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Shops fear customers will shun ‘building site’
TRADERS fear their livelihoods might be threatened after it was revealed a multi-million pound redevelopment of Botley shopping centre could be much bigger than originally thought.
Developer Doric Properties wants to demolish existing shops, creating a multi-screen cinema, new supermarket, community hall and student accommodation.
The developers last week met with more than 40 tenants of West Way Shopping Centre and from shops on Elms Parade to discuss the regeneration.
It emerged that the existing precinct could be almost doubled in area, stretching down West Way beyond St Peter and St Paul Church. While the church would remain, the vicarage and neighbouring 60 flats for the elderly at Field House in West Way could be flattened.
But with construction expected to take up to 18 months and the new centre unlikely to open before 2016, some existing tenants say they may not survive to be relocated in the extended new shopping area.
Hairdresser Gary Walker, of Botley Barbers, said: “We are all worried. Customers are not going to wait. They will just go elsewhere.
“There has been a barber’s shop here since 1937. I am 65 and previously had people interested in the business. But no-one is going to want to buy it now. No-one in their right minds would want to buy a shop around here.”
A number of businesses are pinning their hopes on building work being carried out in phases. Andrew Shea, owner of Andrews Dry Cleaners, said this would allow shops to trade longer and then move into vacant properties or even temporary structures.
But Andy Brock, of butchers A J Brock, said: “Trying to run a business in the middle of a building site? “I just don’t think it would work.”
David Tompkins, of David Tompkins estate agents, who attended the meeting, said: “People’s leases around here are all different. A lot of people do not feel this is the right locality for student accommodation.
“But there are a lot of positive things.”
Other buildings that are expected to be flattened include Botley Library, Botley Baptist Church and Seacourt Community Hall.
Doric director Simon Hillcox said:“We understand this is an uncertain time for those currently trading at West Way, and welcome tenants contacting us directly with any questions they have. “We also encourage local residents to attend our consultation events and feedback their views directly to the project team.
“It is only with the input of those living and working in Botley that we can take forward a development that will work best for Botley, now and in the future.”
While the company has signed an agreement with the Vale of White Horse District Council and a consortium to buy a section of the site, the company has not reached agreement with owners of Elms Parade – made up of 14 shops and seven flats – which faces out to the main road.
The Sovereign Vale Housing site has also not been secured. Company spokesman Roy Probert said: “Like other local businesses, Sovereign has been invited by the developers to attend the public consultation events on February 28 and March 2.
“We look forward to being able to view their proposed regeneration plans for the West Way area and to providing our feedback.”