For 50 years shoppers have been flocking to the Westgate Centre in Oxford. It now looks very different to how it first appeared in 1972, thanks to a radical £440m redesign and reopening in October, 2017, which brought more than 100 new shops and restaurants.

In October, it will be five years since the frantic opening day after the revamp.

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And since then thousands of shoppers have visited and the shopping centre has been a success, although some civic leaders and traders have expressed concern that other key shopping streets including Cornmarket have suffered as a result.

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In 2014, councillors voted to approve the centre that we now know today, featuring John Lewis as the anchor store, new shops and a rooftop terrace and cinema and new underground car park.

At the time, Oxford Preservation Trust warned that the St Ebbe’s area, including Old Greyfriars and Pennyfarthing Place, would be harmed.

Director Debbie Dance said in 2014: “We were not expecting councillors to refuse the application, but we were concerned about the height of some buildings.

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“We hope the council is listening to what the effects on views will be, but we understand that with something so big it is an inevitability.

“Like everyone, we look forward to seeing a better Westgate of the future.”

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1972: The £1.8m Westgate Shopping Centre opens with a large Selfridges and a Sainsbury’s.

1988: Proposals to extend the centre by 23,200 sq m are submitted by CIN Properties and Arrowcroft, but are thrown out.

1999: Artists’ impressions of Capital Shopping Centres’ (CSC) £220m revamped mall are unveiled.

2000: Oxford City Council approves the Westgate extension application.

2001: City council’s decision to grant permission is “called in” by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and a public inquiry is held. A planning inspector recommends approval.

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2002: Mr Prescott throws out CSC’s refurbishment plans.

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2003: The city council appeals and Mr Prescott’s decision is quashed in the High Court. CSC later withdraws its application.

2006 CSC submits fresh plans for the £300m redevelopment of the Westgate Centre.

2007: Legal agreements are signed and preliminary work is set to begin in 2008 or 2009.

2009: It is announced that the new centre would open in 2014.

2010: CSC sells the Westgate Centre to the Crown Estate and Land Securities, which forms a consortium named Westgate Oxford Alliance.

2013: Westgate Oxford Alliance signs development agreement with Oxford City Council.

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March 2014: The scheme for the £500m redevelopment of the Westgate Centre is approved in principle by the city council.

October 2014: Final plans for the redevelopment are submitted in full and made public.

November 2014: The plans are considered at a special meeting of the west area planning committee and approved.

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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