‘Council will kill off retail’: businesses hit out at yet more traffic measures

Four of the trial traffic filters going live in November will be in central Oxford on St Cross Road, Thames Street, Hythe Bridge Street and St Clement’s Street operating seven days a week from 7am to 7pm.

Oxfordshire County Council is also due to start a public consultation this autumn on expanding the Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) to a wider area of the city centre.

The council is also at the early stages of proposing a workplace parking levy, an annual charge to employers for workplace parking spaces which was set out in a budget meeting at County Hall in February.

Oxford Mail: Thames Street

Leader of the Independent Oxford Alliance David Henwood said shop managers at the Westgate and the Covered Market had expressed concern about the slew of measures.

A member of staff at bag shop Smiggles at the Westgate Centre, who did not wish to be named, said: “It now takes staff an hour to get to work. Prior to the [LTN] restrictions this journey would take 20 minutes.

“When the Botley Road opens and the traffic filters start we expect them to cancel each other out. There are no parking concessions for staff so staff are taking longer to get to work.”

A manager at John Lewis, who also did not wish to be named, said: “We are still recovering from Covid and the LTN scheme hasn’t helped.

“I was unaware of the ZEZ expansion until today but it would limit how people can travel or access Oxford.

“The best way to support local businesses is to open Oxford up, not to close it.”

His colleague added: “I was unaware of the traffic filters scheme, but to only be able to access Oxford from the Botley Road is ridiculous. Whose idea was this?”

Oxford Mail: The Westgate Centre

A manager at TK Maxx said the new traffic filters “will mean I will have to travel 13 miles to get to work, compared to 4.5 miles I travel now”.

The manager added: “The buses are slow, so I use a moped which I can park for free in the Westgate and it is much cheaper than a bus.”

A store manager said their journey to work from Blackbird Leys now takes an hour and traffic filters “will make the Westgate car park redundant”.

A member of staff at SuperDry said: “In my view the city council is trying to kill off retail in Oxford.

“As far as I am concerned the city council are trying to destroy business in Oxford.”

The filters will use ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras to catch private car drivers on short sections of the roads.

Any driver going through a filter who is neither exempt or holding a permit will be issued a £70 fine.

Permits will be available for blue badge holders, health workers and professional and non professional care workers.

All other vehicles including buses, coaches, taxis, vans, mopeds and HGVs will be allowed at all times.

It is hoped the restrictions will reduce the number of private cars and encourage walking and cycling.

Just over 1,800 people signed a petition over worries that the filters in Thames Street and Hythe Bridge Street will make Botley Road the main access route from the west.

Oxford Mail:

All traffic for Oxford Rail Station, Osney Mead, the new Oxpens development and the Westgate Shopping Centre would be funnelled through Botley.

Meanwhile more than 3,400 people signed a petition against deploying them  at Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way in Cowley.

These two will only operate at peak times and not on Sundays following feedback after 5,700 people gave their views in a consultation on the filters in 2022.

Hotelier Jeremy Mogford has said the traffic filters will be “a catastrophe” for Oxford and would send out “a horrific negative message to the world at large about Oxford being inaccessible”.

He added: “It looks like the mission is to eliminate the car from the city.”

Rose Hill & Iffley councillor Mr Henwood, who is standing against Anneliese Dodds for the Oxford East seat in the general election, said traffic filters will also create problems for people living outside Oxford city.

He said: “I can’t see how district councils like South Oxfordshire will want to put thousands of homes in their areas when people can’t get access to the centre of Oxford.

Oxford Mail: David Henwood

“Oxford needs more housing, but employment is located in Oxford. The proposed filters restrict access and therefore will have a detrimental impact on housing developments.”

Oxfordshire residents outside the Oxford permit area can apply for 25 day passes each year.

Mr Henwood said he would be proposing a motion at full council that proposed 2024 Oxford Local Plan be rejected in its present form until traffic restrictions are lifted.

Meanwhile Oxfordshire County Council said it hoped traffic filters would speed up buses with new services and electric buses.

A spokesman said: “We expect it to get much easier to travel into the city by bus as existing bus services should be faster and more reliable and new bus services will be added.

“The roads should be quieter, making it easier for those with permits or exempt vehicles to travel around, as well as people on bike or foot.

“Everywhere in Oxford will still be accessible by car.”

Westgate Oxford has been contacted for comment and John Lewis declined to comment.

Other candidates for Oxford East are Green, Sushila Dhall; Liberal Democrats, Theo Jupp; Reform UK, Lawrence Haar; SDP, Benjamin Adams; Independent, Amir Steve Ali.

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