BICESTER continues striving to be a Garden Town but the funding it has received in the latest bid for funds, is less than was desired.

As part of the Government’s Garden Communities Programme, Cherwell District Council bid for £1.06 million in order to make improvements to a number of areas in the town including the town centre.

But overall, the council was awarded £770,000 and have designated portions of the money to cover different areas of development with the aim of becoming a Garden Town.

The town centre is one of the areas that the council is keen to develop but despite the desired £30,000 bid that was set, the town centre will now only receive £10,000.

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Funds however will not be used to start work but will go towards consultations on the options and preparation of developments and design briefs for the area.

This will then guide development proposals and inform the review of the Local Plan which contains planning policies for development over the next 12 years.

Councillor Richard Mould, leader of Bicester Town Council, said: “We have only just received the funding so we plan to talk with Cherwell District Council about the next steps and what parts of the Local Plan we can develop in the town centre.”

One of the areas in the town centre however that Mr Mould believes needs some attention is the Sheep Street.

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Now with 13 empty units, Mr Mould says the Sheep Street needs to change due to the current retail climate.

He said: “There are lots of things happening and it’s because of the way the town centre is changing. We have more online retailers and as a result our shops are suffering.

“The high street has lost its traditional base but what we have seen over the past 18 months is that stores that provide a service can survive.”

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Mr Mould says shops such as barbers, nail salons, coffee shops and bars have opened in the town centre as opposed to more traditional high street retailers, and one of the ways to keep Sheep Street alive is to provide services which will bring people into the town centre.

Two dentists recently opened in the town centre as well as a tutoring centre called Kumon which provides additional lessons for children in education.

Mr Mould said: “We find that a more service-type industry is replacing the retail industry on the high street which could see more people coming into the town centre.”

Other areas in the centre that have received funds include Market Square which received the full £100,000 that was bid by the council.

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A Cherwell District Council spokesperson said: “Bicester is part of the Government’s Garden Communities Programme which supports places seeking to deliver high quality new development.

“Through the Garden Communities programme, Cherwell was able to bid for capacity funding to support work in Bicester. The bid included a proposal to look at opportunities to enable more development in the town centre. The Council was successful and pleased to secure £770,000 as it was one of the largest awards given, even though it was less than originally bid for.

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“The funding is to do engagement on the potential for more development in the central area of the town and, if opportunities are identified, to produce some development guidance.”