RESIDENTS in an Oxford block of flats have been told to leave by the end of the month to make way for the £400m Westgate redevelopment.

Flats at Abbey Place are to be demolished to make way for a John Lewis department store.

It marks the end of a long-running saga over the demolition decision, which one resident failed to overturn at a judicial review.

Work will start early next year on a major extension to the centre, to include shops, restaurants, a cinema and underground car park.

Alessandro Oliveira moved 60-year-old mother-in-law Judith Leal out last week.

He said: “She has been living here since 2009 and the first time the contract was for six months and they told us the place would be reclaimed any time for the development, but we took the risk.

“The move has been going well and she has been fine about it. We have managed to find a place for her which is better than this one.”

But another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It is very hard to find somewhere else to live and I need help to find a house.”

Developer the Westgate Alliance – made up of The Crown Estate and Land Securities – is hoping to submit a planning application in the coming weeks.

If given planning permission by Oxford City Council work could start early next year.

The council forced the sale of the flats using a compulsory purchase order and some of the flats are already boarded up Resident and multiple sclerosis sufferer Vincent McKeown, who died in 2009, lost a 2007 bid for a judicial review to stop the sale. It was then sold to developers.

Council leader Bob Price said: “The developers obviously want the flats back and we are handling the residents as we do all tenants whose landlords wish to take their property back.

“Our housing section is in the process of finding alternative accommodation for them.”

Westgate Alliance spokesman Leanne Parkinson said: “While all tenants at Abbey Place were advised from the outset that their tenancies were short-term opportunities, we understand that it isn’t always easy to find a new place to live, which is why we’ve been liaising closely with Oxford City Council’s housing team to ensure there is on-going support available.

“Council housing officers have already been in touch with tenants to outline the help they can provide and we will continue to liaise with the council to support this process.”


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