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LTNs prove a barrier too far for much loved East Oxford hardware store, Silvester's

One of the best loved stores in our area is to close next year– and the barriers blocking roads across East Oxford have pushed it over the edge. See the full interview with Stuart Silvester here:

Silvester’s Stores has been a family run treasure-store in Magdalen Road for 112 years supplying thousands of different items to local residents and shoppers from all over Oxford. It will close at the end of March 2023 a victim of the hostile environment for small retailers in which the Low Traffic Neighbourhood barriers have been the final straw.

Stuart Silvester is the third generation to run this business, known throughout Oxford for gardening products, ironmongery, electrical equipment and household goods. In an interview for One St Mary’s Stuart explained why he is being forced to close down with key suppliers not willing to deliver past the road barriers.

“LTN is the final straw for me because if I can’t get my compost delivered when gardening is my biggest selling item, and if I can’t get my winter fuel delivered when people want logs for the winter and I can‘t get my roses delivered because they always deliver on large trucks which they gear towards calling at garden centres, then to be honest it is not really worth my while.”

When Silvester’s closes, Stuart expects it to be pulled down to make way for a new development – most likely student accommodation, he believes.

His grandfather started the business in Magdalen Road in 1910 and rented the current shop on the corner of Hurst Street from 1936. Stuart’s father who bought the premises in about 1954 at one time carried 32,000 different stock items and Stuart still carries 27,000 different lines on his shelves.

The LTN is not the only challenge he faces but it is the critical factor – since key suppliers have already told him they will not be able to deliver to him any longer. In particular his gardening business will be impossible to sustain he says, and it is that helps him survive.

He says customers to have to travel further to get gardening and hardware supplies that many will end up using the ring road to reach large stores.

“We have lost all those fundamental key shops, the butchers, the bakers – all those of sort of shops. When I was a youngster, Magdalen Road you could literally buy anything down here. Now everything is becoming a service industry and it has just lost the character and the dynamic really.
What would his father and grandfather think? “They would be quite horrified really, especially my Dad who worked until he was 91. It is the end of an era really.”

Silvester’s is not the only casualty of Oxford’s LTN. Parchment Printers has already left East Oxford after 40 years citing “the LTNs and restricted parking” in Temple Cowley.

Within the first week of the LTNs several East Oxford postboxes had been sealed shut because the Post Office could no longer fetch the post in time for it to meet deadlines. They include “priority” postboxes in Cowley Road and Divinity Road and the postbox in Church Hill Road. It is expected that the Post Office will make collection times earlier – worsening the postal service from Oxford.

Initial jams on the roads have been much as predicted. One parents reported taking 45 minutes to bring her three year old home from nursery at the Churchill, and buses reporting long delays throughout the area. Some of the worse jams are in the mornings on Iffley Road where it has taken up to half an hour to travel from Donnington Bridge to the Plain.


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Notes from Your Doorstep 20/2/2022
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