THE redevelopment of Bicester town centre has been delayed by another year after developers failed to reach a deal with firms concerned about the impact of the plan.

The £70m project includes a new Sainsbury’s supermarket, cinema, six shops, parking and a bus interchange over the Crown Walk, Bure Place and Franklin’s Yard car parks.

But shops and utility companies have opposed the plan, saying they are concerned about reduced vehicle access and the price the developers will pay for land.

This means the disputes will have to be resolved by an public inquiry, putting the scheme on hold for at least a year.

Cherwell District Council is trying to force the sale of land needed for the project through a compulsory purchase order.

But an inquiry is needed because seven companies have objected and have refused to strike a deal.

Bicester councillor Les Sibley said: “It’s quite frustrating, because this is going to lead to further delays for the project, and the town centre itself can ill-afford these delays.

“It’s under immense pressure already and this will add further frustrations to traders and shops alike.”

Sally Purdie, of Shire Mobility, in Crown Walk, said: “It’s so annoying. You think everything is going to go ahead and then it comes to a standstill. Bicester desperately needs the development to go ahead to get people to return to shop in the town centre. People aren’t coming, because everything is up in the air.

“Bicester desperately needs to keep up with places like Banbury, Oxford and Witney.”

Sainsbury’s and the council said the development would go ahead once the inquiry was completed.

The supermarket chain had said it hoped to open its store next spring.

Work was due to start in 2007 but was delayed because of the downturn in the economy.

It was rescheduled to start in January last year but suffered a further eight-month delay due to legal issues over road alterations.

Phase one began last August, to move the River Bure from one side of Manorsfield Road to the other, build a new footpath and cycleway on the west side of the road and a roundabout near the entrance to Hanover Gardens.

David Marriott, Cherwell’s head of regeneration, said: “Both Cherwell District Council and Sainsbury's remain 100 per cent committed to the delivery of the scheme at the earliest opportunity, however, it’s not possible to confirm a timescale until the results of the inquiry are known.”

Sainsbury’s declined to add to the council’s statement.

The inquiry will start at 10am on Tuesday, May 17, at the council’s headquarters at Bodicote House, Banbury. The public are welcome to attend.