Bicester retailers have been told to grab the opportunity to boost the evening economy as the town prepares for the official opening of the £70million town centre redevelopment.
Last Monday developers handed over control of the Pioneer Square development to tenants Sainsbury’s and Vue Cinemas as the final touches were made for the grand opening on Wednesday, July 10.
Bicester councillor Les Sibley praised the new car park, which boasts a ticketless system and lights above parking bays indicating whether they are available.
The 526-space car park will provide two hours of free parking between 8am and 7pm for any town centre visitor, with the option to pay £1.70 for the third hour. After 7pm, parking is free until 8am the next morning. Automatic number plate recognition systems will alert drivers leaving the car park if they have stayed over two hours – giving them the option of paying at a machine or paying over the internet within 24 hours.
Mr Sibley said: “To me the car parking arrangements are going to be really great, the ticketless system is extraordinary and the spaces are nice and wide.
“And I think the two hours free parking is going to provide a windfall, not just for Sainsbury’s and the cinema, but other shoppers out late.
“That’s why I would encourage Bicester retailers to grab hold of the opportunity this free parking will give them.”
The development has been named after the 23 Pioneer Regiment which will start the opening celebrations by marching through the town at around 8.30am on Wednesday. The regiment’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Clouston, will then unveil a plaque at the Manorsfield Road entrance.
With the Pioneers set to the leave the town by 2015, during a tour of the site on Monday Lt Col Clouston said: “The first thoughts from everyone I’ve talked to is that it is quite humbling that the people of Bicester will remember us this way.
“Everytime someone walks through the door, either consciously or unconsciously, they will be thinking about the Pioneers.”
After a ribbon cutting ceremony the first shoppers will be welcomed into the Sainsbury’s store.
People voted as heroes of the community will then be invited to immortalise their handprints outside the Vue Cinema ahead of the invitation-only premier. The cinema will be open to the public the next day.
Completion of the development will also see bus services moved back to Manorsfield Road from Market Square.
Retailers confirmed for the other retail units are Nando’s, Sports Direct, Prezzo, Dean’s Diner and Peacocks.
See our website for a slideshow of pictures.