Calls have been made to involve more Bicester business owners in the Market Square regeneration as plans to pedestrianise the area have been labelled an “absolute nightmare”.

Cherwell District Council is set to pump £4.25m worth of funding into the town centre to revitalise Market Square.

The council says the area is "dominated" by cars and parking, with the aim to bring live arts events, markets, and leisure activities making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

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Oxford Mail: Artist’s impression of Bicester Market Square transformation

However, the owner of Barstows Stationary, which opened in 1982 in Crown Walk, just off Market Square, believes pedestrianisation would be the “worst thing” for the area.

Richard Barstows, aged 56, said: “I haven’t heard a single thing from any representative about the development.

“The businesses have a better idea of what’s better for the town.

“If you look at Sheep Street, 30 years ago before it was pedestrianised it was a vibrant and buzzing hub of the town.

“The pedestrianisation killed it off. Now they want to pedestrianise Market Square.

“It is wonderful they have this money to make improvements as Market Square definitely needs a refresh, but from the plans I have seen, closing it, I don’t follow it.

“Pedestrianising the area would be the worst thing. It would be an absolute nightmare.”

“In the vibrant towns I have been to, people can get it, and there is a flow.

"Like Market Harborough, an absolutely buzzing place, and it has a road running right through the middle of it, it induces people to come in.

“Let’s be honest Bicester is a commuter town now.”

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Oxford Mail:

It comes as it is believed that in Cherwell District Council's town centre working party only one out of the 23 is connected with town centre businesses. 

The council did not confirm this, but said they are “reviewing the representation” of the task group to “ensure all voices are heard”.

Town councillor for Bicester North Rachel Mallows said:  “Cherwell cannot make up their mind what their Market Square strategy is with officers and councillors making contradictory statements and distributing artist impressions they later claimed were incorrect. 

“Local retailers deserve to have a say in key decisions. 

“It is simply undemocratic to exclude business ratepayers from the process in favour of organisations that do not have a stake in the town centre. 

“There must be a top-down review of this process and the participant.”

Oxford Mail: Three Lib Dem councillors from Bicester Town Council. Pictured: Cllr Paul Wheatley, Cllr Rachel

Councillor Nick Cotter, who represents Bicester South and Ambrosden on Cherwell District Council, added: “I would like Cherwell to look at thriving town centres such as Thame, Brackley and Towcester to understand that simple solutions are sometimes better.”

Cherwell District Council announced in December that it was searching for town centre regeneration consultants.

They are continuing to look for the right appointment, but hope formal consultations will help finalise designs this year following this work.

A spokesperson for Cherwell District Council said: “We are committed to supporting the development and regeneration of Bicester Market Square, ensuring it is a vibrant destination for residents, businesses, and visitors alike.

“We are in the process of appointing town centre regeneration consultants to work with us and various stakeholders, including local businesses, residents and the town council, to help shape the future of the square.

“The process will be open and transparent and there will be retailer workshops to ensure local businesses have an opportunity to be involved.

“Currently, we are reviewing the representation on the town centre task group to ensure all voices are heard.

“No proposals or designs have been finalised yet, the consultation and engagement will help to form these.

“We want to invest in the future of Bicester and have secured £4.25 million in funding to ensure that we, along with local businesses, the town council and residents, can work together to develop a vibrant and rejuvenated market square for all.”