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Shopping village plan ‘will hit trade in city’
BOSSES at Oxford’s Westgate Shopping Centre have opposed plans for the expansion of Bicester Village, claiming it will damage trade in the city.
Two planning bids have been launched, one for a new 8,135sqm Tesco store opposite its current position on the A41 and another for 28 new shops in place of the existing store.
The objections have come from the Westgate Oxford Alliance, a group formed by the co-owners of the site Land Securities Group and the Crown Estate.
Donal McCabe, director of communications for the Land Securities Group, said: “At the moment, Bicester Village is great for Oxfordshire, and it’s a massive draw.
“But we have to be careful not to allow it to become so big it destroys the areas around it.
“All we’re saying is they need to bear that in mind. Bicester is currently a great asset, and Oxford has great potential.”
London-based planning consultancy Turley Associates has objected to both applications on behalf of the alliance.
Director Sarah Stevens raised concerns the expansion of Bicester Village would have an adverse impact on shops in Oxford city centre.
She said: “Our client is concerned about the introduction of 28 new retailers... to an established out of centre retail destination that already competes with existing centres.
“(It) will have a detrimental impact on the long-term viability, vitality and future investor confidence in the city centre, including my client’s proposed development at the Westgate Centre in Oxford city centre, particularly given the current economic circumstances.”
The Westgate owners want to carry out a £330m redevelopment of the centre, to include a John Lewis superstore.
But the scheme has been repeatedly delayed. A planning application has yet to be submitted and the estimated opening date isn’t until 2017.
Respresentatives for Bicester Village refuted the idea that Oxford would be damaged by the new development.
Miranda Markham, community relations director at Bicester Village, said: “We do not believe the criticism is justified. The experience of our last 15 years or so has been that Bicester Village has had absolutely no detrimental effect on Oxford.
“Many of our visitors will also shop in Oxford when they come here, and we actively market Oxford on our website and in other ways.”
Ben Jackson, president of the Bicester chamber of commerce, said the alliance had “every right” to make objections, but added: “We as a business community do not comment on applications for Oxford or anywhere else, out of respect for business organisations in the area the application relates to, we tend to leave it to them.”
Planning officers at Cherwell District Council have recommended the plans are approved in January despite the fact the land for the new Tesco is already allocated for business and not retail use.
If built, the new developments are expected to lead to £11m in road improvements on the A41, Oxford Road and Pingle Drive to cut chronic congestion at peak times.
In total the entire scheme could generate 3,550 jobs.
In Cherwell’s report, it said there was “unlikely” to be significant adverse impact on the town centre, and Tesco and Sainsbury’s, which is due to open next summer, were likely to compete with each other.
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