THE wait is over for thousands of shoppers, who will flock to the Westgate Centre today to see what the £440m shopping complex has to offer.


Contractors have been working all hours to get the new centre ready for the grand opening at 9.30am in Leiden Square.

Flagship store John Lewis and discount clothing chain Primark will cut their ribbons at 10am, with live performances taking place in the square throughout the day.

Last week it emerged there would be a phased arrangement for the opening of new stores, with 60 units out of 125 opening today, and a further 30 before Christmas.

Staff at John Lewis on Friday welcomed 2,000 customers to have a look at the store, and its 322 employees who will greet shoppers have been ‘theatre-trained’ by the Oxford Playhouse team.

Westgate Centre manager Brendan Hattam said: “With a first-class line-up of retail, food and leisure brands, Westgate Oxford cements the city’s reputation as one of the most attractive destinations in the country.”

City council leader Bob Price said the opening was ‘an exciting day for Oxford and quite a historic moment’.

He added: “Any complications have been tackled in the spirit of partnership.

“It’s 20 years since Capital Shopping Centres, the owners at the time, first put forward their proposals before the new owners took over.

“The Westgate Centre will be a massive asset for Oxford’s retail offer and equally important is the very significant improvement it brings to a whole quarter of the city centre architecturally.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “The new Westgate Centre will be fantastic for Oxford.

“People have been going elsewhere to shop - now Oxford will become a destination for shoppers.”

Mr Hudspeth said council staff would be monitoring traffic flows to combat any congestion.

Drivers have been advised to use public transport and park-and-rides, as well as city centre car parks including the Westgate Centre’s.