THE car park at a central Oxford shopping centre will be closed when it nears full capacity this Christmas.

The Westgate Centre car park will be closed when it approaches full capacity in the run-up to Christmas to prevent long queues along city centre roads.

At the same time, Park and Ride sites around the city will allow drivers to park for free.

Oxfordshire County Council has introduced a temporary traffic regulation order (TTRO), which means the 1,000-space shopping centre car park can be closed when it becomes 90 per cent full, or the traffic queues on Thames Street or Oxpens Road, approaching the entrance, reach 10 minutes or more.

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The TTRO came into effect yesterday (December 2) when lockdown measures eased.

Shops, restaurants and some pubs also began to reopen under the tier 2 restrictions covering Oxfordshire after the national lockdown finished.

Liam Walker, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for highways delivery and operations, said: “Over the past few months we have been working closely with the Westgate Centre to look at implementing some measures to help with reducing congestion in the city centre during the peak times.

“We recognise that visitors to the Westgate are also visitors to Oxford but we want them to have a better experience that doesn’t involve them sitting in long delays or congestion.”

Oxford Mail:

This time last year, city centre traffic often slow as vehicles queueing to get into the Westgate Centre car park when it was already full caused heavy congestion.

On some occasions, journeys from West Way in Botley to Thames Street were taking more than 40 minutes.

To reduce congestion in the city centre during this busy period, Oxfordshire County and Oxford City Councils have joined forces to provide free parking at the city’s five park and ride sites between Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 27.

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Visitors will be able to park for free at Redbridge, Pear Tree, Seacourt, Thornhill and Oxford Parkway.

It will still cost money to ride buses into Oxford from Park and Ride sites, but this will be capped at £4.80 per car.

When the decision is made to close the Westgate car park, it will remain shut for at least four hours, and will only reopen if it is no more than 80 per cent full, and traffic delays on the surrounding road network are no longer than five minutes.

Mr Walker added: “By putting stronger measures in place for when the Westgate car park is full we hope this will help to reduce delays and visitors will instead be encouraged to make use of the free parking we are offering at the park and ride sites in December.”

The new measures come after Oxford City Council debated whether matching its own car park prices with Westgate would encourage fewer people to use the shopping centre's car park.