WAYS of keeping the city thriving during major works over the next few years are to be explored by a team of councillors.

Oxford City Council’s scrutiny committee will examine how it can support businesses during major projects such as the £500m revamp of the Westgate Centre.

Councillors will also look at the issue of empty properties in the city centre, such as the one left by HMV in Cornmarket Street when it closed in June.

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Review leader Dr James Fry said: “We have got a short- to medium-term challenge to see what we can do to keep people coming into the city and support business while all the work is going on at Westgate and in Frideswide Square.

“We also want to see if we can start filling empty premises with more small businesses, possibly by helping them occupy them in the short-term.”

He said a key focus of the review would be on communicating with businesses.

The review was welcomed by Rainbow and Spoon Boutique owner Amanda Suliman Bell, who called for a closer relationship between businesses and the council. She said she feared her Park End Street shop would be badly affected by upcoming roadworks to overhaul Frideswide Square, starting in February.

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Amanda Suliman Bell.

She said: “They keep saying the new junction will be fantastic when it’s finished but we are all still wondering how long we will last through the works.

“Anything that gets the council more involved in the plight of retailers and businesses in the city has got to be good. I want them to make the public aware that we are still open for business even when there are roadworks.

“They also need to contact us further ahead about these works, so we can actually plan ahead.”

Council city centre manager Laurie Taylor revealed that next month Oxford Town Team will start a new service for firms.

The Town Team is a public-private sector partnership, with representatives from business and the local authority.

Ms Taylor said that in early February the group would introduce a monthly ‘health check’ for businesses, detailing market factors such as sale statistics and hotel occupation rates. She said: “That information is based on the goodwill of businesses and will also be about the forewarning of roadworks and other events.

“We want to communicate with firms in the city and talk to them about how they can take advantage of situations such as Alice’s Day.

“It is about thinking differently and knowing what is going on around you.”

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