The role of commercial property in future-proofing Banbury town centre
In 2017, Cherwell District Council took control of Castle Quay Shopping Centre in Banbury, and has since been working to transform and future proof the town for future generations. In what he refers to as ‘these challenging time’, deputy leader of the District Council, Concillor Ian Corkin, believes that town centre economies such as Banbury’s need ‘dynamism and connectivity’ if they are to continue to attract a broad audience.
The Council has, he says, unlocked the town’s potential by bringing a much-needed leisure and night-time economy to the town and better connecting the area with other parts of Banbury. The canal side has been transformed, creating a destination for visitors and the local community next to the historic Oxford canal.
“This £70 million development will help strengthen Banbury’s appeal as a key tourist attraction in the UK, especially given the rise in staycations following Covid-19,” says Corkin “This work would not have progressed so quickly had the site been outside the Council’s ownership.”
The first phase of the development opened in August and included a 117 room Premier Inn and a 30,000 square foot Lidl. Construction work was able to safely progress during the period when consecutive lockdowns put so much of economic activity on hold, but Corkin says that both the hotel and the supermarket are performing ‘exceptionally well’, with high footfall and strong guest numbers.
In the second phase of the Waterfront development, The Light will be opening a high-quality entertainment experience, with a state-of-the-art eight-screen cinema, a leisure offering with 10 lanes of boutique bowling, and a sun terrace overlooking the canal, opening in Easter 2022. The Waterfront will also include three restaurants, which are set to open at the beginning of next year.
“Introducing a new night-time economy to Banbury will secure a vibrant and sustainable future for many businesses, especially retail, which contributes positively to Banbury as a complete destination for its residents and visitors,” says Corkin.
“Viewed as a whole, it is a rich and diverse offering which positions the canal side area as a destination for a complete day out, not only attracting visitors but encouraging the flow of people throughout the town.”
The town is currently bouncing back from lockdown levels with visitor numbers continuing to increase every week. In August footfall reached 436,537 for the month, a rise of 0.7 per cent month-on-month. Corkin expects footfall in the centre to increase steadily each week as visitors feel more and more comfortable venturing out, and tourists visit the town again.
“In the years to come town centres will not just be about shopping,” he adds. “It is mixed-use destinations, well integrated with nearby public spaces that will attract and retain visitors. The development of Castle Quay Waterfront will sustain and revitalize Banbury for businesses, residents, and really cement the town’s place in the wider regional economy.”
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.