THE fight to preserve Oxford’s only independent cinema has been picked out as a blueprint for how to save the UK's high street in a national report.

Ultimate Picture Palace, off Cowley Road, was one of six community businesses identified as examples of how local access and ownership of key buildings can be pivotal to help save struggling high streets.

Commissioned by independent trust Power to Change, it was carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

ALSO READ: One clothes shop left in high street after store closure

It showed how fragmented property ownership, a lack of transparency on who owns high street buildings, as well as absentee landlords, all act as a barrier to creating sustainable regeneration.

The report also explores how community businesses can help reverse this trend, with research revealing economically, community businesses deliver what high streets and residents need as they are run by people who understand the area best.

Oxford Mail:

It highlighted UPP, which reopened last month, and how it has managed to harness local support for the independent cinema since the death of previous owner Becky Hallsmith two years ago.

A group of local residents, including some members of Ms Hallsmith's family,set up the Ultimate Picture Palace Community Cinema Ltd, a Community Benefit Society (CBS), in May last year to try to bring the cinema into community ownership.

ALSO READ: Teacher makes EIGHTH covid-fighting blood donation

Rather than place it on the open market, the executors of her will gave preferred bidder status to the CBS, which attempted to raise the money needed to buy the cinema. The purchase would, along with some improvements to the projection room and a new disabled toilet, require them to raise around £250,000.

In July, the Oxford Mail reported on the launch of a three-week crowdfunding appeal to raise £18,000 to save the cash-starved UPP.

Oxford Mail:

A flood of generous donations meant that figure was reached within 90 minutes, with almost £60,000 pledged by the time the fundraiser closed.

The report noted despite the strong community support the transition to community ownership has been hard.

It said: "Bringing an existing business into community ownership has been difficult - they have had to patch together grants, pro bono support, and expertise from the community."

ALSO READ: Sir Keir Starmer is asked to help Randolph Hotel workers made redundant

Margaret Wolf, chair of the UPP CBS, said: “The Ultimate Picture Palace has stood on the Cowley Road for over 100 years – it’s an important part of what brings people to our high street and we want that to continue for the next 100 years.

“Becky Hallsmith, the last owner who died in 2018, wanted the cinema to be owned by the community. Whilst coronavirus has disrupted those plans for the immediate future, we’ll be looking to launch our community share offer as soon as we possibly can.”