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Store plan threatens to call halt to revamp
BUILDING work on Bicester’s new town centre could stall amid a row over plans to expand Tesco and Bicester Village.
Sainsbury’s raised concerns that the success of the £70m redevelopment may be “put at risk” with new units left vacant.
The company has also threatened to stop its own shop-fitting work because of the Tesco plans, which it says would take away trade from the town centre.
Work is under way on the town centre redevelopment, which will include a Sainsbury’s supermarket, cinema, shops and restaurants. The scheme, due to open next summer, is being driven by Sainsbury’s.
Rival supermarket chain Tesco also wants to open a new store opposite its current position off the A41, which would allow Bicester Village to move on to the site Tesco vacates in Pingle Drive, where the fashion outlet complex could then open 28 new shops.
The Tesco/Bicester Village plan also includes £11m in road improvements on the A41, Oxford Road and Pingle Drive – a move that would cut chronic local traffic congestion at peak times.
But Sainsbury’s has made a string of objections to the plans by Tesco to open a store that would be double its current size.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We are concerned about the significant impact these proposals would have on the existing town centre and the town centre redevelopment.
“As such, we have not yet committed to fitting out our store and will not do so until the outcome of these applications are known.”
This week, Sainsbury’s called into question traffic figures submitted by Tesco and Bicester Village as part of the planning application, claiming the out-of-town expansion could attract up to 40 per cent more traffic and cause congestion.
The Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “While rapid construction progress has been made to allow the Bicester town centre redevelopment to be completed for summer 2013, its future success has been put at risk by the Tesco and Bicester Village proposals.
“A new, larger, out-of-town Tesco store and an expanded Bicester Village would result in a substantial reduction in town centre footfall. This directly affects the viability and future success of the town centre redevelopment.”
A Tesco spokesman said its plans would bring jobs and an improved road network.
He said: “This would mean people could stay and shop in Bicester, rather than having to travel further afield to do their weekly shop. Town centre shops will benefit as a result.”
Town and district councillor Les Sibley said: “While you can understand the noises coming from Sainsbury’s, it does put Cherwell District Council in a predicament because they are in partnership over the town centre redevelopment.
“Sainsbury’s should look at it as an opportunity as they are ahead of the game. One initiative that’s in their hands is to offer free parking.”
Neither Cherwell council or Bicester Village were available for comment.
The Bicester Village and Tesco plans are due to be decided at a district council planning meeting on January 3.