OWNERS of a family-run coffee shop forced to close down have claimed Oxford has ‘lost its sparkle’ and slammed council bosses for driving independents out of business.

Combibos Coffee shut its doors this week, with the family who run it hitting out at Oxford City Council over business rates and abandoning the rest of the city in favour of the Westgate Centre.

They also blamed Gloucester Green landlords for treating the square as an ‘asset portfolio’ rather than encouraging units to be filled.

UPDATE: 'Bean nice knowing you' - the other coffee shops and restaurants we've lost in Oxford over the last year 

In a letter, joint owners Rob, Sue, Sam and Martin Hanss thanked customers and urged them to support other independent businesses.

They said: “The city has lost the sparkle it had when we first opened 12 years ago.

“Whether it’s the council making the roads impossible to commute on, the parking so expensive or the ill-thought-out plans of building the Westgate without addressing how tired and unloved the rest of the city is, Oxford is a shadow of the place we all fell in love with.”

El Mexicana, next door,also closed down recently and the Hanss family questioned city council assertions that footfall had increased.

They said: “There is no doubt the Westgate development has sucked the footfall from our side of the town since it opened.

“This coupled with business rates becoming extortionate without Oxford City Council giving anything back and the Gloucester Green landlords treating the whole area as an asset portfolio instead of encouraging units to be filled and proactively improve the square, has driven visitors away.”

The family team thanked customers and staff for all their support.

They said: “To all the amazing customers we have had we would like to say a huge thank you.

“We have loved watching your children grow up, your wedding dreams be fulfilled, your exams passed, your promotions achieved and hearing all the day-to-day stories of life.”

Those customers paid tribute to the cafe and its hospitality, which many said had made it an ‘Oxford institution’ for more than a decade.

Combibos regular Marina Lambrakis, said: “I am so so sorry to hear this. Combibos has been part of my Oxford life for the 10 years that I’ve lived here and the warmth and hospitality of your family have been a huge part of my life.

“Oxford won’t be the same.”

Another fan, Eden Bailey, said: “I’m so gutted to hear this - thank you for everything you’ve done for the community over the years, and for being such a wonderful place.

“Every visitor I’ve had to Oxford I’ve taken to Combibos, and I’ve missed it since leaving the city.”

Oxford City Council said: “The city council values independent traders in the city centre and continues to provide assistance through various means, including the Talk of the Town Forum for retailers and traders, as well as signposting businesses to supportive organisations such as OXLEP’s Oxfordshire Business Support.

“We are keen to talk to traders to hear their concerns and invite them to get in touch.”