SAINSBURY’S is to open a new Oxford store in Frideswide Square.

Space on the ground floor of the Royal Oxford Hotel has been marketed since the closure of Bamboo restaurant last year.

Property consultants VSL said the supermarket giant, which also runs stores in Magdalen Street, St Aldate’s and the Westgate Centre, has bought a 15-year lease.

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Richard Venables, director of VSL & Partners, said the space was being marketed for restaurants before Britain’s third largest supermarket chain snapped it up.

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There will be a premises licence application for the sale of alcohol from 7am to 11pm, and a planning application for new signage but it is understood that a change of use application will not be necessary.

Mr Venables, former High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, said: “We marketed the scheme for restaurant use and had some interest but in the end Sainsbury’s thought it would be a great location for a Sainsbury’s Local store.

“There is a Marks & Spencer at Oxford station but this will offer something extra.

“Once the licensing application has been approved and the store has been fitted out Sainsbury’s could open by the end of the summer.”

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Mr Venables said there would still be room on the ground floor for the hotel to accommodate guests for breakfast in space alongside the new supermarket.

Jericho and Osney councillor Colin Cook, also Oxford’s Lord Mayor, said a number of restaurant businesses had not been able to make a success of the unit on the ground floor of the hotel facing the square.

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He added: “Visitors to the city will be able to buy their picnics from Sainsbury’s.

“I can’t see there would be major objections when it comes to licensing - there are already licensed premises in the area doing off sales.”

The application is for a premises licences for the sale of alcohol from 7am to 11pm, seven days a week, and its 'consumption off the premises'.

Any objections need to be made to the city council by May 10.

Despite a £6.7m revamp in 2015, the square in the city centre has started to look rundown, with several shops and restaurants empty.

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Last month Amanda Suliman-Bell, who runs Rainbow and Spoon Boutique, said she wanted Nuffield College to make efforts to find a new tenant to fill the former Oriental Condor restaurant.

The premises has been closed for several years and Ms Suliman-Bell said the empty units made the area look shabby.

Gwilym Hughes, bursar of Nuffield College, said earlier it has started to market the premises of the former Chinese restaurant.

In 2016 the college announced it would step in to help buy land in the Oxpens area and formed a partnership with Oxford City Council.

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The £200m Oxpens scheme is the next phase of the regeneration of the West End, and follows the reopening of the £440m Westgate Centre in October 2017.

The Oxpens area will feature a mixed housing and commercial quarter, including office space and hundreds of new homes.

Nuffield College controls the Grade II-listed Jam Factory, which houses a restaurant, arts centre and office space.

Following renovation work on the outside of the building, internal refurbishment is now taking place.

READ AGAIN: Renovation of historic Jam Factory nears completion

The college and the city council has been working on a ‘masterplan’ for Oxpens, Frideswide Square, and the so-called island site between Hythe Bridge Street and Park End Street.

Peter Thompson, former chairman of the Oxford Civic Society, said he hoped the Sainsbury’s signage would be ‘reasonably discreet’.

He said: “The signage is the critical issue and should be done as tastefully as possible.

“There are lots of people living off Rewley Road who will appreciate a new Sainsbury’s as well as students at the new Student Castle development.”

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Sainsbury’s has not commented and no one was available for comment at the Royal Oxford Hotel.