A NATIONAL souvenir store chain is set to open a branch in central Oxford.

Cool Britannia has been given the lease of the former Blackwell’s music shop.

The shop at 23-25 Broad Street is owned by Oxford City Council and has been empty since June after historic Oxford bookseller Blackwell’s moved its music store into the basement of its bookshop across the road.

At the authority’s city executive board on Wednesday the souvenir shop, which already has six branches around the country, was awarded the lease.

Council leader Bob Price said: “Clearly one of the most important things about the city’s economy going forward is to maintain a strong tourism sector.

“We may have a large growth in our retail offer with the Westgate redevelopment, so Broad Street will probably become the sort of place where people will look for tourism shops.

“Cool Britannia is offering something which should be very successful in economic terms and maintain the character of Broad Street. We don’t want them messing around with the outside of the building.”

Blackwell’s Music had been in Broad Street for 12 years, having moved from Holywell Street where it was set up in 1950.

The council hopes to convert the second and third floors of the building into homes but has said this could require planning permission.

Graham Jones, of city centre traders’ group ROX, said: “It is good to see that it will now be filled and if it is going to be an upmarket gift shop that will be a bit of competition for the existing shops in Broad Street.

“There is a limit to the number of tourists coming to Oxford. We we would like to see more.”

Family bakery Huffkins said it had put forward a bid to lease the site but that was unsuccessful.

Huffkins director Richard Taee said: “It is a big disappointment as we were gearing up to bring 30 new jobs to the city and more at our head office in Burford and bakery in Witney.”

Mr Taee said he and his agents were currently working to find another unit in Oxford where Huffkins could open a branch.