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Traffic fears as work starts on three different projects
Buy this photo » Cllr Jean Fooks pictured in Frideswide Square, Oxford
BY 2020, three of the biggest developments of Oxford’s history will be completed in the west end of the city, rounding off almost £1bn of investment.
A £400m new Westgate shopping centre, a revamped Oxpens area with flats, offices, research space and a hotel and a £300m new rail station are all being heralded as part of a bright future for the city.
But with at least some of the work on all three sites due to happen at the same time, concerns have been raised about the impact this will have on the city’s already bulging transport system.
Private hire driver Richard Barlow, 60, said: “It’s going to be chaos. Oxford will grind to a standstill. When they did the work on Botley Road recently the traffic was tailed back all the way up St Giles and the Banbury Road.
“They should be doing it one stage at a time.”
Jean Fooks, a county councillor who is also the Lib Dem leader of the opposition on the city council, said: “There are all sorts of exciting things going on, including these major development projects, but there is some concern they’re not all joined-up and the county council needs to be aware of this.
“Martin Tugwell (deputy growth and infrastructure director) has said it will be quite a challenge to keep everything moving while it’s all going on, and it will definitely need some careful planning.”
City executive board member Colin Cook said: “Clearly we are concerned, but I have confidence the county highways people have their fingers on the pulse and will find a solution that will work for the city during these changes.
“I know that we are putting in replacement parking for Westgate behind the ice rink, so there are things going on.”
County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “Although they are each at different stages of development, it is very helpful for planning purposes that these three major sites are being looked at simultaneously. The cumulative impacts of the proposals are being considered and infrastructure needs identified.
“At this stage, none of the three proposals have planning consent and there is no firm programme for their construction. When more is known about the construction phases, the two councils will be working closely with developers to minimise disruption.
“In considering any new proposal we take into account the scale and nature of the potential impacts associated with its construction. With a number of major projects potentially happening in a concentrated period, this is particularly important and will require co-ordination.
“Both local authorities will work closely with both the developers and through groups such as the West End Steering Group to ensure that as projects begin to be built the impact is managed in such a way as to minimise disruption.”
‘Trade will suffer if shoppers put off’
Concerns have been raised about the impact on trade in the city if the three developments go ahead at the same time.
Rescue Oxford traders’ association spokesman Graham Jones claims the city’s independent businesses will suffer if shoppers are put off coming into Oxford.
He said: “Oxford will close down if they happen at the same time. I don’t see how they can. There’s got to be some phasing to it. If it all happens at once, people will all disappear off to other places and they will only come back when John Lewis opens as an anchor store.
“It’s not just retail which will be affected, there are a lot of other organisations like Oxford University which has research facilities which need to be accessed, but retail will be devastated.”
He said he had his doubts the Oxpens scheme would come to fruition in time to clash with the other schemes.
He said: “I think it’s a nonsense. Surely they have to get Westgate finished before they start there. We still have questions about the replacement car parking for Westgate.”
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