Bicester’s chamber of trade has welcomed an announcement that £15,000 of central government money is to be spent on advertising and websites for local traders in a bid to help boost trade in the town centre.
At the end of last year, Cherwell district councillors agreed a series of initiatives to increase footfall in Bicester, Banbury and Kidlington town centres, including advertising, regeneration projects and improved signage.
The projects are now beginning to be rolled out and will be funded by the £100,000 Town Centre Innovation Fund, which was awarded to the district council in 2012 by the Department for Communities and Local Government following Mary Portas’ review into boosting high street trade.
Bicester was allocated £30,000 of the £100,000 total but has already spent £15,000 of the money offsetting the cost of free parking in 2012.
District councillor Norman Bolster, lead member for economy and estates, said: “In December 2012 we used part of these funds to offset the cost of offering free parking in Banbury and Bicester and, while this was hugely successful, the benefits were only temporary.
“As we cannot afford to offer free parking all year round, we needed to consider other ways to use this one-off funding to provide long-term benefits. By allocating separate funds to Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington, we can implement a series of long-standing initiatives and projects which will promote the towns’ individual strengths and attractions.”
Bicester’s remaining £15,000 will be used to provide 30 grants to independent traders to cover 75 per cent of the costs associated with a year-long radio advertising campaign.
The money will also provide another 30 grants to retailers to cover half the costs of setting up or improving their business websites, to ensure they can be viewed on computers, smart phones and mobile devices with a high prominence on search engines.
Chairman of Bicester and District Chamber of Commerce, Ben Jackson, said: “It’s great news that they’ve agreed to the funding being used in that way.
“It’s a very innovative use of the funds, something that hasn’t been tried before and one would hope it would provide the desired effect.
“We would encourage local traders in the town to take up the offer and look forward to hearing their advertisements on the radio and visiting their websites.”