|10:30am Thursday 10th February 2011By Chris Buratta »
OXFORD’S Westgate shopping centre will get a revamp but it is likely to be a scaled back version of previous plans.
The Crown Estate and Land Securities Group PLC consortium is discussing a new scheme and will meet Oxford City Council planning chiefs next week.
The Oxford Mail understands it will be smaller than the £330m scheme agreed in 2006 for a mall, garden building, market building and John Lewis store, because of the economic downturn.
The regeneration of the site, which stretches from Queen Street to Oxpens Road, is seen as a major catalyst for economic growth in the city.
And its importance has grown in recent months with news that a proposed retail development in St Aldate’s has fallen by the wayside.
The Carlyle Group last month withdrew its plan for a £22m open air shopping centre between St Aldate’s Tavern archway and Queen Street.
The Westgate consortium has been conducting a feasibility study into options and will meet the city council on February 21 to discuss revised options and timescales.
The council, which owns land that part of the extension could be built on, will have the final say.
Donal McCabe, spokesman for the Westgate Oxford Alliance Partnership, which represents the two developers, said: “We are wholly committed to improving the Westgate Centre.”
Colin Cook, the councillor responsible for city development, said Oxford could still pull in major projects but he expected a smaller plan for the Westgate, which opened in 1972.
He said: “Realistically, I am not expecting [the developers] to do something on the same scale as what went previously, but I hope they will aspire to something close to that size.
“Clearly we want to see a redevelopment of the Westgate and the renewal of that whole West End area.”
Oxfordshire Economic Partnership director David Doughty said the project was vital for the city.
He said: “It’s important it is a good scheme and well designed, but it is important it goes ahead as we have already seen the St Aldate’s scheme fail. We cannot afford to keep delaying.”
Graham Jones, spokesman for traders’ group Rox, said: “It would create renewed interest from shoppers both in Oxford and across the area.
“Seeing movement will be great news.”
The redevelopment was first mooted in 1999 and planning permission was renewed in November, although councillors expected a redesign.