PEOPLE have been reassured they will be able to do their Christmas shopping in Cornmarket Street this year before major demolition works begin.

Shutters were drawn over a number of shop fronts in September as Jesus College started to prepare for a major redevelopment featuring new shops and student rooms above.

Work will soon get under way after city councillors backed plans for the revamp of Northgate House on the corner of Cornmarket and Market Street.

College principal Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt said: “Before the Westgate Centre opened we knew we would have to raise our game and raise the retail requirement to what people now expect.

“We see this as an opportunity to help to preserve Cornmarket as the central shopping street and improve Market Street, where there is an entrance to the Covered Market.

“Even after the Westgate Centre opened there is still massive footfall so we see this as a fantastic opportunity to pull shoppers in and engage them.”

Sir Nigel reassured shoppers and traders that demolition work on the scheme, expected to take two years to complete, would not start until early next year.

He added: “We know this the busiest time of year for traders – we respect that and would not want to do anything to interrupt it.”

The college principal added that when construction work did start, at a date to be fixed, disruption of the shopping scene would be kept to a minimum.

Sir Nigel added he did not envisage Cornmarket Street being closed to shoppers as a result of work taking place, although from time to time large cranes would need to be brought in for the work costing ‘tens of millions’.

Access arrangements for construction vehicles have not yet been finalised.

Hoardings will go up once the scheme starts and modern construction methods will be used to ensure that some work is completed off-site.

The scheme, featuring a tower, will retain retail units on the lower levels with 68 student rooms above, plus a ‘gatehouse’ providing teaching rooms. Shutters came down at American Candy, a sweet store which replaced River Island, and at Carphone Warehouse. The former Next store is also closed but clothing chain Fat Face remains open.