Didcot residents give Orchard Centre expansion strong support

Released on July 26, 2015

People living in Didcot have given their strong backing to plans to expand the Orchard Centre, the town’s main shopping area.

The ambitious proposals, which would almost double the size of the Orchard Centre, include 24 new shops anchored by an M&S Food Hall, six new restaurants, a gym, public open space and more parking space for both cars and bikes.

Earlier this month just under 500 residents were surveyed at random by market research company Future Thinking to find out what they thought about Didcot, the Orchard Centre, the proposed expansion and the need to relocate the existing bus route.

A very encouraging 88 per cent of people said they support the plans to expand the Orchard Centre. 

With the town’s population growing, and with emergence of Didcot and Science Vale as a key area in which to live, work and commute, there is an increasing need to provide additional facilities for residents and visitors and it’s especially important that people support the improvements taking place in their town.

Although satisfaction with the existing shopping area is high at 86 per cent, the expansion plans will address the need for better shopping facilities that 30 per cent of people highlighted.

The one area of concern that people had about the Orchard Centre expansion was about the relocating of bus services which will see the route changing from High Street to Station Road.  Although 35 per cent of people disagreed with this change, when it was explained that the expansion could not happen without this alteration just 12 per remain opposed to the new arrangements.

When asked about the town as a place to live 92 per cent of respondents said that they are satisfied, up from 79 per cent in 2007 and a real demonstration that Didcot is changing for the better. 

With the recent improvements to the station, plans for Didcot Gateway, proposals for the site at the former Didcot A Power Station and the introduction of many new community facilities at Great Western Park, Didcot really has a bright future ahead with many positive changes set to happen over the next few years.   

Cllr John Cotton, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “It’s really encouraging to see that residents support the proposed expansion of the Orchard Centre.  The plans will go a long way to meeting the need for additional retail and leisure space and will help put Didcot on the map as a regional destination for shopping and dining. 

“We are fortunate to have Hammerson as the Orchard Centre owners.  While many other areas have struggled and seen projects cancelled they have retained high street brands, maintained the areas success which has been a huge factor in the changing attitudes towards the town, and pushed forward with the expansion plans which will improve the area even further.

“While I understand concerns over the bus route the scheme could not move forward without this happening and we will put measures in place to ensure the new Station Road arrangements are used by buses only and not abused by other motorists.  However, once the northern ring road is completed we expect to see congestion at Jubilee Way ease and buses return to this route.”

Additional note -

The Orchard Centre survey was carried out by Future Thinking via telephone interviews with just under 500 residents between 2 and 5 July 2015.   To read the full survey results please click on Orchard Centre survey 2015 (1.4 MB) PDF .