IN a bid to save a much loved shopping centre from falling into disrepair, a community is rallying together to ‘pop’ some life back into it.

Empty units in the West Way Shopping Centre in Botley are causing concern among residents who worry it looks too ‘run-down’ to prospective shoppers, deterring them from visiting.

But rather than let more shops fall by the wayside, a group of residents are appealing to the district council and developers Mace, who are currently redeveloping the centre, to transform it into a pop-up shop haven despite ongoing building works.

Chris Church, speaking on behalf of The Association for Botley Communities, said: “There are more and more vacant units in West Way.

“This gives rise to a public perception of a run-down and poorly-managed and unattractive shopping area, which will not encourage new or existing shoppers.

“If this led to the Co-op or Iceland deciding the area is no longer viable, then this will damage the prospects for any new development, which will be facing competition from the new Seacourt Tower Retail Park shops, from Botley Road, and indeed from the revamped Westgate.

“Therefore we are urging Mace and the district council to let us have temporary pop-up shops or even an indoor market.”

Several of the larger empty units will be used to temporarily rehome Botley Baptist Church, the library and Seacourt Hall, during the first phase of development of the shopping centre.

In June last year, Vale of White Horse District Council approved developer Mace’s plans to transform the site including 149 homes, a 122-bedroom hotel and 262 student flats.

The first phase of development, which includes knocking down the current library, Seacourt Hall and Botley Baptist Church, is expected to start this summer.

Mr Church added: “We could have anything in these pop-up shops as we have so many local talented people that could sell their jewellery or art work.

“And if it was an indoor market, if it ran every weekend, would be a great opportunity for local companies and grocers to make their mark.”

Huw Griffiths development director for Mace said: "We have been working closely with our preferred construction partner SDC to create a phasing programme that will significantly reduce the overall construction period by more than 12 months.

"We are in the process of discussing this with stakeholders including; land owners, proposed and existing tenants.

"Our plans include an element of pop up retail and we would be happy to explore further the ideas of the Association of Botley Communities and West Way Community Concern, in line with our own."

Spokesman for Vale of White Horse District Council Gavin Walton said: “We would be happy to discuss this proposal with Mace, however the availability of units will depend on the timescale of the redevelopment work.”