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The Crown Estate to begin work on new Oxford shopping centre

The Westgate shopping centre in Oxford is getting a 440 million pound makeover. The Westgate Oxford Alliance, a joint venture between the Crown Estate and FTSE 100 company Land Securities hope to see the 800,000 sq. ft retail centre completed by fall 2017.

The new centre will feature 100 new stores, 25 restaurants and cafes, a boutique cinema chain Curzon Cinemas, and roof top terrace dining. Retail giants such as H&M, Superdry, Schuh and Goldsmiths, along with a 140,000 sq ft John Lewis department store have already committed to retail space.

Included within all of this are plans for 61 flats. A reduction from the original plans of 122 homes.

“This is an important day for the city of Oxford. As a key regeneration project for the city, Westgate Oxford will not only create many new jobs, it will also support the whole region including existing businesses, by increasing footfall in the city – I am delighted to hear that construction will begin imminently.” said Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council

The new Westgate shopping centre will create up to 1,000 construction jobs and another 3,400 retail positions opening up once the centre is completed in 2017.

However construction of the centre almost did not happen. In 2000, past owners Capital Shopping Centres and Coal Pension Properties had planning permission to expand, yet John Prescott, the current Deputy Prime Minister, vetoed their right.

The High Court did eventually over rule John Prescott’s decision but it was too late, Capital Shopping Centres had sold out before they could start to build a revised proposal. Land Securities and the Crown Estate took over the centre in 2010.

The Crown Estate was founded in 1961 to manage property and land on behalf of the Queen. It is now one of the United Kingdom’s largest property owners with a portfolio of about 8.1 billion pounds. Yet the Crown Estate, just like the Crown Jewels are not private property of the Monarch. While they are passed down with accession of the throne, the reigning monarch cannot sell, collect revenues, or debts, from the estate. That power lies with the de facto authority of Parliament.

After four years of preparation, extensive public consultation and the approval of a reserved matters application by Oxford City Council construction is planned to start Spring 2015.

Photo credit : The Crown Estate


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