AS Bicester's £70m town centre redevelopment took a step closer to reality this week, local traders expressed a mixed reaction as to how the looming eco-town at Weston-on-the-Green could affect their long-term business.
While some traders thought the proposed 15,000-home eco-town, dubbed Weston Otmoor, would entice more shoppers to Bicester once its massive redevelopment was finished, others were worried that the new town would be a drain on the local jobs market.
Bicester's huge town centre revamp will include a 950 seat six-screen cinema, 24 new shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and a Sainsbury's superstore.
Joe Taylor, of Sheep Street's J&K Tackle, said: "I hope the eco-town goes ahead as it will give us lots more customers. The more the merrier.
"The more buildings that are built the better. Build it quickly."
Andy Lewis, of Clays Butchers, in Sheep Street, said: "With Weston Otmoor, we are talking about at least another 45,000 people. It will only boost trade for Bicester.
"For Bicester it will be a good thing, but if you live in Weston-on-the-Green it won't be very nice living on a building site."
Michael Smith, of Crown Drycleaners, in Crown Walk, said he would welcome the extra trade the eco-town would generate.
He said: "As far as business for Bicester is concerned, it has got to be a good thing."
Progress on the town centre scheme had been delayed in recent months due to funding arrangements - it had been hit by the downturn in the property market and the credit crunch.
This week, Sainsbury's, in partnership with Stockdale Land, gave its full support to the scheme.
Sainsbury's development executive Richard Haynes said: "Sainsbury's, Stockdale Land and Cherwell District Council are delighted with the progress being made to deliver this exciting scheme. It will focus retail and leisure activity, strengthen the existing business and create a more vibrant social scene with more local employment."
Norman Bolster, the council's economic development and estates chief, said: "We're delighted that Sainsbury's remains committed to the project. The council is determined to work with its partners to create the town centre facilities that Bicester needs."
Work on the redevelopment - to include a complete revamp of the site bounded by Sheep Street to the east, Manorsfield Road to the west, St Johns Street to the north and Crown Walk to the south - was due to start earlier this year following Government approval last September.
But delays in signing off a deal with Town Centre Retail - a partnership between local developer Stockdale Land and J Sainsbury's - had left the project on shaky ground.
A Cherwell District Council spokesman added: "We do not have a firm start date as yet, as there is still further work to do on the legal agreements."
Although many traders welcome both the eco-town and Bicester's shopping redevelopment - which includes a new civic building with a library, council offices and offices for shopmobility, 19 flats, car parking for 526 cars and a new bus interchange - some other businesses in the area were concerned.
Keith Wadley, of Wadley's Electrical's, in Market Square, said: "After listening to the proposals of Weston Otmoor, my biggest worry is that it will drain away employment in Bicester.
"We need the employment to stay in Bicester."
Pauline Forbes, of Occasions, in Crown Walk, said: "With Weston Otmoor, as long as the people shop in the town it will be a good thing. But I am scared what Bicester's redevelopment will do to the town when the building work begins.
"It will change people's shopping habits and put people off coming in to the town in the future.
"In any case, I don't feel the trade here reflects the amount of housing we have at the moment. People are not actually shopping here. With the increase in the number of new homes, you would expect trade to have doubled over the years - but it hasn't."