ALMOST 18 months after a £60m transformation of an Oxford shopping centre was approved, there is mounting frustration work has still not started.

Plans for the centre were approved in July 2017 despite concerns about the level of affordable housing in the development - which was dropped below Oxford City Council's target of 50 per cent to just one fifth.

More than 200 homes, shops, two restaurants and a hotel are set to be built as part of New River’s proposals to revamp Templars Square shopping centre and the surrounding area.

About 60 jobs will also be created and the 470-space Castle Street Car Park demolished.

But city councillor for Cowley David Henwood said communication between the developer and the community had been poor, saying: "We have tried several times to get updates from NewRiver about when they plan to start but haven't received a response.

"Many residents have been in touch with concerns that there hasn't been progress.

"What we don't want to see NewRiver do is cherry pick bits of the approved application such as the car park and not the needed housing."

The Cowley representative added, however, he was 'relatively confident' the conditions put in place by city council planning officers would protect the integrity of the scheme.

He said: "The company have spent a lot of money on viability studies and plans so it would also not be in their interests for this not go ahead as intended.

"If they do not start work within three years that would also mean they would have to put in a new application, which is also not in their interests."

Councillor John Sanders, who represents Cowley at county council level, said as the project had come through the city authority he had limited involvement with the scheme.

However, he added: "It is taking an inordinate amount of time and I don't know whether they are holding back or they are really running into regulations that slow things down."

NewRiver bought Templars Square shopping centre in 2012. Documents put in with the original application show the company is expected to make a £9m profit from the regeneration.

A spokesperson from NewRiver claimed despite the delay things were moving forward as planned, saying: “Following the approval from Oxford City Council for the development of Templars Square, we have been working hard behind the scenes on our next steps.

"We look forward to sharing further updates in due course as we move toward the delivery phase of this exciting step-change for Cowley’s future”.

Mr Henwood said he would be writing to the developer to urge them to keep residents up to date with the scheme.

He added: "It is in their interest to have a good relationship with Cowley residents and then residents can have patience with NewRiver."

A city council spokesperson said the authority would not comment on the Templars Square project as it was 'all in the developer's hands' but that wider regeneration of the surrounding land was already well underway.

They pointed to the former Temple Cowley Pool site, which is currently being turned into 48 homes by developer Catalyst as well as the city council's recent application for Between Towns Road.

Last week, plans were revealed by the authority to transform the former Murco petrol station site into 38 flats and houses.

The project is designed to act as a 'bridge' between the residential north of the site and non-residential buildings on Between Towns Road, including Templars Square.