Hundreds of people gathered in Bicester town centre early on Wednesday morning to witness the grand unveiling of Pioneer Square.
Troops from Bicester’s 23 Pioneer Regiment formed a guard of honour at the £70million development’s opening, conducted by Lieutenant Colonel David Clouston, commanding officer of 23 Pioneer Regiment, and Councillor Lawrie Stratford, chairman of Cherwell District Council (CDC).
Unveiling a plaque commemorating Bicester’s long-standing association with the Pioneer Regiment, Cllr Stratford said it had taken “a lot of time and a lot of work” to deliver the major scheme, which has created a large Sainsbury’s store, a seven-screen Vue cinema, restaurants and shops.
He added: “I’m really proud to be here to unveil this particular plaque to recognise the town’s link with 23 Pioneer.
“This is an old garrison town, and many of you have links. This is an appropriate recognition over the years.”
Lt Col Clouston said some senior soldiers had returned to Bicester time and time again, and said the town was the only home some of his junior soldiers had ever known.
“Life is not so much about places and equipment, it’s about people, and by the people of Bicester and outlying villages we have always been made welcome, and we’re very pleased to be here,” he added.
The ribbon on the new Sainsbury’s store was cut by Rushani Arumguham, 10, from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, and Klaudia Kabzinska, 14, from Bicester Community College.
Both were winners in a competition to design a print for reusable shopping bags.
The new Sainsbury’s has created 300 jobs, with 90 per cent taken by people from Bicester and the surrounding area.
Store manager Vince Brimble said: “I’m really pleased that so many of my new colleagues and teammates live locally and that we have been able to make a positive difference.”
Other shops and restaurants in the redevelopment include Nando’s, Peacocks, Biagio the Jewellers, Sports Direct, Prezzo, Dean’s Diner, Willow Spring Dry Cleaning, Fostering Solutions and Shopmobility.
Five winners of a local celebrity competition had their handprints set in concrete at the opening of Bicester’s new Vue cinema.