West Way Shopping centre revamp ‘would mean traffic hell’

thisisoxfordshire: Dr Caroline Potter, co-chairwoman of the West Way Community Concern group Dr Caroline Potter, co-chairwoman of the West Way Community Concern group

PROPOSALS to revamp West Way shopping centre would pile more traffic on to local roads and damage the character of the area, campaigners say.

More than 200 people crammed into a packed public meeting organised by West Way Comm-unity Concern at St Peter and St Paul Church, Botley, on Thursday night.

Speakers encouraged residents to object to the planning application from developers Doric Properties, who want to demolish Elms Parade shopping area to make way for a large superstore, a piazza, multi-screen cinema, car park and student rooms, in a £100m revamp.

Campaigners say that if that goes ahead, there will be a severe increase in traffic and it will not fit in with the character of the area.

Residents have until March 27 to comment on the application, which will be considered by the planning authority, Vale of White Horse District Council.

Campaigner Gordon Stokes, who has worked in transport research for 30 years, told the meeting: “We think the traffic will rise on nearly all the roads in the area, many severely.

“The car park, we think, will be overused at times, and at all times employees, students and drop-in shoppers will park on surrounding roads.

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“I think it is pretty inevitable that a controlled parking zone will be essential.”

Dr Caroline Potter, campaign group co-chairwoman, said: “We will lose those nice distant views, the sense of openness between buildings.

“The scale has to be right. This is the critical issue.”

She said Doric Properties is proposing four times what the area needs and said: “It is so disastrously out of scale with what we need.

“We need the right development for our local shopping centre.

“Until we say no to this development, we cannot start to have a serious conversation about what is the right development.”

West Way Community Concern has published a report on the impact it says the revamp would have on the character of Botley and is seeking people’s views until March 17.

Botley resident Dr Kathryn Davies said: “We felt that the strong 1930s character was in danger of being lost and swamped if you don’t build in the same form and scale.”

Campaigners have raised £7,000 to fight the proposals so far.

But Doric Properties says groups have backed its proposed new community facilities, which includes a replacement Baptist Church, new community hall, library, public space and medical facility.

Simon Hillcox, of Doric Properties, said: “Creating a new community hub for Botley is absolutely central to achieving a sustainable future for the local area.

“The new facilities have been designed to a really high standard and are vast improvements on what is currently there.”

Jack Mcleod, organiser of Summertown and Headington Farmers’ Market, said: “The square at the heart of the proposals would provide an ideal central location for our traders.”

Mr Hillcox added: “We have spent a long time consulting the local community and we understood their concerns about scale in the initial plans.

“That is why in the submitted plans we reduced the heights dramatically along West Way.”

“We’ve increased the amount of car park spaces to around 540 to help address an existing issue in the area, and our transport assessment has thoroughly analysed the projected impact the development is expected to have and proposed mitigation measures accordingly.

“In fact, on the wider highways network we expect a positive impact due to shoppers staying in Botley.

“We have looked closely at the heritage of the site and commissioned our own independent assessment as part of the application.”

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