By Greg Ritchie

WITH the number of empty shop units in Oxford on the rise, the Oxford Mail went to the Covered Market to find out what local shoppers and traders wanted to see in the city centre.

Verity Babbs, a 21 year-old student from Banbury, underlined the need for cheaper shops and eateries. “I’d like to see more discount shops in the centre. In terms of supermarkets, the cheaper ones like Aldi and Lidl aren’t in the centre, so it would be nice to have something like that there.

“A cheap bakery like a Greggs would be great too.”

A desire for more budget options was a common one. Cowley resident Paul Broadley, 43, told the Oxford Mail: “I think there’s a big gap in the market for cheaper, discount shops to come into the city centre. Maybe it’s because the rent is too high that they’re not coming in, but I think they’d be very popular if they did.”

Lots of readers have told us of late that Oxford needs more bargain shops to go alongside the luxury brands. Do you agree? And which ones?

Vote below - we've picked out some of the more popular budget outlets.

Greggs has already told the Oxford Mail it has no immediate plans to open in Oxford city centre

Others criticised the economic impacts the Westgate has had on local traders, and called for there to be more independent shops. Robert Arridge, 94, said: "I hate it [the Westgate]. It’s just one enormous department store. It’s caused an enormous amount of damage to the centre of the city because it’s taken away trade.

“I remember when it was being constructed and it was clogging up St Ebbes and all the little streets. It’s removing the attractiveness of the city.

“Oxford is a beautiful, historic city and I fear it’s getting ruined.”

Margaret Jones, 75, from Aylesbury said: “The trouble with Westgate is it’s very similar to Bicester village. There’s a lot of designer shops. it’s a very expensive place to shop. There are some cheaper shops, but not really for someone of my age.

“I’d like to see more independent shops selling local produce. The Covered Market is great for that, but the more the merrier.”

However, not all local traders were negative about the Westgate. Luciana Gyuricza, owner of Church Hanbrewery in the Covered Market, told the Oxford Mail: “So many people complain about the Westgate but I think we need some of the bigger shops.

“It’s a tricky question. I think it maybe is attracting more people to the Covered Market because people don’t like the Westgate so they come here instead. But I don’t know to be honest. I think we need both the independent shops and the big brands, as long as we can all live together.”

She added: “I’d like to see more small independent shops if the rent isn’t too high. Empty shops look really ugly so I’d like to see them used for business owners who can’t afford to go to the Westgate.

“I think more independent shops would also attract more tourists, because I don’t think tourists want to go to the Westgate. And it will also support local families by buying their local produce.”