TRADERS have welcomed the reopening of St Clement’s car park after work to build student flats over it was completed.

Most of the 120 spaces were lost when construction began on the controversial Alice House, near Magdalen Bridge, for 140 students in April last year.

The Oxford City Council car park has now reopened with 80 spaces and parking will be free until Friday when higher charges are introduced.

The council has confirmed an extra 10p will come into force on top of each charge apart from the rate from 8pm to 8am, to rise from £1 to £1.30.

A temporary 70-space car park in Marston Road with a free bus service will close on Monday.

The council received 500 comments against the scheme, for flats on stilts above the car park.

Bar and restaurant owner Clinton Pugh said: “It is fantastic that the council is offering free car parking if only for a short period of time.

“But it would be nice if they put up signs to let people know the car park actually exists.

“It would have been much better to have had an underground car park, although that would have been much more expensive.”

One of his three businesses, Cafe Coco, lost £40,000, leading him to cut its opening times.

He said: “We have survived. But a lot have struggled and lost money. Some have gone out of business.”

Patrick Clacy, owner of bed shop And So To Bed, said: “It is going to take a while to get back where we were.

“When there were 120 spaces it was always pretty full but now there are only 80 spaces.”

Alice House, named after Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, has been bought by the Student Housing Company and will let students “live luxuriously” from £220 a week from September.

Sietske Boeles, of the East Oxford Residents’ Associations Forum, said: “We preferred a much-needed smaller scale affordable housing development over ‘rich kid student housing’.

“We are still shocked by annual rental prices of £10,000 for these small self-contained units, increasing a widespread fear that this project will turn out to be a white elephant.”

She said firms had been struggling to keep their heads above water during the construction work, and called for a “goodwill” cut in parking charges.

A total 40 OAPs in nearby Anchor Court retirement home organised a petition against the development claiming their rooms would lose sunlight.

Student Housing Company spokeswoman Rebecca Midgley said: “Many of the spaces in the car park were difficult to get to.

“These have been replaced by 80 spaces which are fully compliant with the latest industry standards.”

City council spokesman Christopher Lee said: “There are plans for new signage. Since the car park reopened, it has been well used.”

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