Councillors at the helm of Oxfordshire County Council unanimously voted to keep low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Cowley, Oxford, with one acknowledging: “We will be judged by the end result.”
The controversial measures, which enable the use of giant plant pots and bollards to close off side roads to through traffic, were experimental, but these LTNs have been made permanent by Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green councillors in charge of the county.
The decision, which relates to LTNs in Church Cowley, Florence Park and Temple Cowley, came with a promise to “undertake further community and stakeholder engagement in order to further refine and improve the scheme” by spring 2023.
Potential amendments include replacing some hard closures with automatic number plate recognition cameras, reviewing the exact locations of some restrictions and replacing some with “elements such as parklets in order to deliver public realm improvements”.
It came after almost an hour of addresses from members of the public, Oxford City Council and county council members. The debate was very polarised between a balanced number of supporters and objectors.
Councillor Andrew Gant (Lib Dem, Wolvercote & Summertown), the county’s cabinet member for highway management, said: “There is a problem in the modern city of too many cars damaging amenity in residential streets.
“This scheme has delivered significant benefits in addressing that problem, and it is not the recommended policy of this council to abandon those benefits and allow that level of traffic to return and to continue to grow unchecked.
“However, it is also clear that there have been adverse effects. It is the intention of the process of mitigation and change to address that by looking carefully at individual locations fully, honestly and openly to identify whether the kind of interventions identified can mitigate those effects while maintaining the benefits of the underlying principles.
“That process begins immediately and we will set out our approach shortly.”
Councillor Gant also announced that proposed LTNs in Headington will not move forward “at the very least in the immediate future” and “until the core schemes have been progressed and analysed”.
He also said that the council would “look carefully and closely” at allowing on-duty funeral vehicles to pass through the High Street bus gate to alleviate issues relating to funerals in Botley that need to take place before sundown, adding: “It is the intention of this council to deliver that.”
Councillor Dr Pete Sudbury (Green, Wallingford), the cabinet member for climate change delivery & environment, said: “I believe we should accept the officers’ advice and study with local people the modifications needed to make things work as well as they can.
“I recognise some people will think that is just us imposing our own views and be very sceptical about that. To them I say the opera is not over until the fat lady sings, that we will be judged by the end result and we accept responsibility for that.”
Councillor Duncan Enright (Lab, Witney North & East), the cabinet member for travel and development strategy, highlighted the need for the county to have “a listening council”.
“It is about listening to people’s individual stories from the areas of the city they live in that will help us to design the best and most appropriate measures. We must continue to do that,” he said.