Car park flats development is blamed for shop closure

The Oxford Times: Manager Georgia Poole Manager Georgia Poole

A CHARITY bookshop says it is the first casualty of the huge reduction of the St Clement’s car park in Oxford – and other traders are fearing for their future.

The Sobell Bookshop on the Plain has closed, with the charity’s chief executive saying it could no longer justify staying open.

But Colin Cook, the board member for city development, denied the car park was the cause – blaming the price the charity charged for its books instead.

A year ago, work began for the student housing being built above the car park – due to finish in August – with the number of parking spaces available dropping from 120 to 37.

At the time, traders said the lack of parking for shoppers would hit business and yesterday, Sobell House’s chief executive Diane Gardner said the shop – which opened just three years ago – was just not getting people coming into the store as they had nowhere nearby to park.

She said: “Initially the shop traded well and we were very happy with its results and the chance for Sobell House hospice charity to reach a new audience.

“Unfortunately the footfall and donations have now fallen as a result of the reduction in car parking places to the point that we can no longer justify keeping it open.”

The charity’s books operation contributes a significant amount to the funds for Sobell House, based in the grounds of Churchill Hospital.

All the stock from the East Oxford store will be moved to its store in Little Clarendon Street, which will now open on Sundays from April 27.

She said: “We are very grateful to the local East Oxford community for their support while we have been on St Clements and will miss being a part of the local scene.”

Manager Georgia Poole added: “It is upsetting because the shop could have done quite well. Parking was the main problem because there was nowhere for people to drop things off at the shop.”

The Sobell Bookshop closed last Sunday, March 30.

The Oxford Times:

St Clement’s car park, which has had its spaces reduced

Patrick Clacy, of nearby And So To Bed store, said: “There has definitely been a significant effect on trade in the area.

“I would say a lot of the restaurants will have had the biggest impact, because they do rely on passersby and why would people drive here when they know there is nowhere for them to park?

“I don’t yet have solid figures for how it has affected us but I know we will have had a drop in trade.”

Clinton Pugh, owner of Cafe CoCo, said at the end of last year he estimated he had lost £40,000 and has had to close the business for half the week.

He said: “We are desperate for the summer to come, which will bring more people in on foot and hopefully bring us out of this lull.”

But Mr Cook said of the bookstore’s closing: “It doesn’t surprise me that they are shutting. I think the books were too dear; most charity shops make a thumping great loss selling books.

“I suspect that is why Sobell House has not fared well. I would be interested to hear what evidence they have that the car park is the only factor which has affected them.

“You don’t need to drive a car to be able to buy some books and there are excellent alternatives where people can park.”

He said he understood there to have been a five per cent drop in shoppers, but said it is lower than the seven per cent fall on the country’s high streets, and traders could apply for a rates reduction.

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