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30 October 2008

Westfield London opens today 99% let

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by Lin Freestone

Westfield London opens today 99% let

Defying the economic gloom, up to 170,000 shoppers are expected to visit Westfield Shopping Centre in west London on its opening day today, Thursday 30 October.

Covering a site of 43 acres in Shepherd’s Bush, the £1.7bn shopping centre is the second UK venture for Australian developer Westfield.

Westfield opened its £340m centre in Derby a year ago, since when it has drawn in more than 25 million shoppers. A first year total of 20 million had been expected.

The developer claims that 99% of Westfield London is let, with five anchor stores, 265 shops and 47 restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and snack outlets. Approximately 85% of the centre will be open today, as some outlets are not yet fitted out.

Yesterday, 24 hours before opening, the area around Wood Lane and the A40 was jammed with traffic generated by the centre, as it has been at certain times of the day during construction and fit-out.

Although it is anticipated that 60% of visitors will arrive at Westfield London by bus, tube or on foot, provision has been made for 4,500 cars and 570 cycles. Westfield is said to have contributed £170m towards overhauling public transport in the area

It is anticipated that the centre will attract 21 million visitors a year, most of whom will come from the target catchment of three million people in west London. However, it is predicted that West End shoppers could be attracted to the gleaming new shops and restaurants all under one roof, and abandon the shabbier appeal of parts of Oxford Street.

Local businesses are optimistic and are desperately hoping that the millions of extra visitors to the area will bring much-needed trade to the diverse shopping on offer in the adjoining streets around White City.

There have been concerns about the impact of the development on property values in the vicinity. However, there has been much interest in buy-to-let investments in the fairly run-down area recently.

After planning and development spanning ten years, the London opening at the start of a looming recession is seen as unfortunate. However, Westfield points out that it invests in its shopping centres for the long-term. Westfield London will be here long after the current downturn in consumer spending comes to an end.

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