Andy Ffrench and Greg Ritchie

WESTGATE Centre bosses are celebrating a nomination for a top design award but conservationists said two of its facades were 'hideous and plain ugly'.

Land Securities, which owns the £440m shopping centre, was thrilled after it was included on a shortlist of Oxfordshire buildings which could win the prestigious RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) South Awards.

Oxford Mail:

Brendan Hattam, general manager of Westgate Oxford, said: "We are delighted that the architectural team’s vision has been recognised by such an important voice in design – the RIBA."

READ AGAIN: Civic leader calls for Westgate Centre to be opened up from Oxpens

But a spokesman for Oxford Civic Society, which earlier voiced concerns about the Oxpens Road facade, said it would be 'surprised' if the shopping centre ended up as a RIBA regional award winner.

Oxford Mail:

Peter Thompson, the society's former chairman, said: "The elevations in Oxpens Road and Old Greyfriars Street are appalling and so bad I don't think it's possible the centre could win any award. "They are hideous - just plain ugly and the Oxpens facade isolates the Westgate from the Oxpens area, which is being developed - there is only one entrance on that side and there are very few windows.

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"There is limited scope for landscaping on the Oxpens side and the Old Greyfriars Street facade is so blank it might as well be a prison wall - it's not surprising that a taxi rank has not worked there."

While he was critical of parts of the external design Mr Thompson praised the inside of the centre, which attracted 19 million visitors in its first year.

Oxford Mail:

He added: "The interior is pleasant and that's borne out by the footfall.

"The Bonn Square entrance is not bad at all and the glass lantern adds something.

"The Castle Street entrance is also not bad but more needs to be done to link the Westgate Centre with the Castle site.

"The Castle site is a tremendous asset to the city and is also owned by Land Securities but as an amenity it is under-valued."

READ AGAIN: Full Westgate Centre ready to repeat success of first year

Mary Clarkson, board member for culture and city centre, praised the Westgate Centre's rooftop terrace, where restaurants are situated.

Oxford Mail:

She added: "The Westgate has given the city a major boost - I think the rooftop terrace is fantastic, particularly when the weather is good.

"Design can be incredibly subjective but the Westgate is definitely a success - it's functional and draws people in."

The Labour city councillor said the Westgate Centre has made a 'massively positive contribution' to the city, bringing in new retailers, restaurants and leisure opportunities, while also creating new and well-used public squares.

READ MORE: Westgate shoppers boost funding for the city

She said: "Oxford City Council worked hard to ensure the centre, unlike its predecessor, has lots of walkways open 24 hours a day to create a new quarter that isn’t cut off and feels part of the city centre.”

Oxford Mail:

Oscar Baker, 20, a student at Oxford University's St Hugh's College, said: "I love the design - its extremely spacious and I feel it's a great addition to the city centre.

"While the wind does get up a little bit, I really like the different layers of the building and how they all link together. The rooftop is great too."

Fiona Carter, 56, from Headington, said: "I have to say I'm surprised, given how much criticism it's had.

"It does always feel very cold and windy, though I do like the rooftop terrace on a nice day.

"I certainly don't think it was worth all the money they spent on it, especially for how it's hurt the rest of the city centre."

Oxford Mail:

Debbie Dance, managing director of Oxford Preservation Trust, said: "We hope to encourage the Westgate to put in their ‘pavement in the sky’ for an OPT environmental award this year as we recognise how it has opened up the views to so many more people who can now enjoy it."

Oxford Mail:

The Westgate Oxford team nominated for the RIBA regional award include BDP, Dixon Jones, Allies and Morrison, Panter Hudspith, and Glenn Howells Architects.

READ MORE: Downpour causes roof leak at Westgate Centre

The other buildings shortlisted for South awards are: Greenland Library, Brasenose College, by Lee\Fitzgerald Architects; Dora Carr Close, Headington by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, RPS and Ruff Architects; The Beecroft Building, Oxford University by Hawkins\Brown; and The Hands Building, Mansfield College, Oxford by MICA Architects.

All of these buildings are potential RIBA Regional Award winners.

Oxford Mail:

If they are successful, they will be considered for a RIBA National Award in recognition of their architectural excellence, the results of which will be announced in June.

The shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize, for the new best building of the year, will be drawn from the RIBA National Award-winning buildings in July, and the Stirling Prize winner will be announced in October.