Thousands of excited shoppers thronged the redeveloped Westgate Oxford shopping centre today to witness its official opening after two years in construction.
The City Council has welcomed the opening of the £440 million Westgate Oxford Shopping Centre, which is expected to greatly enhance the shopping experience in Oxford, increase footfall across the city centre and boost the local economy.
Anchored by a three-storey John Lewis department store, the Westgate Centre boasts 125 new shops, restaurants, cafés and leisure uses including a boutique five- screen Curzon Cinema. Set in a mix of covered streets, arcades, lanes and squares, the development has made significant improvements to the public realm.
The Westgate Centre is owned by the Westgate Oxford Alliance – a joint venture between Crown Estates and Landsec - and stands on land owned by the City Council. Over the course of 25 years, various schemes for the redevelopment of Westgate have been put forward.
City Council planning officers worked with Westgate Oxford Alliance as well as the County Council through the preparatory planning stages for the redevelopment scheme. Permission for the Reserved Matters (detailed designs) submission was granted in November 2014. Work on site commenced in early 2015, creating up to 1,000 construction jobs paid at or above the Oxford Living Wage. A further 3,400 retail positions are being created upon the centre’s opening.
The redevelopment of the Westgate Centre is a key part of the regeneration of Oxford city centre, creating high quality buildings designed by world-class architects.
City centre retailers are expected to benefit from the increased numbers of visitors and higher footfall as tourists as well as shoppers from across the region visit the Westgate Centre.
The council has worked closely with Westgate Oxford Alliance, Oxfordshire County Council, and bus operators Oxford Bus and Stagecoach on a collaborative approach to Oxford travel over the development of the Westgate Centre. All parties have worked to encourage the use of local bus and Park and Ride services and other sustainable travel options. Plans by the City Council to expand Seacourt Park and Ride to add 700 extra spaces will also boost parking provision for shoppers.
Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “I’m delighted to see the opening of the redeveloped Westgate shopping centre, especially after having seen so many proposed schemes come and go unrealised over the years. For the city, Westgate transforms the retail landscape. From regularly having to listen to residents and visitors complaining that shopping in Oxford is disappointing, we now have a regionally competitive shopping, eating and entertainment destination. It creates thousands of new jobs and will support the exponential growth of tourism in Oxford.
“Equally important for the city, and for me personally, as I leave the Council next May, is the transformation of a whole quarter of the city, with two major new public squares, a landscaped pedestrian route along the Castle Mill Stream that brings the city centre closer to the Thames, attractive pedestrian routes from east to west, linking the Castle and Prison quarter to the city centre, fabulous rooftop views of the dreaming spires and Boars Hill, not to mention 1000 cycle parking spaces – something that is dear to our hearts on the Council and the very large cycling community in the city.”