CHANGES to the £400m redevelopment of the Westgate Centre have been given a cautious welcome.
The developer behind the scheme – the Westgate Alliance – has redrawn some aspects of the proposal after concerns were raised by heritage groups such as Oxford Civic Society, English Heritage and Oxford Preservation Trust.
This includes lowering the height of four proposed buildings by up to 1.3m and simplifying a junction in Thames Street.
But while Peter Thompson, chairman of Oxford Civic Society, welcomed the changes he said the issue of traffic remained a key one.
He said: “The Westgate is hugely important for the middle of Oxford and it has focussed attention on producing a proper transport strategy for the city.
“We would welcome that the Westgate Alliance has amended their proposals though we have not had a chance to see how far they go.
“On the face of it they seem to have addressed some of our concerns. However a key issue for us is the traffic.”
The Westgate Alliance submitted its planning application in September and a decision is due to be made by Oxford City Council within the next few months.
As part of the amended proposals for the Thames Street junction, a coach cut through between Thames Street and Speedwell Street has been removed and a pedestrian crossing moved.
English Heritage spokes-man Debbie Hickman said: “We have not yet been re-consulted by Oxford City Council about the changes to Westgate Alliance’s plans to develop the shopping centre.
“We have attended a design review meeting and have just received the revised drawings which we will be looking at in detail soon.”
Once complete, the Westgate redevelopment will include around 70 new shops, a John Lewis store, a cinema, cafés and restaurants as well as a two-storey basement car park.
Sara Fuge, development manager for the Westgate Alliance, said: “The alliance believes these revisions offer improvements over and above the original proposals.
“We believe this scheme will create an exciting new retail and leisure destination in the heart of Oxford that will attract visitors from across the city and beyond.”