TRADERS fear a new Next and Marks & Spencer in Bicester would damage the town centre, despite developers saying they are needed to compete with Banbury.
Plans for the Oxford Road retail park, being developed by Consolidated Property Group (CPG), include three shops, three restaurants and a gym.
Proposed branches of Next and Marks & Spencer at the site would both be bigger than any building in the town centre, CPG said, and both would be more than twice the size of the town’s former Tesco Metro store.
CPG managing director Martin Ridgway said there was a “real threat” Bicester could lose out in attracting shoppers, as Banbury was due to be getting even bigger branches of the High Street retailers.
He added: “This could have major impact on the strength of Bicester’s town centre as many shoppers will drive to Banbury to visit these shops and whilst there will do their other shopping including weekly food shopping at nearby facilities.”
Mr Ridgway said there was nowhere else in Bicester town centre that could accommodate for the size of the planned stores.
But one trader in Bicester, who asked not to be named, said: “We are next to a Marks & Spencer already so if they open another one out of town are they going to keep this one or close it as well?
“It is not a good thing at all, it is just moving trade out of the town.
“They are supposed to only build out of town if there is nothing available in the town.
“There are plenty of premises in town they could use.”
Owner of tailors Henry’s of Banbury, which has a sister store in Bicester, James Douglas, said that free parking at such out-of-town shopping parks damaged town centres.
Mr Douglas said: “It’s the nail in the coffin for us.
“The more out-of-town shopping centres they build the more it’s going to hurt town centres.”
He added: “You do get people coming from Bicester, but people go from Banbury too, for Bicester Village. I would say in some ways Bicester is getting more development than us.”
But co-chairman of the Kingsmere Residents Association Graham Brogden said Bicester needed High Street chains to keep money in the town.
He added: “We need to develop the high street retail in Bicester because we do not go to Gucci and Prada for our clothes every day [at Bicester Village].
“There is good support in the area, because we need more shops and opportunities for employment in the community.”
Mr Brogden said people were supportive of the retail park.
He added: “If it is not there then people will go elsewhere.
“You can already see people going to shop in Banbury and Oxford.
“The sooner the retail park is built the better.”
The retail park is another in the long line of developments proposed for Bicester including the eco-town, Graven Hill, the new business park, park and ride and expansion of Bicester Village.