Proposed extra money for Westway Centre defeated

At the February Vale council meeting, the following amendment to the Tory budget was proposed by Councillor Tony de Vere and seconded by Councillor Debby Hallett:

“This Council wishes to increase its funding to support the vitality of our towns and main shopping areas, including an increased expenditure on Botley.  The revenue expenditure should be increased by a one-off figure of £100,000 for the year 2012/13.”

Cllr De Vere said:

The amendment seeks to increase the financial support to the vitality of our towns and main shopping areas by making an additional £100,000 available – in particularly supporting the retail sector. I am not going to be too specific about what and where, although would highlight previous examples where this Council has supplemented projects undertaken by other authorities in improving the retail and community environment in our shopping areas. I know that my colleague Cllr Hallett will draw your attention to the Botley Westway shopping area and we acknowledge the development plans currently in discussion. There is a £30,000 budget proposal for strategic property advice, but I think this Council must also acknowledge the important community facilities element that goes alongside this development and we must make plans now for the relocation of the parish council’s and community activities at the Seacourt Hall. So I would propose that some of this increased expenditure is used for this cause.

No doubt there are other projects in our three main market towns that would welcome support from this Council and I am convinced that with the advent of New Homes Bonus money, which seeks to reward Councils for their progress in housing growth, we should take the opportunity to plough a small fraction of this money back into our communal shopping areas.

Cllr Hallett said:

North Hinskey and neighbouring Cumnor are about to begin a period of rapid growth, with development expected soon on hundreds of new homes now that Thames Water is addressing the sewerage capacity problems. The Westway Centre is to also have major new development, and to make way for it, the buildings housing Seacourt Hall and our beloved library will be demolished. This amendment would provide money that would go some way to putting in place real plans to ensure the community gets replacement library and community hall.

Council has previously made clear its commitment to the revitalisation of our town centres and retail areas. Westway Centre didn’t benefit from the new free parking scheme, because parking was already free there.

This year, the rate of deterioration of West Way precinct has increased:

  • two units are long-term vacancies, one has serious internal damage that makes it hard to rent;
  • a storm brought down large parts of trees which were found to be diseased and so were removed;
  • police ejected squatters from the flats above the Co-op;
  • outdoor light fixtures have broken and fallen onto the pavements in the precinct.

Shoppers report they no longer feel safe there. In Botley!

North Hinksey is doing its share to meet the Vale’s housing needs. In order to revitalise the main shopping area for thousands of residents, I’d like to see some extra money targeted to bring this shopping area up to the standards the Vale council holds for other shopping areas.

The vote:

All district councillors from Cumnor, Dean Court, Appleton, Kennington, Radley, North Hinksey and Wytham voted for this proposal, except for Cllr Eric Batts of North Hinksey & Wytham, who voted against.