A CAFE providing a 'much-needed' social space for young people in Botley enjoyed its grand opening this week.

The Branches Cafe at the West Way centre opened its doors to the public on Wednesday offering activities for 12 to 17-year-olds throughout the summer.

The lack of youth facilities in Botley has been widely noted after vandals destroyed the Botley bowl skate park in 2010, while a Vale of White Horse District Council report around the same time identified Botley as an area in need of youth facilities - since then little has been done to improve the situation.

Director of Branches Young People's Support Service, which runs the cafe, Diane Long, said the West Way re-development, which is now well underway, provided an opportunity for the group to make a difference.

Ms Long said: "We just wanted to do something for the community.

"It’s a mixed economic area so sometimes it misses out on funding for youth services.

"Young people here have had very little to do, there is a really good youth club, but there’s very little else in terms of youth services so the young people miss out quite often."

As well as the activities on offer, children will be able to help the team of volunteers run the cafe, gaining experience and catering qualifications in the process.

The cafe, located on the first floor of Elms Court has been granted an 18-month rent free lease by West Way owners, Botley Development Company (BDC), while the space for the cafe was redeveloped free of charge by construction firm SDC.

Mother of two, Mary Watson visited the cafe with daughters Cordie eight, and Meve, 11 on Thursday and said the cafe was a much needed addition to Botley.

She said: "It’s fantastic.

"It fills a hole in the area - there’s very little for young people or teenagers to do and this encourages independence and gives them skills.”

For more information on Branches Youth Cafe visit www.branchesyouth.uk

Meanwhile a fresh graffiti attack, thought to be the work of a prolific vandal known only as Waldo, has bid a farewell to the final two shops in West Way square, Tesco and Iceland, which are set to close their doors for the final time this weekend.

The graffiti, taking lines from the song It's a Long Way To Tipperary was daubed on the ground at the soon-to-be-demolished shopping centre earlier this week.

A new hotel, shops and student accommodation will be built on the site as part of a multi-million pound scheme that was first granted planning permission in 2016.

Demolition work on a number of sites surrounding the shopping arcade is now complete including part of the Grant Thorton Building and the Botley Baptist Church.

A number of retailers and services, including Tesco, will be housed in temporary units in the remaining part of the Grant Thornton Building and Elms Court, (where the cafe is located) while demolition and development of the main arcade is underway.

Branches director, Dave Goodspeed said the short-term home over the next 18 months would allow the cafe the opportunity to find out how to progress in the future.

He said: "In some ways it’s a bit of a pilot - we can look at how successful it is, and perhaps look at moving into the new development when its finished."

Speakingat the opening of the Branches cafe, development manager for BDC, Seamus Keane, said: “We appreciate the work Branches do in Botley, and have worked hard to secure a premises to allow their charitable work to continue during the development of Westway Place.

"BDC and SDC look forward to continuing our support for Branches, and encourage everyone in Botley to get involved.”