Despairing residents of the once ‘buzzing’ town of Banbury have lamented the state of their shopping centre as droves of desolate and boarded up stores take over.
Once shut down and boarded up, some buildings in the Oxfordshire market town remain deserted for months – sometimes years.
‘This town is slowly dying on its knees, said Robert Page, a 64-year-old film posters collector who was ‘born and bred’ in Banbury.
It comes amid fears that the once beating heart of the community could be demolished and turned into a new housing complex – after it emerged there were plans to redevelop a retail and car park area nearby into 230 homes.
Mr Page said the decline of the town was a shame because Banbury is a ‘real historic place’ and in the 1970s was a ‘buzzing little town’.
‘I’m from a farming background and we used to hold one of the biggest cattle market in Europe. But everything is gone now. The standards have really dropped here, to be honest.
‘There is no money coming in, so it’s a vicious circle. New shops open and because they can’t keep up with the rent they close within three months.’
He added: ‘There are many factors coming into play – but I think people are too tight to pay for the parking here. If the council could make parking free over a trial period of six to eight weeks, it would entice people to come shop here.’
Robert, who has lived in the region his whole life, says he has seen the beloved town weather away over the past three years.
Pointing at a beautiful but derelict-looking historical building across the street which used to be an oriental restaurant, Robert said: ‘This has been boarded up for a couple years now.
‘It’s a shame because in here, and around this area, all the surroundings are beautiful – the Cotswolds is on our doorstep.’
Robert thinks that since the pandemic and the mass exodus of city dwellers to the English countryside, the cost of living and property has become higher for locals – which in turn has a negative impact on the local economy.
He said: ‘People will want to buy a house around here but they can’t do it anymore because everyone is moving in from the capital.
‘And schools and hospitals – everywhere is struggling, everywhere needs money. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.’
In the Castle Quay shopping centre, a council-owned retail spot just off Market Place and High Street in Banbury town centre, nearly 15 shops have closed down over the past couple years – and they have remained empty since.