Council apologises to councillor after heated row over Banbury Castle Quay shopping centre

A councillor has received an apology from the council after a heated row over Banbury's Castle Quay shopping centre.
A councillor has received an apology from the council after a heated row over Banbury's Castle Quay shopping centre.A councillor has received an apology from the council after a heated row over Banbury's Castle Quay shopping centre.
A councillor has received an apology from the council after a heated row over Banbury's Castle Quay shopping centre.

Cllr Ian Middleton (Green) has received a personal apology from the council's chief executive Yvonne Rees, after making a complaint about a statement issued about him by the council’s press office.

The Banbury Guardian reported how Cllr Middleton challenged Cherwell District Council's investment in Castle Quay at a meeting and raised financial concerns surrounding losses in value and budgetary pressures.

In a statement to the Banbury Guardian after the meeting, the council said his view “ignores or misrepresents factual information that has been shared with him”.

Cllr Middleton challenged the council to provide evidence of any misrepresentation or statements he had made which were untrue or misleading. They were unable to do so. He complained that accusations that he had misrepresented the facts were both professionally and politically damaging to him.

Subsequently Cllr Middleton requested a retraction of the original statement and an apology which he has now received. He has also been assured that a retraction of the original statement from the council will be issued shortly.

Cherwell District Council's chief executive, Yvonne Rees, said: "It is unfortunate that the statement uses this wording, and I apologise whole heartedly for this. The statement was in no way a deliberate attempt to undermine your professional and political standing."

Cllr Middleton noted a £4.3 million shortfall in anticipated revenue from Castle Quay over this and the next financial year, including a £1 million drawdown from council savings to plug the gap publicised in July 2022.

He also estimated that the centre and Castle Quay 2 combined is now worth £87 million less than its acquisition and development cost.

The council did not dispute those figures but instead submitted the astonishing rebuke - so we published an article earlier in March, asking whether the attack was fair and justified, given that his statements were based in facts which were checked by our reporter.

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Cllr Middleton said: “I was pleased to accept Yvonne’s apology and have confirmed that, along with a published retraction, I will

regard this as the end of the matter.

"My concern has only ever been to ensure that all Cherwell residents are kept fully informed about the implications of the council’s involvement in this scheme and the impacts it could have on provision of services, the level of council tax and the future financial stability of the council.

"Everything I have said both internally and publicly about Castle Quay has been backed up by facts. Any commentary I have made has been rooted in my own experience within the retail industry which has informed my concerns about the potential impact on the council of their involvement in this development.

"As a councillor and someone who has been involved in the retail industry for over 30 years, I’m keen to ensure the council takes a realistic and pragmatic approach to the development going forward and looks for solutions to minimise any future risk whilst facilitating much needed regeneration across the town and the wider district.”

The council has contacted the Banbury Guardian to ask for its original comments to be retracted and we have messaged them back to ask if they wish to comment specifically for this article.