A COMPANY boss says the reason why Bicester is now ‘beyond the point of recovery’ is because of planning decisions by Cherwell District Council.

Eric Gadsden, managing director of housebuilder W.E Black Ltd, wanted to knock down the former Dorothy Perkins and Clintons stores in Sheep Street and build two four-storey blocks of 28 flats.

ALSO READ: Flats could 'bring more life' to 'dying' Bicester town centre

But he withdrew the application due to the response he received from council planners.

He said: “We withdrew because of the very negative feedback from planners. Cherwell District Council is in denial about the problems of Bicester.

“They think retail should be put on the ground floor, but Bicester town centre is now beyond the point of recovery and it’s all due to council policy because they’ve allowed retail to open around the town which has sucked the life out of the town centre.”

The council said the conversion of the ground floor element from retail to residential would result in the loss of retail floor space in the town centre ‘to the detriment of the main function of the town centre’.

But Mr Gadsden says that with so many empty shop units, using the space for residential purposes would have been better than leaving it empty.

He said he had also suggested other ideas to the council in the past such as opening two market units in Sheep Street to allow market traders to operate daily.

ALSO READ: Empty space above former Peacocks could be converted into flats in Bicester

He added: “What we need is day-to-day traders because at the moment there’s no reason to go into the town centre because there’s nothing there. Towns that do the best have strong markets, so I thought of an idea but Cherwell completely dismissed it. If they can’t see the proof that it will work, they’re not going to care.

“Cherwell is locked in the dark ages, they don’t understand retail and their planning policies are outdated.”

The boss said he may re-submit when planning rules change in August and has considered proposing to convert the shop units into flats instead of demolishing them.

A council spokesperson said: “Applications for planning permission can be withdrawn by applicants at any time.  This most typically happens when a positive outcome is unlikely having regard to planning considerations.

"The Council’s commitment to Bicester is undiminished."

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