A new forum is to be proposed to try to win public support for the radical transport measures coming to Oxford.

Around 160 delegates at OxProp Summit on March 23 heard of six new ‘bus gates’ for the city centre, a bid for 159 new zero emission buses, plans for a workplace parking levy and the zero emission zone, which combined, are intended to help meet the city’s ambitious zero emission targets.

And, in a bid to convince the public of the measures, Ian Green, chair of Oxford Civic Society, told the meeting, held at the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre at Worcester College, his group intends to present a plan for the new transport forum to both city and county councils.

Transport was the focus of a session called Connecting Oxford. Oxford City Council’s executive director for development Tom Bridgman told the meeting: “Buses are the lifeblood of the city and we need them operating at the speed limit, not at walking pace. We also need enhanced rail passenger capacity.

“The city and the county councils are currently pushing forward with plans – and will consult this Summer for delivery at the start of next Summer – effectively based around three core schemes that provide a platform for this change.”

The schemes are:

  • Six bus gates around the city centre which allow only certain vehicles through at certain times.
  • A workplace parking levy within the ring road where employers with 11 or more parking spaces will be taxed.
  • The zero emission zone, currently operating on a small city centre footprint, to be expanded to encourage electric vehicle use.

Phil Southall, managing director of the Oxford Bus Company, told the meeting the company is bidding for £32 million from Government as part of an £82m plan to deliver 159 new zero emission buses.

He added: “It’s a condition of the bid that we do speed the buses up because if we don’t the business case for it falls away and the zero emission ambition we have got for the city and the county falls away. If we can’t do it in Oxford city, we’re not going to be able to do it in Oxfordshire county.”

,Chris Nash, senior project sponsor with Network Rail, told the meeting of rail improvements including plans to reopen the Cowley branch line and improvements to Oxford Station.

But Mr Green suggested a key task is to gain public acceptance of proposed changes and noted that a number of attempts to engage the public in previous transport schemes had failed.

He acknowledged the work of the Oxfordshire Strategic Transport Forum and the launch of a strengthened business action group, due to take place the following day (March 24), but said the civic society will be suggesting a new body.

He said: “We will be putting forward proposals to the city and county for another kind of transport forum, a transport forum that will, in some ways, resemble the successful climate change forum, the Climate Change Assembly.

“This will engage representatives of principal business groups, people like yourselves, members of the community and various interest groups.

“The big advantage of the forum is that by getting people with different views on the development of these core schemes, we can begin to understand other viewpoints and, if we begin to understand other viewpoints, we lay the groundwork for compromises and we might be able to make some progress in that way.

“So we will be recommending that, in the process of the consultation on these core schemes, maybe a transport forum of that kind can be introduced. It may be helpful  because, from our perspective, it’s not the technical innovation (that attracts opposition).

“That makes sense, it’s done elsewhere. There’s nothing fancy, there’s nothing particularly exciting about the innovation, it’s just that we can’t get people to accept them and that’s what we have to do.”

Earlier, the summit heard from Caroline Green, chief executive of Oxford City Council on the positives of the city along with its challenges which include high levels of inequality and deprivation. A quarter of children live in poverty in the city.

She went on: “Apart from the fact that, as humans, we all want to want to improve the health, particularly of the most disadvantaged, these are issues that are also a real threat to our ability to create and maintain the conditions for future success.

“They also lead to increasing opposition to development and growth as people perceive that all these shiny new developments, drawing in more people to take the good jobs and make housing more unaffordable, are making their problems worse.”

She said the issues will become challenges that politicians increasingly need to respond to.

Further sessions focussed on the development pipeline, housing and planning and the city’s net zero agenda.

Sponsors for the event included Bidwells, DevComms, Mace Interiors, Milton Park, Oxford North and Savills.

If you missed Oxprop Summit, you can still get involved. We are holding a further major event in the county –  OxPropFest – on September 14.

Visit: https://ukpropertyforums.com/oxpropfest/

Image (top, l-r): Tom Bridgman, Ian Green, Sarah Haywood (managing director of Advanced Oxford and session chair), Phil Southall and Chris Nash.

See also gallery below.

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