When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Plans for the Westgate will ruin the area, say protesters
PLANS to redevelop the Westgate Shopping Centre have been branded “premature and exaggerated” by two county groups.
Oxfordshire Green Party and Oxford Civic Society have both objected to plans for a £400m refurbishment of the Westgate Centre and the area around it.
It comes after outline plans for the redevelopment – which will include a new John Lewis department store, restaurants, shops, an underground car park and housing – were submitted by the Westgate Alliance last month.
In their official response, the Greens said claims about the potential benefits of the scheme had been overplayed, while the Civic Trust argued that the application failed to address a number of issues.
In her submission, Oxfordshire Green Party chairman Sushila Dhall said: “We do not think it will lead to any great net increase in employment, certainly not 3,400 jobs. If it in any way succeeds, it will take business and jobs from established retailing and leisure facilities elsewhere in the city.
“We think it is jumping the gun a bit to say it will provide several buildings of high quality until it is possible to see the detailed design.
“Moreover, the massing and size of the buildings, the cutting down of trees and its impact on views into Oxford gives us every reason to expect something which can only diminish Oxford as a heritage and landscape asset.”
In his letter, Civic Society chairman Peter Thompson raised concerns about the impact of more cars and more buses in the city centre.
He said: “The absence of a coherent transport strategy for the city centre, but also for the whole of the city and its surrounding region, is unfortunate.
“It is clear that the new Westgate development will have serious implications not only for the environment of the immediately-surrounding streets, but across the city and beyond.”
The Westgate Alliance – a consortium made up of Crown Estates and Land Securities Group – wants to demolish part of the existing centre, part of Abbey Place and the existing rundown multi-storey car park to pave the way for new shops, restaurants and parking.
Concerns have also been raised about the potential for flooding in the area, but the applicant is seeking a deal to which would see its underground car park used to take flood water in the event of the Thames bursting its banks.
A decision on the planning application is expected to be made early next year.
Construction work could potentially begin later in the year, with the new centre opening during 2017.
Westgate Alliance spokesman Gary Pleasants said: “The Westgate application is supported by a robust evidence base including transport, flood risk, and socio- economic assessments which clearly demonstrate that redevelopment will deliver significant benefits to Oxford through creating a world class retail and leisure destination for the city and boosting the economy through attracting new customers to the city centre and creating over 3,000 new jobs.”
Comments are closed on this article.