A CHARITY is setting up shop in a disused West Oxford building while a long-term plan for the site is decided.
In two weeks, Cancer Research UK will open a store in the former Halfords on Botley Road, Oxford.
The Oxford Mail reported earlier in the year that Waitrose was eyeing the location, but no planning application has yet been submitted.
And the site has been subject to vandalism since its closure in January.
Windows at the back of the property have been smashed and ‘Waitrose’ has been scrawled on the side of the building. Police confirmed they had been called to the site last Tuesday.
Philippa Elsmore, area manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re really excited as we get ready to open our new superstore.
“It’s a fantastic, convenient location with good parking facilities which we believe will make it easier for local people to donate and shop with us.”
The Cancer Research shop will open on August 12 and is part of a pilot project for the charity, with further outlet stores and donation stations planned across the country.
The development comes as Botley residents voiced their concern about the shop remaining unoccupied.
Lynton Appell lives opposite the site and said: “Something does need to be done there as it has been quite a while.”
Jericho and Osney city councillor Susanna Pressel said: “It is a great shame to see those buildings standing empty. This is a good use for them in the short term.
“We are all keen to help charities to raise money and local people will be supportive of this.
“On the other hand all we really want to know is what is going to happen in the long term.
“I believe that Waitrose is still thinking about this as a possible site.”
Last night Waitrose spokesman Rob Cadwell said: “It’s no secret that we are keen to build on our presence in Oxford in the future and are continuing to explore opportunities that would allow us to achieve this.”
Workman LLP are property agents, managing the site on behalf of the landlord.
Following the reports of vandalism, a spokesman said: “We have now got extra patrols on the site and the windows will be fixed this week.”
The property is owned by Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Ian Callister, council spokesman, said: “It is a pension fund property. We are not planning to sell it.
“But there has been interest in the site and discussions are ongoing.”
Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Rhianne Pope confirmed officers were called to the property at 7.20pm on July 23.
She said: “Offenders had shattered the windows of the building. No arrrests have been made and investigations are ongoing.”
Anyone with information is asked to call 101.