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Westgate redevelopment decision
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- The Westgate Alliance is planning to spend £400m redeveloping the shopping centre.
- Once complete it would have a 10,000sq m John Lewis store as well as cafes, restaurants, shops and a cinema.
- Plans to redevelop the shopping centre have been in the pipeline for 25 years but three previous schemes have been unsuccessful.
The meeting is over.
This is also approved.
The committee is now discussing plans for coach parking at Redbridge which will replace the facility at Oxpens during construction.
The scheme has been approved.
The committee is now moving onto the plans for a temporary car park at Oxpens which will be used during the construction of the Westgate.
Only Elise Benjamin votes against.
The vote is taken and eight councillors vote for the scheme.
He said: This development is going to do substantial harm to Oxford's heritage but this report takes us through that and invites us to balance it off."
He says the city council could still reject any later planning applications even if it did approve the current one.
Oscar Van Nooijen is summing up by saying this is not a planning application for a John Lewis store yet, it is an application for a very large shopping centre.
He says he feels he can trust the developers to deliver.
City councillor John Goddard said: "I have been here for two hours but I have been hearing this debate for 16 years.
"We have been hearing the same arguments."
"Is what is being proposed better than what it replaces? Even at this early stage, yes."
City councillor Colin Cook said: "The success of this development will be as a result of the detail and effort put in between now and the coming applications."
Elise Benjamin's proposal to defer the decision has failed.
Bob Price said: "The current Westgate has been an embarrassment for pretty much all of its existence."
City councillor Anne Marie Canning says the benefits of the scheme out weigh the disadvantages.
She says the planning application should be deferred because of the new housing targets - which say Oxford needs nearly 30,000 homes by 2031.
But Michael Crofton Briggs says the housing policy used when drawing up the report is still appropriate.
He says: "Oxford has been powering ahead as far as the universities are concerned and as far as the car plant is concerned and we have been hanging behind and far as thisthis shopping centre is concerned."
The questions are over and a debate now begins. John Tanner begins by saying that he is "very satisfied" with the proposals.
Murray Hancock says there is a condition on that.
Oscar Van Nooijen is asking about the maintenance of cycle paths during construction.
Nick Worllidge says the outline of what can be seen might not be the shape of the building but says the "devil is in the detail".
Oscar Van Nooijen asks about the view of the development from Raleigh Park, where some of the centre can be seen.
Murray Hancock says the subway in Castle Street will be filled in which will make the area more pleasant and new trees will be planted.
He is told that the applicants will have to work with the city council on public realm improvements around the shopping centre.
He also asks where the cycle parking in Bonn Square would go.
City councillor John Goddard says it is "very sad indeed" that the trees are being removed from Castle Street which he says is currently "depressing".
Nick Worllidge says "most buildings have a front and a back and we cannot expect all frontages to be active."
Officers are being asked what the "active frontages" might look like.
He says it is "within this committee's gift" to refuse any planning application which comes before it.
Murray Hancock sasy the outline application will "give confidence to all parties that the development is heading in the right direction."
She is told by committee chairman Oscar Van Nooijen that it will dictate the "envelope" within which the development can take place.
City councillor Elise Benjamin asks the officers to explain what this would tie the city council into before the full planning application.
He says the car park will be used to store water in the event of flooding.
Murray Hancock says there is not expected to be any net negative impact on the surrounding area because of flooding.
The applicant's expert says it is in discussions with Thames Water to find out if mitigation work is needed.
Mr Price follows up by asking about the foul water system and the pressure the development will put on the system.
One of the applicant's experts says there is no history of groundwater flooding on the site but says there are "some blockages" when it rains and this is exacerbated when levels in the Castle Mill Stream are high.
Michael Crofton Briggs, the head and city development, explains the issue.
Committee chairman Oscar Van Nooijen asks about the council's statutory duty on preventing flooding.
He is told by an officer that the Environment Agency has not raised any concerns about flooding.
