Castle Quay

In 2018 Cherwell District Council purchased the Castle Quay Shopping centre.  As a retail analyst, I’m not convinced that risking council tax payers money on a venture like this is a good idea and it’s already starting to unravel as a result of declining high streets and of course the impact of online retail.  This has been made even more pressing as the effects of the pandemic has led to an even greater decline in real world retail.

Since the council purchased the centre at a vastly inflated price, it has lost nearly three quarters of it’s value. Even the new waterside project is worth less now than it cost to develop. Meanwhile the centre adds pressure to the council’s budget every year as the predicted profits from the operation fail to materialise. Council tax payers are underwriting this whole fiasco while the council sticks its collective head in the sand and hopes for the best. There is no discernible plan for how to turn things around and little in the way of understanding of the retail industry amongst the council membership.

Whilst I accept that keeping the centre open is vital to Banbury, and I largely agree with the development of the Castle Quay extension, I remain concerned about any impact on council finances as retail failures continue in the centre. I will be maintaining a watching brief on developments there. I can see no way out of the spiral of decline that taxpayers have been saddled with by the Conservative leadership, but I realise that we are now stuck with this white elephant and we have to figure out some way to make it fly.

In the meantime, I’m concerned about the amount of council resources that are being poured into Castle Quay every year which is causing problems elsewhere in the district. The budgetary pressures created by the centre are adding to the loss of services and increases in council tax across the whole district simply to plug holes in the council’s finances as a result.

My preference would be for the council to support the smaller independent stores outside the centre in areas like Parsons Street.  But I can see there is some scope to support smaller operators in the shopping centre itself. However, while all the focus is on Castle Quay there seems little left to ensure that Banbury’s once thriving independent stores are getting the attention they deserve.