A SET of new flats could sit on top of a shop floor which used to be home to a high street retailer in Bicester town centre.

Plans to transform the rear storage space above the former Peacocks store in Pioneer Square have been submitted to Cherwell District Council and consist of a one-bedroom and two two-bedroom flats.

ALSO READ: Peacocks closing in Bicester leaves one town centre clothes shop

Proposals also include some external alterations such as the installation of eight new first floor windows and three conservation rooflights.

Applicant LCP Properties Limited says these alterations are considered to be minor and to be in keeping with the character and appearance of the building.

Bicester Advertiser: The flats would be to the rear of the building above the shop floorThe flats would be to the rear of the building above the shop floor

Peacocks closed in Bicester in September last year, leaving yet another empty unit in the town centre.

It followed a number of other retailers that have pulled down their shutters in the town centre such as M&Co, Marks & Spencer, H. Samuel, Clintons and Dorothy Perkins.

With Peacocks gone, New Look is now the only clothes shop in Sheep Street.

Residents have previously said the town centre has become a ‘joke’ due to the lack of shops on offer.

But they welcome the idea of converting empty spaces into accommodation.

AnnMarie Crockett said on the Bicester Chat Facebook group: “It’s a very good idea and just may be the future - a mixture of retail and housing.”

ALSO READ: Bicester town centre 'just a shell' as another shop closes for good

Karen Kaz Musilová said: "As much as I'd love to see a better selection of shops in our high street, the reality is that many businesses simply cannot afford to rent or buy any of these units.

"I'd rather see them being used as accommodation, rather than staying empty."

Froggy John Froment commented: "I think retail and residential accommodation should work side by side as it can lead to a thriving town as both parties would rely on each other.

"However, retail and residential must increase and our local council should do everything in their power to enable this."

Bicester Advertiser: Peacocks Bicester - Empty shop/1st floor could turn into three flats
Picture by Ed Nix

Bicester Town Council leader councillor Richard Mould supports accommodation on top of shop units, but would like ground level shop units to remain for retail use especially so that small businesses have places to open.

He said: "We have seen over the past few years more people taking up residence in the town centre as retail landlords make use of redundant space above shops and I think we will see this trend continue.

"The Government has indicated that vacant high street properties particularly at first floor level should revert to living accommodation much as they were in the high streets of yesteryear when it was common to 'live above the shop'.

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"I would support this trend but would prefer to see the street level being kept as small shop units so that we can see more entrepreneurs setting up artisan businesses that people living above will want to use.

"This would mean a breath of new life into the high street for both day time and night time economy."

Towns across the country have struggled in recent years to keep shops open on the high street due to increased online shopping.

Businesses have also been impacted by the pandemic.

County councillor Dan Sames, speaking in his role as a planning lecturer at Oxford Brookes, also supports a mixture of homes and shops in the town centre, saying: "Bringing more residential space into town centre locations has been proven to have beneficial impacts on town centre sustainability."

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