Shop closures ‘warning sign’ for Abingdon’s precinct

New chain stores are urgently needed to fill empty units at Abingdon’s precinct, according to a long-serving trader. 

Ian Collett, who runs The Bookstore in the Bury Street precinct, said the area’s landlords needed to bring in new businesses.

He spoke out after Clarks shoe shop closed – it has been serving customers in the town for at least 20 years. 

Vodafone is expected to close its shop in the town next month.

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Mr Collett said the closures were a “warning sign” and action was needed now to prevent the precinct from deteriorating further.

Oxford Mail: Vodafone in Abingdon is to closeHe added: “There are shops which could do very well here including Robert Dyas and Iceland. And the town needs a sports shop – JD Sports would do very well.

“The former Dorothy Perkins unit has been empty for too long and so has the former Peacocks/Edinburgh Woollen Mill unit.

“That is the big space and would need to be split up – perhaps between a supermarket and a fashion retailer.”

Mr Collett said other market towns with a nice mix of independent shops and chains were busier than Abingdon, including Witney, Henley and Marlow.

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He added: “The council needs to do something positive to bring more shoppers to the town – including bringing back two hours’ free parking.

“Cutting free parking to one hour was a mistake – now people don’t feel they have any time to browse.”

Oxford Mail: Ian Collett of The BookstoreAbingdon South county councillor Neil Fawcett, who is also on Vale of White Horse District Council, said trade in Abingdon town centre was a “mixed picture”.

Oxford Mail: Clarks in AbingdonHe added: “National chains are struggling on high streets across the country and inevitably that will affect Abingdon.

“Online shopping is a major factor, so bringing in new national chains is not necessarily the solution – we need to work with more independent businesses.

“There are lots of coffee shops and restaurants in Abingdon and the town can sometimes look quite busy.”

Mr Fawcett said the Vale council has proposals to revitalise The Charter area, and the landlords of the precinct were “positively engaged” in those discussions.

Mr Fawcett said earlier this year he believed the town’s multi-storey car park should be demolished.

Oxford Mail: Peacocks has closedThe councillor said the car park should be demolished as part of plans to redevelop the town centre, including The Charter.

Following public consultation, a series of development options have been drawn up by the Vale council in a special report called the Central Abingdon Regeneration Framework (CARF).

The CARF document looks at two slightly different sets of options for The Charter but both would involve the demolition of buildings including the multi-storey car park.

One option suggests demolishing The Charter, plus units in Bury Street North and clearing the site for a five-storey development.

New library facilities would be provided on the site, while health and social care facilities would be relocated.

A budget hotel could also feature in the proposals.

In a second option, health care facilities would be included on site.

The library in The Charter is one of the most popular in the county, and a previous plan to move it was abandoned.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.

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