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Fears mount over Westgate
Doubts about the future of the plans to redevelop Oxford’s Westgate Centre have intensified.
Capital Shopping Centres, the company behind the Westgate Partnership, will shortly be announcing its end of year figures.
And the financial position of CSC will be crucial in determining the fate of the long-awaited £330m redevelopment of the crumbling city centre shopping mall.
The Westgate scheme is now on hold, with none of the major parties involved even prepared to speculate when work might begin.
In advance of the financial announcement, a CSC spokesman would only confirm that “all aspects of the scheme are under review”.
Oxford City Council’s chief planner Michael Crofton- Briggs said: “John Lewis is still very keen to be part of the development, if CSC continue with it. The scheme is now on hold.
'It could go one of two ways – we just don’t know. But I remain optimistic'Oxford City Council’s chief planner Michael Crofton-Briggs
“It could go one of two ways – we just don’t know. But I remain optimistic.
“In other parts of the country there have been a number of schemes where developers have said it is not going to happen.
“But CSC is still working on the financial viability. They are still working on it.”
The Financial Times this week reported that John Lewis was being forced to scale back its ambitions to open at least half a dozen new department stores in the UK over the next few years as property developers shelve plans to build regional shopping centres.
The John Lewis store is seen as the flagship element of the Westgate redevelopment.
The department store chain had eight sites in the pipeline across the UK before the credit crunch.
The company does not know when developers in Oxford and other cities such as Leeds, Preston, Sheffield and Portsmouth will be going ahead with schemes.
But John Lewis has again moved to end speculation it is preparing to pull the plug on Oxford's Westgate redevelopment.
A company spokesman said: "John Lewis is aware the construction timetable for delivery of the Westgate scheme in Oxford is being reviewed.
“However, John Lewis remains committed to the project and continues to work very closely with the council and developers CSC to bring it to fruition."