Bruce Ross-Smith and Liz Reason lament the impact of Oxford’s Westgate shopping development on the environment and affordable housing, while Mike Parr sticks up for Bath’s independent retailersKen Loach’s “lamentation” about how Bath has been and is being overdeveloped (Report, 21 October) could be echoed in Oxford, where in the 1950s Mr Loach studied law at St Peter’s College. Had he been in Oxford today he could walk the short distance from his old college and witness the opening of the new Westgate shopping centre, 800,000 square feet of retail and leisure “glory”, touted by Oxford city council, the Land Securities Group and the Crown Estate (the Westgate Alliance) as a world-beating development which could draw in a footfall of up to 16.5 million per annum in what Bob Price, Labour leader of the city council, describes as “a significant increase in the city’s retail footprint”. It’s expected that these happy shoppers will then spill over into the rest of Oxford city centre, already subject to chronic congestion.
With one or two exceptions, all the businesses in Oxford’s new Westgate will be national chains, with, at its heart, a 125,000 sq ft John Lewis. Meanwhile, television ads for the new centre feature a contemporary Alice, asleep among Oxford’s buildings, before dashing from Hertford College’s Bridge of Sighs to the Radcliffe Camera, where she takes off the top of the dome to reveal a swarm of leaping lipsticks. What fun!