers, remember a vibrant town centre with a bustling market at its beating heart, national chain stores sitting next door to popular local independent traders.It would be wrong to lay the blame for the dramatic decline of Banbury’s main shopping streets solely at the door of economic challenges, changing shopping habits and the recent pandemic. That would be all too easy for the local planning authorities and elected representatives who have presided over this 25 year deterioration.In truth, decision after decision has contributed to the changes which have drained Banbury town centre of the commerce which it needs to thrive. The balance was just about right when, from the 1980s, Banbury Cross Retail Park coexisted with the town centre – but the decision to allow the Banbury Gateway development to go ahead acted as a death knell for the town centre. The delicate retail economy of Banbury has now moved out of the historic centre to the soulless outskirts of town along with many big name retailers.It is hard to see how the much ballyhooed Castle Quay 2 development is going to provide much of a solution – introducing new shiny retail spaces whilst endless historic shop fronts continue to sit empty just a short walk away. Worse still – a new cinema will, I fear, prove a challenge too far for the much loved Odeon which has served Banbury for decades. It is hard to believe that the money already wasted on this project can reverse the relentless drain away from the town centre.Town planners of comparably sized and similarly historic settlements such as Shrewsbury in Shropshire or Stamford in Lincolnshire have successfully promoted and protected the town centre shopping experience – and they should prove an inspiration to Banbury.The Banbury Business Improvement District, known as the BID, has optimistic and admirable aims – but with continual planning and investment decisions focusing on new shopping options out of the town centre, it seems something far more radical is needed. Optimism alone will not solve Banbury’s problems, and the time has come for some dramatic, joined-up, new thinking – before it really is too late.Duncan Smith, WoodstockProposal is immoralWhile I fully realise that “political expediency” may well make the Government feel that the time is ripe for a good, new hard line on immigration, I find the latest proposal one of the most immoral: to send already distressed people thousands of miles, many after a perilous journey to these shores, to a country whose own record on human rights we have had frequent occasions to question, and whose only reason for accepting the deal is to be a big bribe paid by us. It reminds me of the way in which we pay to send our toxic waste to poor countries for processing, regardless of the results for them.The policy is one of exporting a problem as a solution to the problem, because it is no longer ours. It stinks.Ian Huish. SheningtonLadies helped at bus stopI would like to send my very grateful thanks to the lady or ladies who realised I had become unwell whilst waiting at one of the bus shelters at the town hall, Banbury, on Tuesday, April 19, at approx 1.45pm. Their quick observation that I had a problem and calling for an ambulance saved me from worsening. Many, many thanks indeed.Patricia Humphris, BanburyMake tyres identifiableWe seem to be ever pursuing the vanishing hare when it comes to fly-tipping and the latest episode of dumping of large quantities of old tyres [Banbury Guardian April 21] is an example of this. May I suggest that by law all tyre fitting firms must be made to put an indelible company stamp on all old tyres. This would only take seconds and, if dumped, their source and the dumpers could easily be traced. Existing council inspectors would need to be able to visit tyre firms at random with no notice and apply heavy penalties if unmarked tyres were found. This would stop most dumping immediately and save tax payers a great deal of money!Brian Cannon, Great Bourton

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