CHRISTMAS footfall in the city centre has dramatically risen compared to the last year, partly due to the Westgate Centre - and Cornmarket Street is still the busiest area.

Between December 4 and December 10, more than 720,000 people visited the city - a 13 per cent increase and 86,000 more than the same week last year.

The busiest day in that week was Saturday with 145,514 visitors - and the peak hour of 2pm saw 15,212 people in the city.

Traders had feared the new £440m shopping centre would have an adverse effect on other parts of the city such as the Covered Market.

But Oxford City Council said its footfall counters - in Cornmarket, Queen Street and St George’s Place - showed that the former was still the busiest of the three.

Oxford City Council leader, Bob Price, said: “ As expected, the opening of the Westgate Centre has given a massive boost to the number of people coming into the city and the monitoring data show clearly that this increase has been felt widely across the city centre in the run up to Christmas.

He added: “The Broad Street Christmas Market has been very popular again and many local choirs have performed there.”

A number of shops in Cornmarket Street and other city centre streets have become vacant recently with businesses moving their branches into the Westgate.

But Mr Price said the empty units were ‘filling up fast’.

He said: “ Demand for retail space in the city centre is strong and we hope that more independent traders will be attracted by the increased availability of shop units in prime locations.”