COUNCIL leader Matthew Barber yesterday said decisions over the failed £100 million West Way scheme were made “in good faith”.

But he admitted things could have been “done better on all sides” after an 18-month battle over information relating to the redevelopment.

A second attempt at plans for West Way shopping centre is being put forward but West Way Community Concern chairman Chris Church has said trusting the council could be a major obstacle.

Vale of White Horse District Council appealed against a decision to release important documents regarding its awarding of a contract to Doric Properties to develop the site.

But a tribunal found that the documents needed to be released to restore trust and transparency.

Mr Church said: “They should have released the information in the first place even if it was going to embarrass them.”

New leaders of the scheme, Mace, will put forward new proposals based on a framework being drawn up for the council.

The public will be asked their views on the sort of development they’d like to see in West Way.

Mr Church said: “If the council wants to work with the community it will need to come up with a planning document that reflects local needs.”

Council leader Matthew Barber yesterday said the council was acting in the peoples’ interest.

Mr Barber said: “Part of the council’s responsibility is to manage its assets to achieve best value for the benefit of the whole community of the Vale.

“We were approached with a commercial offer that, after careful consideration we concluded was worth accepting as it generated a significant receipt that we could use to fund key projects across the Vale and that also provided for the much-needed redevelopment of Botley.”

Mr Barber said that professional advice from DTZ was outdated and Doric amended its offer and addressed concerns before the council reached its decision.

The Conservative leader said: “We made the decisions in good faith at the time believing them to be in the best interests of the local community.

He added: “While I will happily admit things could have been done better on all sides, I maintain that the council acted in the best interest of the community and cannot take the blame for the details of the scheme.”

Mr Barber remained positive that relations and trust would be resolved moving forward.

He said: “Huge steps have already been taken to restore trust in the proceedings.

“Ahead of this year’s elections we secured cross-party community support to bring for the extension to the contract to bring forward a revised scheme.

“Since then work has continued in a much more collaborative fashion.”


Vale of White Horse District Council was advised in 2012 that the contract was a risk because Doric Properties had not been engaged with any supermarkets. 

The Oxford Mail has seen letters from several major supermarkets from November and December 2014 which appear to support the concerns:

* Doric said it was in discussions with potential supermarkets back in October 2014. 
* Aldi – confirmed it was not involved
* Waitrose – Already had approval for Botley Road store expected to open in the autumn 
* Tesco – No interest in the development
* Sainsbury’s – Approached by Doric, carried out an appraisal but decided it would not pursue
* Asda – Aware of the proposal but decided not to pursue the opportunity
* Morrisons – Not involved with the scheme
* Marks & Spencer – Never considered the scheme as the store would be 10 times that of their other food stores
* Lidl – Has a requirement for additional Oxford stores but West Way scheme was too big


The sale agreement was on the condition of a supermarket being on board. 

Four of the unsuccessful bidders for the original site – just West Way shopping centre – included a food store as a partner.

* Bride Hall Developments with Asda Stores
* Mark Liell & Son LLP with Tesco
* Mentor Property with Sainsbury’s
* Richard Holmes Propert Consultants with Mid-Counties Co-op
* Angle Property 
* Brett Chambers with ING Real Estate Development / Peverell Securities LTD
* Hill Street Holdings
* Lyndon Yeomans Property Consultants with Salmon Harvester 
* New River
* PLK Properties
* Wellbeck Land

The documents revealed the council intended to accept a £16 million bid from Bride Hall and Asda before Doric’s proposals for a larger site – adding on Elms Parade, Field House sheltered housing and the vicarage.


October 2013: Dr Gill submits a Freedom of Information request to find out why Doric Properties was awarded the contract for the proposed £100m centre.

But the council refused to reveal all the information requested.

November 2013: The council reveals documents on the bid, the criteria for selection of the successful bidder, the number of organisations expressing an interest in bidding, and the number of organisations which bid.

But it refused to release the names of the companies which submitted a bid and minutes of meetings and correspondence regarding the decision to award the contract to Doric.

September 2014: The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees FoI requests, sided with Dr Gill on appeal, ruling that the council should reveal the names of bidders, and the minutes of meetings and correspondence.

The council then agreed to release the names of unsuccessful bidders but still refused to release information pertaining to their decision and appealed to the tribunal. 

In the run up to the hearing on March 31 Vale council released a flurry of redacted documents and minutes.

June 12: After the tribunal and following the decision at the end of June it released more information and was given 35 days to make more information available by August 13. 

Visit for all the information.