A PROMINENT environmental campaigner has unleashed a Twitter tirade about Oxford's 'dying' city centre and likened the Westgate Centre to 'the Death Star.'

Author and political activist George Monbiot, who lives in Oxford, has criticised the number of empty shops and the new £440m shopping centre.

This week the Westgate was shortlisted for a prestigious RIBA architecture award, but Mr Monbiot branded the structure a 'monstrosity.'

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Addressing his 242,000 followers on Monday, the Guardian columnist wrote: "Oxford's city centre is dying at astonishing speed.

"So many boarded-up shops, you could mistake this very rich city for one of the most depressed places in Britain.

"Its famous Covered Market, founded in 1774, once fully occupied by small independent businesses, is in serious trouble. 5 of its 9 fresh food sellers have closed in the past 2 years.

"Why is this happening? Because, with massive council support, the focus of the city has been shifted half a mile westwards with the massive enlargement of the Westgate Centre, a shopping mall known to some residents as the Death Star.

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"It's a hideous, airless, car-dependent monstrosity, almost entirely occupied by large multiples. When it was reopened, one councillor told the press "Oxford has finally found its purpose.

"The result has been to replace character and quirkiness with a bland, homogenised "consumer experience" of the kind you can suffer everywhere from Dubai to Sao Paulo.

"Who knew that Oxford's "purpose" was to become like everywhere else?"

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While some Oxford residents and visitors expressed agreement, others jumped to the city's defence. 

One replied: "Of course it’s a transition - you can’t introduce as much square footage as there is in the Westgate and expect the rest of the city to stay the same.

"Also, on Cornmarket one of the colleges is going to transform a number of the units that belong to it. Oxford is doing ok ta."

Another added: "I was in Oxford last week, there's nowhere like it. If you think Oxford is bland I suggest you should get out more."

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