AFFORDABLE housing has almost taken on myth-like status in this city.

But that shouldn’t mean that any area of redevelopment becomes immediately earmarked for residential dwellings.

That is what’s being suggested by Oxford’s Green Party with regard to the rundown Westgate shopping centre and its long-awaited redevelopment.

Certainly no-one would disagree with Green Party chair Sushila Dhall when she says “we want more affordable housing.”

But choosing to redevelop into low-cost quality accommodation, this central site, smack-bang in the middle of Oxford’s retail heart, isn’t the answer.

In fact, robbing the city’s economy of major employers might well make the current situation worse.

We could end up with fewer jobs for individuals and families who want to earn decent incomes in order to afford better housing.

A healthy retail income is key for any urban community’s future prosperity. And there’s a considerable body of opinion that Oxford needs more shops, not less, to compete with other regional centres like Reading, or up-and-coming towns like Witney, to pull in vital trade.

Turning the Westgate Centre into student and low cost housing simply won’t address the complex issues that govern the housing market. While the Greens’ demands are laudable, it comes down to an argument about geography rather than knee-jerk idealism.