East Oxford’s low traffic neighbourhoods (LTN) have been made permanent by Oxfordshire County Council.

Making the 18-month trial LTNs, the subject of huge controversy, a permanent feature in three areas of East Oxford was approved by the county council’s cabinet on Tuesday, October 18 at a stormy meeting attended by dozens of members of the public.

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras will replace the physical closures in Divinity Road, James Street and Magdalen Road but the concept will continue with exemptions for emergency services, waste and postal services and private hire vehicles.

A report to the meeting showed schools and three bus companies opposed the LTNs but councillors voted through the officers’ recommendation after intense debate among both members of the public and councillors, including some who are directly affected.

Green Party city council member for St Mary’s, Cllr Emily Ward, said the air quality was better than pre-pandemic for 90-plus per cent of people in the ward.

She went on: “Cycling is up 20 per cent, car use is down 10 per cent, road collisions have at least halved, children are walking, scooting and cycling to school at unprecedented rates, due to the huge improvements in road safety.

“Congestion on some boundary roads in some directions is better. The numbers show no change in vacancies on Cowley Road as opposed to pre-LTN.

“Other than the early vandalism, the major disadvantage of East Oxford’s LTN appear to be peak time congestion towards The Plain roundabout during periods when all the schools, including private ones, are in.

“This is undoubtedly an issue as we’ve seen from the report. Buses are being hugely delayed at this point. However, the answer is, for example, to fix peak hour, peak day congestion at that one point, not abandon the trial which has seen successes in key policy objectives across Oxfordshire, 24 hours a day, across 365 days a year.”

But Cllr Ian Snowdon, Conservative member for Didcot West, told the meeting: “I had a lot of residents in East Oxford say that they are not going to take time off work to speak (at the meeting) as there’s not a cat in hell’s chance that the cabinet will deviate from its ideology.

“I’ve owned a business in East Oxford for 27 years and I’m lucky that I have a good and established clientele and, although the LTNs have had a huge, negative impact on business, we are still trading with reduced staff. But we are still going, unlike so many wonderful independent owners I’ve known for many years.”

He compared the issue with a major problem the council is having with its special educational need and disabilities (SEND) schools and argued the council is now destroying a community with its ideology.

“It seems when you are right, you are right. And when you are wrong you keep doubling down and hope for the best, rather than admit you were wrong and look at other solutions.”

And he addressed arguments about reduced levels of traffic.

“The reduction in car journeys is easily explained by the fact that you’ve ruined the local economy. Shops and offices have gone, through having less workers, customers and deliveries and so on.

“So yes, destroying the local economy will result in less cars. These LTNs are nothing more than a punishment to Oxford’s less affluent and most diverse area.”

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