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The number of empty shops in Banbury town centre has fallen again.
The latest audit by Banbury’s town team co-ordinators shows 33 ground floor retail and hospitality units listed as empty and available. That’s down from 40 at this time last year and down from 53 when the town team co-ordinators published the first audit in May 2014.
It means the percentage of empty units in Banbury town centre has fallen to seven per cent at a time when the national average has been stable at around thirteen per cent.
“Cherwell District Council is committed to continue working with landlords and agents to overcome barriers to the remaining empty ground floor units being let. The falling number of vacant shops is an encouraging sign the council’s work with the town team co-ordinators is reaping positive results.”
The town team audit also revealed other encouraging signs for the initiative to strengthen Banbury town centre’s economic vitality; most notably continuing demand for town centre space.
The 33 remaining empty and available units include five in Banbury Old Town. Four of these are on Church Lane where there has been interest that has not yet been taken forward by the landlord while in the process of selling the building.
Commercial agents also report continuing enquiries from both national names and independents for some other currently empty units.
There are a number of large, long-term empty units which the town team co-ordinators are working on, with landlords, through innovative solutions to bring them back into use.
Cherwell District Council appointed two town team co-ordinators Iain Nicholson and Neil Wild in April 2014, renewed in April 2015.
Their role is to drive a project focused on boosting footfall, working with landlords and agents to reduce the number of empty town centre shops, and explore opportunities to bring the pop up and community shop concepts to Banbury. They work with existing town centre partners including the Old Town Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Castle Quay, the town council, the markets operator, existing businesses and other town centre stakeholders. One of the co-ordinators’ roles is to work with landlords and commercial agents to identify and overcome barriers to empty ground floor town centre units being let.
“It’s encouraging to see the number of empty town centre shops falling, but also to know that there is continuing demand for the units that remain from strong national names and new independents. It’s also worth emphasising that a number of the empties – including four on Church Lane – do have interest in them from would-be occupiers, but offers for them are being put on hold by the landlords while ownership changes go through.”
“One of the reasons we organise pop up shops in the town centre is to build a pipeline of viable independent retailers who, having had the chance to trial their offer, will gain the experience of running a rent paying shop and some track record to present to a future landlord. Hopefully – as experience in other towns has shown – they are then able to stay on, committing for a longer period of time.”
As part of their work, the town team co-ordinators arranged a short term lease on the former Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe unit at 85 High Street via agents Brown & Co, with Fay Bryan’s popular independent women’s clothes and accessories shop, Kt-Lu’s, opening for a two-month pop up stay.
Fay Bryan said:
“I have enjoyed an excellent ongoing relationship with Iain and Neil to find me the right premises for both me and my customers. It’s good to be back, and we are now discussing plans to come back after the short term lease runs out in the near future.”
It is the second unit the town team have taken on in the pop up shop initiative, with Adderbury-based baby clothing wholesaler Merrygoround UK occupying the other on Church Lane in Banbury Old Town.
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