One objector left as centre inquiry ends

Culverted river next to Manorsfield Road and Bure Place in Bicester.'100415M-A395
Culverted river next to Manorsfield Road and Bure Place in Bicester.'100415M-A395
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TESCO reached an agreement with Cherwell District Council (CDC) over the Bicester town centre redevelopment on Thursday, leaving only a single objector as the public inquiry came to an end.

Boots landlord HPUT was the only objector remaining, meaning the planning inspector’s report should be with the Secretary of State much sooner than originally anticipated.

The inquiry in CDC’s offices at Bodicote House was due to conclude on Friday, but because HPUT had already submitted its objections in writing, the inquiry ended more than a day early.

CDC hopes a decision could be now made by the autumn over whether it can proceed with a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the redevelopment site between Sheep Street and Manorsfield Road. Such decisions usually take at least six months.

If the CPO is permitted, the £70million redevelopment will include a seven-screen cinema, a large Sainsbury’s food store, more parking, and space for restaurants and shops.

Tesco Stores, one of the main objectors, formally withdrew its objection shortly before representatives were due to give evidence after lunch on Thursday.

Speaking after the inquiry, Councillor Norman Bolster said: “Cherwell District Council and Sainsbury’s remain committed to the delivery of the Bicester town centre redevelopment.

“We are confident that the evidence given by the council and Sainsbury’s at the inquiry will allow the inspector to recommend the Secretary of State to confirm the order.

“The timing of this decision is not within our control, but we are doing all that we can to enable a start to be made on site as quickly as possible after the decision has been made.

“Both the council and Sainsbury’s are keen to progress to the final construction phase as quickly as possible to ensure that the people of Bicester have the town centre they deserve.”

A total of 14 objections had been received after CDC issued a CPO for the redevelopment site in October.

Most concerns centred on details such as fire escape routes and access rights.

In their evidence to planning inspector David Nicholson, CDC’s legal representatives and senior officers stressed the redevelopment should be completed as soon as possible to prevent trade leaking away from the town centre.

More large shop units were needed in the town centre to attract national retailers, the inquiry heard, and a cinema would give the town’s “evening economy” a big boost.

A second phase of the redevelopment would include a new library to replace the current library in Old Place Yard. A new civic building could also house Bicester Town Council’s offices, leaving The Garth free to be used as a heritage centre.