In 2012 RPS CgMs was appointed by the Westgate Oxford Alliance (Land Securities & The Crown Estate) as archaeological consultants for the commercial redevelopment of a major shopping centre in the historic centre of Oxford. The Westgate shopping centre is located in a sensitive location in the centre of Oxford’s historic core, close to Oxford Castle, and within the site of the medieval Franciscan (Greyfriars) friary. The site includes part of Oxford’s medieval town wall – designated and protected as a Scheduled Monument – and was known to contain deep, well-preserved, urban archaeological deposits relating to the medieval friary.
Archaeological investigations at the time the original shopping centre was built in the 1970s had uncovered the medieval friary church and allowed the general layout of the buildings within the friary precinct to be established. However much of the friary was retained beneath surface car parks. The redevelopment scheme included major above and below ground extensions to the existing shopping centre, and RPS CgMs advised the project team from the concept and feasibility stage onwards to ensure the scheme could be delivered without unacceptable damage to the important archaeological assets within the site. Our advice focused on development design measures to avoid impact on the important archaeological assets within the site wherever possible. This included assessment of the scheme as part of an EIA to inform planning permission for the development and design of an extensive programme of post-consent archaeological mitigation works in partnership with Oxford City Council’s archaeological officer. The mitigation programme included more than 12 months of archaeological excavations, integrated into the initial construction programme, and successfully undertaken in 2015-16. The Westgate redevelopment project was awarded “Best Archaeological Project” at the national British Archaeological Awards in 2016.