Oxford City Council submits £2m funding bid to unlock a multi-million pound investment that would transform Oxford Covered Market

Published: Wednesday, 11th September 2019

Oxford City Council has submitted a £2m bid to Historic England, which could unlock a multi-million pound investment that would transform Oxford Covered Market.

If successful in the bid – to Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zone fund – the City Council will work with traders, shoppers and other stakeholders later this year to begin developing proposals to transform the market.

These proposals will consider:

  • Improving the entrances and facade to the Covered Market in Market Street
  • Improving the entrances in High Street and from the Golden Cross
  • Making more of the communal spaces in the Covered Market
  • Improving existing units to enable more flexible and shared use of spaces
  • Improvements to the market’s servicing – e.g. recycling and deliveries

No detailed costings have yet been produced, but it is expected that the total investment will run into millions of pounds. Detailed proposals will need to be worked up to  help establish a business case and inform a final Council investment decision.

Increased footfall and new jobs

The aim of the proposal is to increase footfall and improve the trading environment for local independent businesses, create new jobs, encourage more Oxford residents to shop in the Covered Market, and turn the 18th century building into a cultural hub that attracts people throughout the day and into the evening.

The first iteration of the proposals – known as a masterplan – should be complete by the end of 2020, with the work underpinned by a number of detailed studies and the results of a public consultation that will be carried out over the next 12 months.

Oxford City Council has been supported in the bid by the Covered Market Tenants’ Association; surrounding landlords, including University of Oxford colleges and the owners of Golden Cross Shopping Centre; Oxford Preservation Trust; Oxford Civic Society; and other local businesses and organisations.

Work to develop the masterplan will run in parallel with an update to the Covered Market’s leasing strategy, which outlines the percentage of different uses – i.e. retail or food – allowed within the market. Currently the market allows 80% retail and 20% food.

The aim is to work with traders, shoppers and other stakeholder to produce a new strategy to guide future leasing early in 2020.

Working with traders, the City Council is also looking to improve the branding and marketing of the Covered Market, including refreshing its website and social media, and increasing the use of the market’s communal spaces for art and performance-based cultural activities.

A new Market Quarter

Oxford City Council’s wider goal is to create an Oxford Market Quarter of small, independent traders, including the Covered Market and the surrounding sections of Market Street, Turl Street, High Street and the Golden Cross.

It is hoped – if the bid to Historic England is successful – that the investment will support the development of a wider Market Quarter, working with other landlords in the area.

Oxford City Council has already been working closely with Jesus College on the £36m redevelopment of Northgate House. The City Council encouraged the college to reduce the size of the retail units in Cornmarket Street and Market Street within the development.

Committed to the Covered Market

Oxford City Council is already investing £3.1m into the Covered Market to secure its long-term future. The investment includes £1.8m to secure the roof for another 60 to 80 years, and £1.3m for internal refurbishment, decorations and new flooring.

The Covered Market, which first opened in 1774 and is Grade II-listed, features more than 50 traders selling food, gifts, shoes, fashion, flowers and jewellery, and provides a unique showcase for the very best in local crafts, food and drink.

“Oxford Covered Market has been in continuous use since the late 18th century. Oxford City Council is its custodian, and it’s our duty to secure the market for future generations.

“Our aim with this project is to transform the market, create new jobs and increase footfall – and ensure the Covered Market remains the jewel in the crown of Oxford’s retail offer.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for Culture and City Centre

“As a community of small, mostly independent traders we are passionate about driving this area to the forefront of our city, engaging in joint ventures with social and cultural organisations whenever possible.

"To be part of a bigger project, all moving towards the same goals of restoring this historic area whilst making it relevant to today’s needs, is an exciting venture.”

Joy Hetherington, Secretary of the Oxford Covered Market Tenants’ Association

“We fully support this bid, which will boost confidence and provide the necessary impetus to allow a new and sustainable economic and cultural model to be found.

“Securing this funding will act as leverage for other support, acting as a catalyst to allow a new vibrant centre for the city, allowing partnership opportunities to develop spreading much needed investment into the surrounding streets.

“Together this will allow the creation of an exciting and revitalised place for all the residents of the city, and across all walks of its life, creating a sense of place and belonging for more diverse, different and exciting new audiences, improving the health and wellbeing for all.”

Debbie Dance, Director of Oxford Preservation Trust

“A dynamic, forward thinking Covered Market, open for not only businesses, but the wider community, is an exciting prospect.

“We wholeheartedly support the Heritage Action Zone expression of interest to deliver physical improvements and cultural activities for this important quarter of Oxford city.”

Jeremy Mogford, Chairman of Oxford High Street Association