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Bus boss raises safety fears over £400m Westgate plan
Worries: Martin Sutton, below, managing director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, has raised concerns for passenger safety and other issues over plans for Oxford’s Westgate development, above
ONE of Oxfordshire’s main bus operators has raised “significant concerns” about the £400m Westgate redevelopment in Oxford.
Stagecoach has said there are issues with the proposals which undermine the scheme and could have a negative impact on the whole of Oxford city centre.
As part of the development, Oxfordshire County Council and the Westgate Alliance want to pedestrianise Queen Street, meaning buses will have to travel down Castle Street around the shopping centre.
The company says it is generally supportive of the redevelopment and views the scheme as important for the city.
But in a letter to planning authority Oxford City Council, Martin Sutton, managing director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, expresses concerns about the scheme which has been put forward — citing passenger safety as one issue.
He said: “It (the company) is concerned about the detailed design of the Castle Street/ Norfolk Street and the new bus priority link.
“We have significant questions about safety, efficiency and availability of space for waiting passengers.
“These streets collectively are intended to act a vital movement corridor for buses, but equally are intended to be used by pedestrians and cyclists.
“We are concerned that the “shared space” design concept will lead to unnecessary conflicts and hazards and will, contrary to the intent of local and national policy, create problems for the safe and efficient operation of this proposed highway.”
Mr Sutton says the developer has not acknowledged the fact that the changes will increase journey times and lengths.
The Westgate Alliance, made up of landowners Land Securities and the Crown Estate, submitted a plan which some hope will end a decade of waiting for the shopping centre to be redeveloped.
Once completed in 2017 it will include a 10,000sq ft John Lewis store, as well as cafés, restaurants, shops and a cinema.
Plans to redevelop the Westgate Centre, which was built in 1972, were first put forward in 1999, but have been hit by numerous setbacks.
A decision on the planning application is expected to be made early next year, with construction work potentially starting later in 2014.
The Westgate Alliance said safety issues raised by Stagecoach were being addressed during the detailed design phase – during which the bus company would be “a key consultee.”
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