HERITAGE leaders have called for more landscaping alongside the newly revamped Westgate Centre, claiming the design of one side is ‘very stark’.

Peter Thompson, who resigned as chairman of Oxford Civic Society after seven years earlier this year, said that while the design of the Bonn Square facade was ‘quite pleasing aesthetically’ he thought the design of the centre fronting Oxpens Road, including the flagship John Lewis store, was very stark and would now require more landscaping.

He spoke out after workmen at the weekend began removing scaffolding around the curved Bonn Square facade.

He said: “We are disappointed with the architectural treatment along Oxpens.

“It’s very stark and presents a pretty unfriendly ‘castle wall’ effect that separates everything happening inside with real

life happening on Oxpens.

“The only redeeming thing they can do is tree planting and landscaping and to be fair they are prepared for that.

“Some brickwork is angled and that breaks up the design a bit but it’s not successful in relieving the whole design on the Oxpens side.”

Mr Thompson added that artists’ impressions of the Bonn Square facade, where the main entrance of the revamped £440m centre will be situated, made him optimistic for a design which will be ‘quite pleasing aesthetically’.

He added: “There also needs to be more integration with the Oxford Castle site – it would have been a good idea to design in a bridge across Castle Street.”

Current chairman of the society Ian Green said it had lobbied Westgate Oxford Alliance, the owners of the new centre, at the design stage for improvements along Oxpens Road.

He added: “We did manage to get some more windows into the John Lewis building – there were virtually no windows at the start – I don’t think it’s a great piece of 21st century urban design.’’

Labour city councillor Colin Cook said shoppers should give developers the chance to introduce more landscaping.

He added: “You have to give the developers more time.

“There will be more trees going in there and it takes time for them to grow and look good.”

Some readers were not impressed by the design and in an online poll on the Oxford Mail website 54 per cent of those taking part said it was ‘a bit of an eyesore’.

‘LoLit’ wrote on the online article: “The exterior design on the Oxpens side as far as I’m concerned is a disaster. There is no character to it at all.”

The new centre will open on October 24 and is expected to attract up to 15 million shoppers a year.

The revamp is giving the centre’s original 1970s arcade a facelift and creating four new buildings, including 100 new stores, 25 restaurants and cafes and a boutique cinema. Oxfordshire County Council leaders earlier this year agreed to pedestrianise Queen Street once the new centre opens in order to make it safer for pedestrians and accommodate more shoppers.

Westgate Oxford Alliance did not respond to requests for comment from the Oxford Mail.