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Hopes for 160 new jobs as Waitrose consults on store
ABOUT 160 jobs will be created by a new multi-million pound Waitrose store proposed for Oxford’s Botley Road.
The supermarket chain is preparing to submit a planning application that will see a new store replace the former Halfords and MFI units, which are set to be demolished.
A smaller 24,500 sq ft unit is proposed for the site with 150 car parking spaces.
Residents are being invited to have their say on the plans before a planning application is submitted at a two-day public exhibition.
The company will be delivering newsletters to residents in the area informing them about the plans and asking for their feedback.
Waitrose director of development Nigel Keen said: “We have a long-standing ambition to increase our presence in Oxford and believe this is an exciting opportunity to revitalise a prominent site along the gateway into the city centre.
“We want to add to the investment being made in Oxford to help the city continue to thrive and look forward to hearing feedback.”
The chain aims to submit a planning application by the end of the year and, if it is successful, work could start in autumn 2014 with the store opening in 2015.
Cancer Research UK has been operating a £1 outlet store from one of the units since August on a temporary basis.
Halfords left the site in January and furniture retailer MFI closed its store in late 2008 after going into administration.
Susanna Pressel, Labour city councillor for Jericho and Osney, said: “They (Waitrose) seem genuinely to be listening to our views, and I was able to suggest that they try to make a feature of the stream that runs beside and behind the site, and that they should consider solar panels and a ‘green’ roof, among other environmental measures. There are, of course, many other questions to be asked – and not just about traffic.
“For instance, will they try hard to fill all the jobs locally, and do we really have to put up with yet another shed-like building on this important site?”
Graeme Alexander, of Prestwich Place off Botley Road, said: “My biggest concern is the traffic. Where we live in the Botley Road it’s a complete nightmare anyway, even during the week. But particularly at weekends if you are going out in a car you cannot get out.
“If you are getting the bus in to town it doesn’t go anywhere because of the traffic. This has been going on for years.
“The prospect of another supermarket given we have a Co-op and Aldi already is not helpful.”
The proposed store is almost double the size of the nearest Waitrose in Headington, which is 13,000 sq ft, and the proposed Botley Road supermarket will be the company’s nearest to the centre of Oxford.
If the store is given the go-ahead, it will donate £12,000 and 250 staff working hours each year to local causes nominated by its customers.
The public exhibition takes place on Friday, November 29 from noon until 6pm and Saturday, November from 1.30pm until 4.30pm, at West Oxford Community Centre in Botley Road.
Former Labour county councillor John Power, of Ferry Hinksey Road, said: “I would be delighted with a new Waitrose, it is investment in the area. It brings jobs and prosperity.
“The only slight worry is the impact on the local shops, but Waitrose is a pretty decent company and as a consequence I am sure the local shops could meet with them.”
The retired 75-year-old added: “It has been a derelict site for a long time. It is the site of the old ice rink, so it is quite a historic site.”
Staff at Eggs Eggcetera, an independent food shop in Botley Road, refused to comment on the proposed Waitrose store.
Bob Bradley, president of the Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “I have mixed feelings.
“The positive would be it is great that the economy is beginning to pick up and people are investing in the future. But we are concerned about the transport infrastructure in Oxford.”
He added: “It could add to the traffic, and traffic is a big problem.”
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