Town centre back on track

View down new shopping street as part of Bicester town centre redevelopment.
View down new shopping street as part of Bicester town centre redevelopment.

WORK on Bicester’s new £70 million town centre can start without delay after a compulsory purchase order (CPO) was given the go-ahead this week.

The main development, which will include a new Sainsbury’s supermarket and multiplex cinema, is now set to begin early next year once contractors finish site studies.

On Thursday, Sainsbury’s spokesman Andrew Sanderton said he was delighted with the Secretary of State’s decision.

“The redevelopment will transform Bicester and encourage more people to visit the town centre, through the creation of a range of facilities; including a new cinema, Sainsbury’s store, new retail and restaurant units, improved town centre parking and a new bus interchange,” he added.

The start of work in the spring will avoid any disruption to town centre trade over the Christmas period.

A total of 14 firms or individuals lodged objections when the CPO was announced in October last year.

The list was reduced to a single objector, Boots landlord HPUT, by the end of a public inquiry held in May.

Most of the objections were over details such as access rights and fire escape routes.

Councillor Norman Bolster, of Cherwell District Council, said: “It has taken an enormous amount of hard work to get us to this point and I am very grateful to everyone involved.

“We can now start work on providing Bicester with a fantastic facility, which will have a better shopping and leisure offer and attract more people, benefiting all the traders in the town centre.

“Bringing the town centre redevelopment together has been an extremely complicated process and I know people have been frustrated that it has taken so long to reach this stage but the Secretary of State’s announcement means that we can push ahead with this much-needed development.”

Bicester Chamber of Trade chairman Ben Jackson said: “The decision to commence in the new year means traders can maximise the 2011 Christmas period and only have one such period impacted.

“This is a common-sense approach that minimises the potential for trading disruption.”

Planning permission for the redevelopment was granted in 2009. A new civic building for Bicester could eventually be included in the redevelopment, alongside the seven-screen cinema and Sainsbury’s supermarket.