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City brands West Way plan ‘too large and unjustified’
OXFORD City Council has weighed into the row over a £100m redevelopment in its backyard.
The authority has said the development of Botley’s West Way shopping centre would be too big and generate too much traffic, saying there is “no justification” for such a large scheme.
Its principal planning officer has reiterated comments made earlier this year that have only recently come to light.
Tom Morris, principal planning officer at the city council, has written to city council leaders summing up the concerns outlined to the Vale.
His letter said: “The city figures: “We understand the need for improvements to the environment at the West Way shopping centre. However, the function should remain as a local service centre.”
His email continued: “There appears to be no justification for proposals to change the function of the centre.
“The demand from the wider area within which Botley sits, including West Oxford, has not been properly examined.”
He goes on to say there is no solution to overcome the extra traffic this would bring onto the area’s “already congested” roads and said any significant change to the current shopping offer would have an impact on other shopping centres in Oxford.
He said a retail study carried out earlier this year made it clear the development would “alter shopping patterns and this would have an effect on Oxford”.
The letter goes on to say that once the planning application is submitted, the city council will be formally consulted. Mr Morris adds: “Whilst at this stage officers have not seen the latest detailed plans that will form their submission we do however expect that no significant changes will be made to address our original concerns.”
He said the council intends to officially object to the proposal.
City councillor Ed Turner, the authority’s deputy leader to whom the letter was addressed, said: “Inevitably when there are major developments close to Oxford which will impact on the city we inevitably have an interest in them. When the time comes we will make appropriate representations.”
City councillor Colin Cook, executive board member for city development, said: “We are interested because of the scale and the likely impact on traffic.
“If it is the quantum of development that was proposed previously, that is likely to cause traffic problems for Oxford on a network that is already at or beyond capacity.”
- Chris Church
Chris Church, of campaign group West Way Community Concern, said: “We are delighted to hear that they recognise the same issues about scale and traffic that we do.
“It’s good to have a clear view from a senior planner outside the Vale. They also see that this does indeed represent a change from a local service centre to a district-scale centre.”
Doric Properties signed an agreement with the Vale of the White Horse District Council to buy the land at the beginning of the year.
It is expected to submit a planning application on Friday for a development including a large superstore, a piazza, multi-screen cinema, underground car park and 600 student rooms.
But this has been controversial because of the proposals to demolish the historic Elms Parade and Field House, an old people’s home.
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: “The West Way shopping centre would benefit from investment, but any development must work with and for local residents.
“So far I think Doric’s proposals fall short of that and I have made my concerns very clear to both the district council and Doric.”
- The 2,200-name petition protesters handed to the Vale of White Horse District Council last week
A petition of 2,200 signatures has been handed to the district council opposing the redevelopment and Botley residents recently joined hands around the West Way centre in an act of protest.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “It is clear that there needs to be more joined up thinking about provision of services in our local area.”
Matthew Barber, the leader of the district council, said: “Obviously the city council have their own motivations and they will have an opportunity to comment during the planning process. Their comments will be properly assessed by the planning officers.”
Mr Barber said the city council could be objecting on the grounds that it had its own retail developments which could be going ahead soon.
Doric declined to comment.
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