The Mayor of London brushed aside concerns that now is not the time to open a new temple for shopping as he officially opened Westfield.

Boris Johnson told crowds of shoppers, Westfield staff and press that in an economic hole the 'essential thing to do in the hole is to keep digging'.

He also promised to join the throng of spenders and buy a new suit at the Shepherd's Bush mall, adding: "As someone who has often attracted criticism for the cut of my suit I will join you."

One thing was certain as west London's mecca to retail opened its vast doors early this morning  - Westfield was not quite finished.

By 8.30am the doors were supposed to be officially opened to shoppers.

But heavy duty building equipment still littered the areas outside the new Shepherd's Bush station, and teams of men were sweeping up construction debris. 

They will return when the mall shuts at 10pm tonight and are expected to continue working on the building for the next six months.

Window dressers in many of the major stores were adding more than finishing touches as they struggled to make the deadline and the mammoth project, £1.7billion and five years in the making, looked a little rough around the edges.

Linsey Woolridge, head of marketing, said: "It is pretty much finished. Nobody has opened a centre of this size in one go in a decade. Liverpool One opened in four phases. 

"To get the whole place open in one point in time with nearly 300 stores was a huge feat, and we are there."

The centre was buzzing with activity by the time Mr Johnson arrived at the Wood Lane entrance ready to cut the ribbon.

A belting performance by pop star Leona Lewis added star quality to a ceremony that also featured Erin O'Connor modelling M&S clothes and local girl Angellica Bell as compere.

The cavernous mall is light, airy and well designed, a world apart from its rivals like the Trafford Centre in Manchester or Brent Cross.

Covering an area the size of Buckingham Palace and its garden, Westfield is the largest shopping complex ever built in a European city centre.  

Shoppers have already indicated that the s2 per hour parking charges are higher than council parking.

And residents' fears that their streets could become Westfield car park could be realised if Hammersmith and Fulham Council's ongoing negotiations fail.

A large security presence mingled with the scores of shoppers pouring through the long corridors of shops.

The beefed up team will be in place for the next four days to cope with the 200,000 shoppers expected  to descend on Shepherd's Bush on Saturday.

Current estimates put the percentage of Hammersmith and Fulham residents employed at the site at 19 per cent, with 40 per cent of the centre management local - although that does include Australians living in west London employed by the Australian company.