AN influx of new people into Didcot risks driving small businesses out of the town, a business leader has warned.

Glyn Hall, the president of the Didcot Chamber of Commerce, is worried for the future of the town's independent retailers because the expanding number of newe homes is expected to attract more chain stores and national businesses.

He said: "The Garden Town initiative could see the population of the town double in the next two decades.

"Firstly traffic congestion will make it hard for retailers to get deliveries into their shops.

"Secondly the town will become a lot more attractive to national chain businesses, making life very difficult for our smaller shops."

Some 15,000 new homes are planned for Didcot by 2031 as it becomes one of the first government-backed 'garden towns'.

The latest development at Great Western Park, where 3,300 homes are being built, is set to be completed in 2022.

Mr Hall, who lives near this new development, said he was considering moving once the site is fully complete.

He said: "We feel we have lost what it was that made us move to the town in the first place.

"All this new development is detrimental to the identity of the town.

"It's turning into a concrete jungle."

Construction work has also begun on a £50 million expansion of the Orchard Centre which will see up to 21 new shops and seven restaurants with major names including TK Max and Costa Coffee already signed up.

Mr Hall, who also owns print company CFL, said all the smaller retailers he speaks to are worried about the future with the risk of footfall disappearing from parts of the town furthest away from the centre.

The Angel Aquarium in Brasenose Road was the latest small business to close in Didcot after its owner of 44 years failed to find an owner to take it on.

It will now become a print shop early next year.

Mr Hall added: "I don't know many people who are confident about the future.

"We hear a lot about people in the public sector needing a pay rise.

"But very few retailers will earn more than last year and are probably paying themselves less.

"Most shops need to be refurbished but they don't have the funding.

"Christmas is usually a time where shops get 50 per cent of their turnover but the signs are it's not been a very good year."