UK Property Forums consultant and Oxfordshire resident Hugh Blaza went to the protest against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on Saturday and what he witnessed wasn’t quite what he expected.

I went down to the demonstration

To get my fair share of abuse

Singing, ‘We’re gonna vent our frustration

If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse’

             – The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want

As the photographs below show, there was a heavy police presence at Saturday’s rally in Oxford’s Broad Street and the ensuing march to the scene of the widely disparaged Low Traffic Neighbourhoods along the Cowley Road.

Exotically perfumed clouds of smoke drifted across the Broad as a succession of totally inaudible speakers took to the rostrum to make the case against…well, what, exactly?

Ostensibly, the rally had been convened to demonstrate the strength of feeling against the LTNs and proposed bus gates, the latter of whose purpose is to restrict the number of private vehicles driving into the city centre.

Your correspondent had hopped on a bus from his nearby village (very efficient, quicker than the car and no swingeing parking fee at the other end) and joined the throng. Despite the heavy policing and apart from the single arrest I witnessed, the gathering was well-mannered with no signs of trouble at all.

But unable to hear a word from the speakers (note to organisers: get yourselves a decent PA system next time), I struck up conversations with a number of the protesters. What they had to say was quite a revelation.

We are all aware how local complaints against the traffic proposals centre on the impact they will have on city centre businesses and arts and leisure facilities. We all know that the bollards which have been erected at the ends of a number of residential streets in East Oxford have been vandalised by vehicle users frustrated by not being able to get to where they want to go.

We all know that local traders’ businesses have been affected by the congestion caused by vehicles having to use main arteries to get to their destinations. And now we have heard that a group of local businesses intends to mount a judicial review of the legality of the County Council’s decision-making processes.

But I didn’t hear any of that from the protestors. They’d come from far and wide; I didn’t encounter a single person among the half a dozen or so groups I spoke to who lived in, or even near, Oxford. From Nottingham, London, Essex, Bristol they’d come. And why?

Well, with some passion and in the most articulate terms, they patiently explained to me that we ordinary citizens are guinea pigs in a world-wide experiment hatched by the World Economic Forum to ensure that we are controlled in all we do by the ‘masters of the universe’, led (naturally) by Bill Gates. And that Oxford is the latest petri dish.

How Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have been created not to remove traffic from predominantly residential streets and to improve the well-being of their residents, but to control their movement. Leave your LTN more than 100 times a year in your car and you’ll be fined.

Likewise, 15 minute cities. Stray outside the boundaries of these and facial recognition cameras will snap you and fine you. ‘They’ don’t want large gatherings of people, especially if their purpose is to protest.

And the rationale for LTNs and 15 MCs (that, apart from making people’s lives more convenient and relaxed, they will reduce the carbon emissions from unnecessary journeys) is totally debunked BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CLIMATE CRISIS! Later, in the pub, I chatted to a professor of geography who told me that the world has suffered far worse in the past and that what we are experiencing now is no more than a walk in the park.

In fact, stressed another demonstrator, because we are made of carbon, WE ACTUALLY NEED CARBON EMISSIONS!!!

And the lockdowns during the Covid 19 pandemic were the incontestable proof that this is our destiny! Covid simply provided the excuse, via the vaccination programmes, to inject the majority of the world’s population with chips capable of transmitting details of our activities and whereabouts to the powers that be.

Apologies, if you’re still with me, for going off at such a tangent. But the fact of the matter is that I actually WAS taken off at a tangent myself by everyone I spoke to at the rally. I was expecting to hear arguments for and against LTNs, bus gates and 15 MCs.

How they are impractical and obstructive. How they will improve the air we breathe. How we will live better and longer because of them. How, in time, we’ll get used to them, just like we’ve become used to not being able to drive up and down the High Street.

No such luck. Saturday was fun and intriguing. Although I’m still to be persuaded that I am the victim of a vast global conspiracy. But there is hope!

Anyone wanting to hear what I still believe (I hope not naively..!) to be real world arguments for and against the measures will be able to do so if they attend our OxProp Summit in Worcester College on April 19 as it will be one of our featured debates.

See you there – but perhaps leave the weed at home…

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