Westgate: comments on revised application

23 February 2014

In our comments of October 24th 2013 we supported the principle of the Westgate redevelopment as a component of the regeneration of the West End Area of Oxford. We also made clear our concerns about the proposed redevelopment. Following a review of the revised application we are disappointed to see that our concerns have not been addressed.

In our view the arrangements for immediate and city centre accessibility and the associated overall design concept of the proposed development remain inadequate. These are fundamental issues which need to be addressed at this outline planning permission stage. Consideration of them cannot be deferred until a later stage of design development.

From comments made by a senior City Council Officer, we understand that Oxfordshire County Council will shortly provide transport/access comments to the City Council on the revised Westgate application and that the County Council comments will benefit from a new city centre transport strategy which will be submitted by County Council officers to County Council members on February 25th. Until we have had an opportunity to review this new strategy we are unable to comment further on the strategic city /city centre transport implications of the revised proposal for the Westgate redevelopment, nor the associated Westgate design concept. The comments made in our submission of October 24th 2013 stand until we are able to review them in the context of the new strategy. Publication of and consultation on the city centre transport strategy (which allows for all the current known future developments and particularly including access to and exit from the Westgate redevelopment) is required.

Regarding the overall design of the development, whilst we note that the height of some buildings have been slightly reduced, and the proportion of ‘active frontage’ has been marginally increased (from zero) on some elevations, it is still clear that all the buildings are intended to be substantially inward looking, and both physically and visually separated from their surroundings, not only by the busy road network, but by the architectural characteristics, as constrained by the parameter plans forming part of the current application for outline consent.

We strongly recommend that the Planning Committee (West) reviews our concerns and defers a decision until adequate consultation has been undertaken into the transportation proposals, which removes all doubt about their efficacy. We also strongly recommend that no consent be granted without the strengthening of the requirements to ensure that the new development relates properly in social and environmental terms with its immediate surroundings.

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