Shopping plans make food bank homeless

thisisoxfordshire: David Cairns at the Oxford Food Bank's current base in the old Habitat store warehouse Buy this photo David Cairns at the Oxford Food Bank's current base in the old Habitat store warehouse

THE Oxford Food Bank, which provides produce for up to 1,000 meals every day, has only been at its current base for six months.

But it’s on the hunt for a new home after a multi-million-pound redevelopment of the area was announced.

The charity currently runs its operations from the former Habitat store warehouse at Seacourt Retail Park.

It collects fresh food from local supermarkets and wholesalers and delivers it free to numerous local registered charities including the Oxford Night Shelter.

David Cairns, 59, from Oxford, a co-founder of the charity which has 60 volunteers, said: “We launched about four years ago and we have only been here for about six months, but it’s time we found a new premises.”

In March, a scheme to transform Seacourt Retail Park into a major shopping destination was unveiled after years of delays.

The firm behind the development, TDH Estates, is hoping a revised £15m plan to redevelop the dilapidated 1980s shopping centre will create 150 new jobs.

If approved, work could begin on the two-phase scheme later this year, with part of it opened by next summer.

Mr Cairns added: “With the redevelopment taking place, we could be asked to move at any time.

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“We provide produce for about 1,000 meals a day and deliver food worth more than £500,000 every year.

“We now need a new space where you could fit in a few vans and freezers – I think we need about 100sq m.

“We have not been paying any rent at the retail park and some commercial rents can be way beyond our reach.”

Staff at the Cultivate co-operative, also based in the former Habitat warehouse, are also keeping an eye out for a new home to store produce and fridges.

The co-op runs the VegVan mobile greengrocers which operates at locations around Oxford and at city farmers’ markets.

Director Doireann Lalor, 29, from Marston, Oxford, said: “We have a number of leads for a new home, and ideally it would be rent-free.”

The site at Seacourt will feature 10 new shops, a total floor space of 13,522sq m – an increase on the current 8,000sq m – and a redeveloped junction coming off the slip road from the Botley interchange.

The development previously faced a series of setbacks including flooding concerns which were addressed when Thames Water gave the go-ahead for a £7m drainage scheme in Botley and Cumnor Hill.

But work could still not start because the applicants were unable to renegotiate the lease on the existing Seacourt Homebase store. The revised plan solves this by working around Homebase in two phases.

The second part of the scheme would begin in 2015, with the whole project completed in time for Christmas 2016.

Eric Hall, a director of London-based TDH Estates, said: “I hope the food bank can find another base. It seems sensible for them to look for new premises, although it may be a few months before anything happens with the retail park.”

Meanwhile, developer Doric Properties is planning to demolish existing shops in West Way, Botley, and create a multi-screen cinema, new supermarket, community hall and student accommodation.

And Waitrose has previously expressed interest in taking over the former Halfords site in Botley Road.

Doric Properties will be holding more public consultations on the West Way plans, but a date for them has not been set.

  •  Visit oxfordfoodbank.co.uk or cultivateoxford.org if you can help

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