Once buzzing but now a ghost town – according to a national newspaper

12/01/2024

Local response to a damning article in the Daily Mail newspaper

A national newspaper has taken aim at Banbury in a story which claims the Castle Quay Shopping Centre is “a ghost town” and focuses on boarded up High Street units.

The Daily Mail article described Banbury as “once buzzing” but said local people now “lamented the state of their shopping centre as droves of desolate and boarded up stores take over.”

Whilst some people agree, others are questioning why the Dail Mail has picked on Banbury when many towns face a similar situation.

The report claims that empty shops remained deserted for months, sometimes years.

Reporters had spoken to a number of people who blamed factors such as rents and commuters from London who simply lived here, inflating the cost of property for local people.   The often-discussed bone of contention of Cherwell District Council not allowing any form of free parking in the town centre was also raised.

Christopher Chandler from at The Coffee Guys in Banbury Market Place told the Daily Mail: “For years, it looked as if it was us high street traders against the shopping centre – we were trying to get people out of the shopping centre.

“Now we’re just trying to get people back to Banbury any way we can. But I think it’s like that up and down the country.”

A number of local people read the report and gave Banbury FM their opinion.

Claire Millington questioned why the paper had picked on Banbury.   She said: “Lots of towns are suffering: rates, energy costs, Brexit-driven staff shortages, low wages and high inflation.    I don’t know what the Daily [Mail] has against Banbury in particular.”

Glyn Smith said: “[There’s] no mention of all the great independent businesses we have around Parsons Street and Church Lane, etc.”

Rachel Burns supported the calls for free parking and added: “To rejuvenate the town centre perhaps encourage pop up shops, especially as this would revitalise and not make the town look so empty – giving it a new lease of life.

“Unfortunately covid and online shopping has affected things but there are other towns finding ways to fill shops still with good brand names combined with successful independent shops and businesses.”

Ed Hiorns questioned why the paper had chosen to visit on a weekday when some of the shops were shut anyway, but Andy Tibbetts felt it was “a sad but true assessment”.

Ben Quarman felt the current situation was down to a planning decision a few years ago.   He said: “Gateway has killed the town.   Giving the biggest stores a location to move out of the town was a big mistake by the council.”

Responding to the article Cherwell District Councillor Donna Ford has defended Banbury.   The Portfolio Holder for Regeneration has also suggested that people share whatever views they have on Banbury town centre in the Banbury Vision 2050 consultation, so the decision makers can build a town centre people are proud of.

She said: “Banbury is a vibrant and dynamic town with a lot to offer. We recognise that the landscape of town centres across the country has been changing and needs strong leadership to ensure they meet residents’, visitors’ and businesses’ needs in the years to come.

“In Banbury we are taking a proactive approach to future-proofing the town centre, with our new Waterfront development putting the town on the map as a destination, and ongoing work to reimagine what further regeneration projects we can deliver in Banbury in the coming years.

“Last year we launched our Banbury Vision 2050 engagement project to help us shape the future of the town centre. This gives residents, businesses and visitors the opportunity to share their views and help us develop our vision for a more vibrant and flourishing Banbury. We are focused on looking to the future and would ask everyone to fill in our Banbury Vision survey at www.banbury2050.co.uk before it closes on Monday 15 January and help us build a town centre that we can be proud of for years to come”.

Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group at Cherwell District Council, said: “It’s a real shame but not a surprise to see the Daily Mail run a piece that is solely aimed at slagging off our town. Like many town centres, it has had and continues to have its challenges. But the town has improved in lots of ways recently and I’m proud to be a Banburian.”


Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

Reader's opinions
  1. Alan Shaw   On   12/01/2024 at 7:06 pm

    What have we got in Banbury apart from coffee shops and card shops there is nothing in this town if you want to go shopping you have to go out of Banbury
    This is not the town I used to know

  2. Donna Fleming   On   12/01/2024 at 9:07 pm

    Everything you need can be found in Banbury town centre – food shops,Turkish barbers,hairdressers,nail bars,coffee shops,vape stores,charity shops,cards etc. so why on earth would you want to go anywhere else?

  3. Ian Middleton   On   13/01/2024 at 1:23 pm

    It’s a shame that neither the Conservative member responsible for regeneration or the Labour leader appear to have bothered to read the responses from some of the people that were interviewed on the street. Personally I’d rather listen to them than spout off the usual stuff about regeneration when the centre has essentially been left to rot ever since the council bought it.

    The main problem with Castle Quay is that the council bought it for top dollar claiming that if they didn’t the original landlords would shutter it. If that was the case I would have thought a peppercorn price would have been more appropriate rather than the £68m+ they paid.

    They clearly thought it would be a money-spinner at the time, even though the high street was already in decline. less than a year after they bought it one of the main anchor stores – Debenhams – posted a half a billion pound loss, so it’s pretty clear that the ‘expert advice’ the council say they took before buying it was far less expert than it should have been!

    The other problem is that the council bought the centre with no idea of what to do with it. They only bought it because they wanted to build the waterside development which is mostly non-retail. The twisted logic was that somehow people coming to the cinema or have a pizza mostly at night would revitalise a shopping centre that trades during the day. This was an idea that was rejected by the previous owners who were profession shopping centre operators because they said it would not be viable or profitable. The council thought they knew better and now we see the result.

    As a CDC councillor myself I’ve not heard anything about the site being closed and demolished for housing. That wouldn’t really make sense as the site would be worth far less than the council paid for it as development land. It’s already lost nearly 75% of its value anyway! the council are also planning to move their offices to the centre so that would seem to run contrary to this suggestion

    But it wouldn’t surprise me if the Tories did come up with another hairbrained scheme, enthusiastically supported by the Labour group who these days seem more Tory than the Tories!

  4. Len Polton   On   13/01/2024 at 1:34 pm

    The Daily Mail has hit hard. Unfortunately, It’s all true. Face facts, stop the platitudes that the town is booming. Banbury is a rundown ghost town, caught in the rapid and continual descent of decay.

  5. Simon Dyer   On   13/01/2024 at 10:07 pm

    Like any town or City centre, it has been hit by online shopping. Castle Quay is emptying because of high rents. I was sad to see GAP and Debenhams go, There seems to be two stories why M&S went. I visited Swindon and that seemed to be going the same way!!

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