Firm defends controversial £100m plan for shopping centre and points to track record elsewhere

DEVELOPERS who helped create major shopping centres in Madrid and Fulham said they want ‘to give Botley the high street it never had’.

Simon Hillcox and John Fraser, joint owner-directors of the firm Doric, said their studies show 70 per cent of people in the area have to travel elsewhere to get their shopping because what is on offer is not good enough.

They said their £100m Botley scheme – which would see them bulldoze West Way and build a new shopping centre and cinema complex – would dramatically improve the shops locally and lead to far less traffic clogging up the roads.

But some residents oppose the plans and have formed campaign group West Way Community Concern to fight them.

Mr Hillcox said: “Something we never forget working on this project is that for many people, this is a key part of their local community.

“It will be the high street Botley has never had. The units will be modern, local shops with access to a car park.”

The pair said they have 60 years of experience between them, developing multi-million-pound centres such as Spain’s €140m Nassica Shopping Centre in Madrid and the €70m Puerto Venecia Shopping Resort in Zaragoza.

They were also behind the £110m development in Fulham Broadway, west London, bringing in Sainsbury’s, Vue Cinema and David Lloyd Leisure to the scheme.

They went on to form a European property fund in 2007 with Fulham Broadway’s owner, managing more than £1bn of property.

Now they want to demolish the council-owned West Way centre and privately-owned Elms Parade of shops to make way for their development.

It would include a supermarket, cinema, restaurants, health centre and 600 student flats.

The buildings would centre around a raised pedestrianised piazza above a level of 550 car parking spaces underneath.

But despite the criticisms, Mr Hillcox said: “We are not just faceless property developers,”

Three major supermarkets are bidding for space in the project, with the winning bidder to be decided in December.

Cineworld has said they will open a six-screen cinema.

The project would create around 1,000 jobs and take about 15 months to build. Mr Fraser said most people support the scheme.

“The car park would be free for at least three hours, at a minimum,” he said.

“Parents at Botley School have been very supportive.

“We want them to drop off their children and do their shopping locally. At the moment, 70 per cent of people who live around Botley go elsewhere for their food shop.”

However, more than 500 people have signed a petition against them.

Campaign leader Chris Church said: “Their model could be of any suburban mall in Britain.

“Large glassy supermarkets might work elsewhere but Botley needs a sensitive development.

“What they have set up is just not appropriate for the area.”

The group is holding a public meeting on Monday, November 18 at St Peter and St Paul Church in West Way from 7pm.

They will also form a human chain of more than 200 people around Elms Parade on November 23 from 11am.

Plans for the scheme are to be submitted to the Vale of White Horse District Council in December.