Green party opposes council’s Westgate plans

first_imgThe Oxford Green Party has come out in opposition to proposed plans by Oxford City Council to spend £330 million redeveloping the Westgate shopping centre area.Chair of the local Green Party, Sushila Dhall, told Cherwell, “The plans to build lots of chain stores and a multi-story car park are a really bad idea. Oxford does not need it and the site could easily be a car-free zone instead.“There is a desperate shortage of affordable housing in Oxford. This is a publicly-owned, central site which should be used for low-cost, quality housing, public spaces and amenities, and small business units.”Dhall further clarified a “misunderstanding” with the Oxford Mail, who reported comments made by her on Wednesday. She said, “It’s not the Westgate centre itself that’s the issue. We do want to see that revamped, and to a high environmental standard of energy efficiency. Rather, it is the area behind the Westgate centre that we’re concerned with.”The Council’s plans include a John Lewis department store and a small amount of housing, with the building to begin in 2014 at the latest, and potentially opening in 2017.David Williams, leader of the Green group on the City Council, commented, “The days of grand malls are over. In the last few years more and more people are buying online. People’s shopping habits are changing.”President of Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce, Nigel Wild, called the Greens’ idea “ill thought out”, adding, “It is vital it is a shopping site. There is space round the city for houses. This is a prime shopping location. It will draw people to Oxford and creates jobs in Oxford.”Dhall responded to this by arguing that, “There isn’t space round the city for houses, or they would be building them. Nigel Wild doesn’t seem to realise that thousands of people do live in the city centre, just a stone’s throw away from the area. I don’t think he knows the city very well at all. It is a very suitable site.”Robin McGhee, a third year undergraduate city council candidate, said, ‘It’s ironic of the Green Party to pretend that they care about affordable housing when they support policies that aim to limit student housing in the city centre.’He added, ‘I agree that the Westgate centre should be improved since at the moment it is pretty bad.’Alex Harvey, a third year who is standing for the Labour Party nomination for city councillor, commented, “Redeveloping Westgate will apparently create 2,000 jobs, with the building work itself providing a further 2,000. With unemployment as high as it is, I think the priority should be job creation.”last_img read more