Delayed work on improving Woodstock Road, Oxford, will have to be done within less than a quarter of the original budget – and it is still unclear when it will happen.
Oxfordshire County Council announced in October 2021 that it had secured £12.5 million for the Woodstock Road Corridor Improvements project, featuring continuous cycling and pedestrian routes, segregated cycle lanes and wide footpaths between Wolvercote roundabout and Green Templeton College on St Giles.
The original plan had been for construction to take place in winter 2022/23, but that was controversially paused in March 2022.
Councillor John Howson (Lib Dem, St Margaret’s) has been championing the project and raised it at this week’s meeting of the county’s cabinet – the ruling group of Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green politicians – where Councillor Andrew Gant (Lib Dem, Wolvercote & Summertown) said “officers continue to develop a scheme that fits within” a “revised budget” of approximately £3 million.
“The revised scheme will also take into consideration the planned traffic filter trial, which is anticipated to impact traffic levels on the cities radial routes,” he said.
Councillor Howson added: “I am very disappointed that what started off as £12 million is down to £3 million because, as the budget papers show, £700,000 has been spent on the abortive scheme that was discussed in 2021.
“Another £250,000 is apparently being spent this (financial) year, and as a result of that, I find it difficult and wish to ask the cabinet member why, having spent that money this year, we are unable to have a timescale before we can even go out to consultation?
“Is it perhaps because so much money in this area has been spent in the rest of the county, and the rural areas, on 20 miles-per-hour speed projects, that money has been taken out of highways in the city?
Councillor Gant replied: “The answer to your last question is no, the 20 miles-per-hour scheme is a completely different budget. There is no cross-dependency.
“I share your disappointment that the original budget of £12 million got whittled down firstly to £4 million and now to £3 million.
“As you will know, that was because of pressures that emerged on the infrastructure stream of the growth deal from inflation and other factors towards the end.
“That scheme has been subject to letters from the government, as you will know, and the process of finalising how the schemes on the current list will be progressed, and when, is still going on.
“As you will know, that was discussed by the Future Oxfordshire Partnership yesterday (Monday). We hope and expect that it will become clear in the very near future.”
Having thanked Councillor Howson for his “dogged pursuit of much-needed improvements on Woodstock Road”, Councillor Gant added: “They are also required to deliver the benefits of the traffic filters as part of the core schemes, so they will happen. We just don’t know exactly (how) or when, but I hope we will find out soon.”