IT COULD be time to close the 'temporary' car park at Oxpens and help drivers battling to leave the Westgate Centre at busy times, a councillor has claimed.

The shopping centre's new underground car park, which has 1,000 spaces, opened at the £440m centre on October 24.

While there have been a few problems getting into the car park from Oxpens Road, shoppers are often forced to queue for a long time to exit in the afternoon at the start of the evening rush-hour.

Traffic regularly comes to a standstill along the stretch, with the traffic light-controlled Westgate car park seeing queues snaking back through the car park.

Green city councillor Craig Simmons is now urging the council to permanently shut the 420-space Oxpens car park in Oxpens Road, which is opposite the Westgate Centre.

Some shoppers leaving the centre at about 4pm said it took them more than 20 minutes of queuing before they could get out.

Dave Dyson, 24, from Reading, on a shopping trip with friend Connor Price, 25, also from Reading, said: "The shops have some good bargains but it did take far too long to get out of the car park."

Elaine Howley, 56, from Littlemore, who parked at Westgate for a shopping trip with daughter Lily, 26, and her son Joey Bishop, one, said: "We left about 2.30pm and had to queue to get out - it wasn't too bad but we had to queue up on the steep hill outside before the lights changed to let us out."

Mr Simmons said the Oxpens car park was only meant to be 'temporary' while the Westgate Centre car park was being rebuilt, and should be shut without delay.

Councillors have previously pledged to keep Oxpens open until December 2018, after which the area is earmarked for redevelopment.

Mr Simmons added: "Inevitably the presence of the Oxpens car park means there is more congestion on Oxpens Road and because of that added congestion it is harder for Westgate Centre shoppers to leave.

"Since the new centre opened Oxford's traffic system is less predictable and there can be jams at almost any time.

"Queues on Oxpens Road can in turn cause queues on Abingdon Road.

"If the Oxpens car park was closed it might encourage more people to use park-and-ride - the incentives are not great enough at the moment."

Mr Simmons added that City of Oxford College charged £5 a day for parking spaces, undercutting Westgate Oxford Alliance and the city council.

The council has aligned its charges at the Oxpens car park with prices at the new shopping centre.

Parking charges at Westgate apply Monday to Sunday, ranging from £3 for one hour to £25 for 24 hours. There is also an evening tariff of £3.50 from 5pm to 6am.

No one from Westgate Oxford Alliance was available for comment.