LESS than half of the units at the new Westgate Centre will be open on its first day but the management team insisted the development would be ready in time.

When the £440m centre opens in less than two weeks 60 of the 125 units inside will open with it.

The number is expected to rise to 90 by Christmas and more retailers could sign up once the centre is up and running.

Construction workers are still laying slabs in Bonn Square and hoardings are still in place but the centre's development manager Sara Fuge said the new shopping centre would be open in time.

The Oxford Times:

She added that work will still be going on 'behind the scenes' on opening day.

She said: "It's a really exciting time building up to the opening on October 24.

"There will be 60 shopping units opening and there will be a 10-day launch event with lots of thing to see and do around the centre.

"We expected about 90 units to be filled in the run up to Christmas, which is not unusual for large shopping centre openings."

Westgate Oxford Alliance has previously said there would be a 'phased retailer opening' but yesterday revealed less than half of shops and restaurants would be ready on launch day.

Around 20 per cent of the units have yet to be taken up but Ms Fuge said this was 'normal' and that some retailers like to see a centre open before committing to move in.

Once filled, the 800,000 sq ft complex will feature more than 100 new shops, 25 restaurants and cafes and boutique cinema Curzon.

The Oxford Times:

John Lewis will provide the 140,000 sq ft anchor store, alongside premium fashion brands including Ted Baker and Calvin Klein, while high street favourites H&M, Kath Kidston and Russell & Bromley will also be at the centre.

Oxford City Council's head of communications, Mish Tullar, said the centre's arrival would boost businesses across the city.

He said: "For us it's about the economic benefits that it will bring to the city, the jobs that it creates and also the creation of more public spaces.

"It will open up a whole new quarter of Oxford.

"The most recent case study is Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds, which raised the footfall across the whole city by about five per cent.

"Given that the Westgate entrance is about 200 metres from areas such as the Covered Market I'm sure it will bring more visitors to all parts of the city."

A number of firms have abandoned their outlets in other parts of the city in favour of a prime spot in the new centre, including Lush, which will close early next year.

Mr Tullar said the council was monitoring the problem closely and could make changes to its 'zoning' - how many retail or restaurant units are allowed in certain streets.

He said: "We are looking at it closely and in our Local Plan we are considering some new areas of zoning - what types of uses

"Again when you look at Leeds a number of independents utilised the vacant spaces left elsewhere in the city, and I think this is likely to happen in Oxford."