City council leader Bob Price raises the issue of flooding and asks for clarification on what the modelling has shown.
Sara Fuge says the Alliance is happy to pay for the study and has experience of similar schemes in other parts of the country.
Murray Hancock says the applicant is "very keen" to take part in a feasibility study for this but he can give no guarantees on when it might be up and running.
City councillor Graham Jones asks about a freight "park and ride" and whether it would be a good idea.
Committee members will now have the opportunity to ask questions of planning officers.
A representative from John Lewis said: "Oxford has long been a sought after location for us and the West gate has been the only location which can deliver the type of store which can meet our requirements."
The Westgate Alliance is made up of the Crown Estate and Land Securities.
A representative of the Crown Estate says the Westgate Alliance brings together "two of the UK's most successful property companies".
She says this will bring thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds into Oxford.
"This will create a world class retail experience and establish Oxford as the regional shopping destination."
She says the scheme is an "exciting opportunity".
Sara Fuge of the Westgate Alliance goes next.
She said: "We need to take the opportunity to improve the cycling infrastructure in the radial routes coming in the city centre. This is how maintain and increase the number of cycle journeys"
But she says there needs to be more segregation between cyclists and drivers.
She says she is "delighted" that a cycle hub has been included.
A representative of Cyclox goes next.
"This has to be a unique Oxford solution rather than a Milton Keynes or Swindon solution."
"It is important that this development is integrated into the fabric of the city.
"The last thing we need here is a Westfield concept which is entirely inward looking."
He said: "We think there is an omission of the effects on the traffic outside the immediate area."
He says the civic society has concerns about the transport assessment, claiming its conclusions are "suspect".
Peter Thompson, of Oxford Civic Society, goes next.
He also calls on the city council to pledge it will monitor air and noise pollution, and keep them below the regulatory limit.
"We think Oxford deserves better. We think it is an exceptional city and the shopping centre must interact positively with all areas of the city it touches."
A representative of the St Ebbes New Development Residents Association said: "For us this is very up close and personal."
She says there are too many issues which are uncertain at this stage.
She says: "It is the biggest development Oxford has ever seen and how it is handled is crucial."
Debbie Dance, of Oxford Preservation Trust,goes first.
Mr Worllidge concludes and the members of the public will have 20 minute to speak.
Mr Worllidge shows a view of the building from Port Meadow and says it would be "hidden by the existing topography", causing a chuckle to break out across the room because of the controversy over Oxford University's Castle Mill student accommodation blocks.
He says a small part of the building would "just clip the horizon".
He is now showing a series of views which show what the effect of the shopping centre would be on Oxford's skyline.
Mr Worllidge says any harm which is caused to the city centre's heritage assets must be justified.
Nick Worllidge, a heritage officer at the city council, says the shopping centre will be visible from outside the city centre because it sits in a bowl.
Mr Hancock says most developers would want more car parking but says the plans are in line with the council's policy of encouraging people to come into the city by public transport.
He adds that it is the aspiration of the city council, county council and the applicant to see Queen Street pedestrianised.
He says the arcades are intended to have an "external feel" to them.
Mr Hancock is showing the committee a map of where the Westgate is and how it would be expanded.
He reminds the committee that the planning application is outline only and so less detailed.
Planning officer Murray Hancock begins by presenting the report which officers have prepared on the planning application.
Committee chairman Oscar Van Nooijen kicks off the meeting.
The committee has arrived and the six members of the public who have registered to speak have sat at a table at the front.
Several people have gathered outside where the Westgate Alliance has put on an exhibition of some of its plans.
Councillors and members of the public are beginning to arrive in the Old Library in Town Hall where the meeting is being held.
The committee will also decide whether to approve plans for temporary car parking at Oxpens and Redbridge while construction of the shopping centre takes place.
Oxford City Council's west area planning committee will meet in Town Hall at 6.30pm to decide whether the Westgate redevelopment should go ahead.
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