Westgate traffic woes

REDUCED parking charges could mean even more problems on the roads when the Westgate Centre opens, it has been warned.

Green councillor Craig Simmons issued the warning after it emerged charges at the city council's Oxpens car park in Oxpens Road will be set to match those at the nearby shopping centre.

The council has allowed Westgate Oxford Alliance to set its own charges for the 1,000-space car park serving the centre opening on October 24, which will feature a new John Lewis, 100 new shops 25 restaurants and a cinema.

Mr Simmons said shopping centre owners and the council had left it 'too late' to announce the parking tariffs.

He added: "We think it is highly likely the Westgate will discount prices initially and that could lead to increased congestion and, potentially, the council losing out financially.

"It was a big mistake letting the Westgate Centre set its own parking charges and we could be made to pay the price."

Oxford Civic Society member Peter Thompson said: "If parking charges are too low and encourage too many people to drive into the city the charges are likely to be adjusted up."

City council leader Bob Price said in December he expected the alliance to make three-hour slots at the Westgate Centre car park 'relatively inexpensive'.

Now he has revealed that parking charges at the city council's Oxpens car park, where there are 420 spaces, will be set to match those at the Westgate Centre.

He said: "The charges will be exactly the same - we will set the tariffs so there will be no incentive to go to one rather than the other."

Members of the council's executive board will discuss 'aligning' the fees at both locations at a meeting on Tuesday, 19 September.

At the moment charges at Oxpens from Sunday to Friday range from £4 for one to two hours to £23 for eight to 24 hours, with the prices at Westgate yet to be confirmed.

The news comes after concerns were raised last week that key schemes to limit the expected rise in traffic, such as the pedestrianisation of Queen Street, the expansion of Seacourt Park and Ride, are not yet in place.

The number of shopping trips to Oxford is expected to increase from five million a year to an estimated 15 million after the centre opens.

Plans to provide another 650 spaces at Seacourt park-and-ride were delayed earlier this year due to environmental concerns while the decision on Queen Street is with the Government.

Brendan Hattam, general manager at Westgate Oxford Alliance: "The alliance continues to have an active dialogue with both the city and county councils on a wide range of matters as we approach our October opening.

"We look forward to sharing further detail about the new Westgate Oxford car park with the public in the near future."


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