Businesses in Bicester’s town centre are concerned that a lack of free parking within the town is having a negative effect on trade.
Business owners claim that since the arrival of the Sainsbury’s complex on Pioneer Square, they have seen a downturn in footfall through the town centre, as well as profits.
Free parking for up to two hours is available within the complex, which opened last July, and shop owners say they aren’t surprised that consumers are heading that way to do their shopping.
Sarah Hayden, the owner of Bicester Bazaar said: “I recently joined the Bicester Town Centre Group, and they were campaigning for this last year. It’s something I really want to push for because since my first year in business I can see that takings are down.
“A lot of people find the new complex is very handy, but with it being out the way of the town, people have stopped using the Wilkinson’s car park.
“It’s a great facility, but because car parks across the town aren’t the same, we are struggling.
“I don’t think making nearby car parks free for the first hour or two will have a bad effect. In December 2012 there was free parking over the weekends and Mondays and the difference in trade was hugely noticeable.”
Jane Roberts, the owner of Options, said: “We’ve been here for three years and were doing really well, then we renewed our lease just before Pioneer Square opened but now our sales have plummeted.
“We just don’t have the same level of people walking past, and even though Sainsbury’s offer two hours free parking it isn’t enough time to do your weekly shop and then look around the town centre.
“I was for the arrival of Sainsbury’s but it offers products similar to ours so if other parking in town was in line with theirs then it would give us a chance to compete.”
However, Councillor George Reynolds, Cherwell District Council’s deputy leader, said: “Pioneer Square has proved to be a great asset to the whole of Bicester, bringing in, as it does, shoppers from far afield.
“The council recognises that some may wish to see free parking at our car parks in the town but it’s not something that the council can afford to implement.
“The cost would have to be met through additional funds or from taxpayers and neither option is financially viable. If we were to offer free parking it could also lead to savage cuts to other non-statutory services.”