The deputy leader of West Oxfordshire District Council has committed to continue free parking at Marriotts Walk shopping centre.
The authority announced last week that it had acquired the buildings and assets of the area. It already owned the freehold.
Councillor Duncan Enright (Lab, Witney East), who also oversees economic development, confirmed the deal had cost the council £9.16 million “plus normal acquisition and due diligence costs”.
He described that as “significantly less” than the price mooted last year and “less than a third of the price paid by the original investors in the site”.
Marriotts Walk sits in the heart of Witney and comprises 21 lettable business units and a 590-space car park.
It had been let on a long lease to Kandahar Real Estate and, more recently, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank.
The car park is open from 7.00am until 1.00am on Monday to Saturday and from 9.00am until 1.00am (Monday) on Sundays, with shoppers able to park for free for four hours on floors one to six and up to nine hours on the top two levels.
Addressing the purchase at this week’s meeting for all West Oxfordshire district councillors, Councillor Enright said: “The transaction is entirely in line with our published investment strategy to reinvigorate our market towns.
“In the interests of transparency, I can advise the council that the sum paid for the centre was £9.16 million plus normal acquisition and due diligence costs, significantly less than the sum discussed at cabinet in July 2022 and less than a third of the price paid by the original investors in the site.
“This is a good investment for the council, and more importantly, the price paid will allow us to invest further in the site, bring all of the units back into use and reactivate the public spaces within the scheme.
“This is good news for the council, good news for the retailers, not just on Marriotts Walk but across the whole of Witney town, and hopefully the whole district.
“And no, we will not be introducing car parking charges within the centre to finance this, but we will be looking at all sorts of ways to reinvigorate Marriotts Walk for the good of the whole of Witney town.
“We also hope to make it a space for everyone to enjoy.”
At the July meeting of West Oxfordshire’s cabinet – the team of Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green councillors in charge – “an investment opportunity in the strategic economic infrastructure of West Oxfordshire” was discussed – but the location and full details were kept confidential.
The minutes of that meeting state Councillor Dan Levy (Lib Dem, Eynsham & Cassington), the district’s cabinet member for finance, “confirmed that in addition to contributing to the regeneration of the town, the purchase would have to make money for the council. If this was not the case the acquisition would not proceed”.