THE fear of losing their cornershop to a housing development has led villagers to complain to Oxford City Council.

The former Londis shop on First Turn, Wolvercote, could be demolished to make way for a row of three terraced homes if a planning application to the council is approved.

Though the shop closed in September 2018, residents have written to say they are worried about the prospect of losing their nearest store forever.

The building’s owner has said that ‘the business and post office were not financially viable’, leading to the plan to redevelop it into homes.

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The shop, also known as First Turn Stores in the past, is in the centre of Upper Wolvercote, opposite Wolvercote Primary School and near St Peter’s Church.

In the floors above the shop and post office was a five-bedroom house of multiple occupation.

A planning application by Naresh Kotak said there had been attempts to convert the existing building to be used as a house, or for mixed use in a different format to the current shop, but these had proved too complicated to get off the ground, because the existing building had been extended many times.

In the new planning application, Mr Kotak's planning consultants at JPPC said: “The closure was a last resort as the businesses had been suffering financially for a number of years.”

JPPC also said there were nearby shops in Lower Wolvercote and a Marks and Spencer shop in the garage at the Wolvercote Roundabout.

The statement added that Mr Kotak had noticed takings for the First Turn Stores were down since the M&S has opened.

The statement also referred to a council planning policy which said the loss of local shops was allowed if there was no-one willing to take them over.

Despite the reasons given for the shop’s closure, residents of the village are worried that if it is demolished they will lose their nearest food and essentials shop.

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Dorothy Johnston of Wyndham Way wrote to the council: “A local shop on this site has been an important community asset, given the distance and pedestrian difficulties of other outlets. This is particularly true for the elderly and those without transport.”

Revd Charles Draper of St Peter’s Church also expressed concern.

He said: “The permanent loss of a local shop will be a serious loss to the community, especially to those who are vulnerable, elderly or without their own means of transport.”

He also said anyone who moved into the houses, if approved, should be made aware that the church bells are ‘rung regularly as they have been for over 200 years’.

Lib Dem city councillor for Wolvercote, Liz Wade also wrote to the council planning office with concerns about how overbearing the new houses could be to homes at Cyprus Terrace and would look out of place with historic buildings in the village.

Oxford Mail:

Liz Wade

The Oxford Architectural and Historical Society also objected to demolishing the building, and added it was built in the 1930s by a landowner and businessman called Henry Osborn King, who also owned a clothing business at 26-7 Cornmarket Street, the timber framed building which now houses a Costa Coffee.

During the coronavirus pandemic, cornershops have been allowed to open as essential shops, and have seen an increase in use across the UK higher than any other kind of food shop, according to a YouGov poll conducted in April.

Planning reference: 20/01118/FUL