Westway Development – Pre-consulation meeting

Matt Prosser, Strategic Director for Vale of White Horse District Council, spoke to about  150 local residents and traders in a public ‘pre-consultation update’ about Westway Centre redevelopment on 29 Feb 2012.

Several current property owners, including the Vale, have formed a consortium to sell their land to a developer. The site for sale comprises the vacant Grant Thornton building, the building housing NatWest, cleaners, library and Elms Court flats, Seacourt Hall, Botley Baptist church, the car park and part of the Coop. The sale will generate a capital receipt, part of which is intended to fund the refurbishment of the main precinct.

Most of the meeting was a question and answer session. Here are some highlights:

Tony Wood, local resident and business owner, asked if it was certain to be retail space. Matt said  yes, it’s likely to be a combination of retail, residential and car parking, but there are no definite plans yet.  It’s also part of the plan to provide a community hall and a library.

Mike Sage, chairman of the successful Save Botley Library campaign, asked for assurance that the Vale was working as hard as possible to ensure the library will stay in the centre of Botley. Matt told us that the library is a county responsibility, that the county has stated their intention for the library to stay, and that the Vale are in close communication with county officers on this issue.

County Cllr Janet Godden asked what could be done to minimise vacancies and keep the community ticking over during this period of change. Matt said they will keep rents attractive and allow short term leases.

Some people were puzzled about why this meeting at this time, and commented that it seemed premature as there are no plans to comment on. Matt said, ‘We came at the invitation of North Hinksey parish council to hear what your concerns are.’

The timescale is estimated to be 2 to 4 years. The next step is for the developers to submit a proposal, after which there will be a public consultation. Then will come a formal planning application and another consultation. Matt Prosser said he hopes there will be a planning application by the end of this year.

Online consultation is open now through the 5th of April for the initial gathering of comments. See the consultation and background information at: http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/about-us/tell-us-what-you-think/current-consultations/westway-area-development