The cabinet at Oxfordshire County Council has approved controversial plans for six traffic filters to be trialled in Oxford. The decision was made at a meeting on Tuesday, 29 November.
The trial of the six traffic filters – designed to reduce traffic, make bus journeys faster and make walking and cycling safer – will begin after improvement works to Oxford railway station are complete.
The traffic filters will be implemented under an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) for a minimum period of six months.
During the trial, the council will assess the impact of the traffic filters by monitoring traffic levels, bus journey times and air quality. It will also review any impact on individuals and those with protected characteristics.
A second public consultation will run during the first six months of the trial. A long-term decision about the traffic filters will be made towards the end of the trial period based on monitoring data collected and feedback from the consultation.
The decision follows extensive engagement with more than a hundred local businesses, organisations and community groups, including bus companies, hospitals, schools and universities.
The county council also received 5,700 responses to a public consultation that ran from 05 September to 13 October 2022, with another 485 emails from members of the public and organisations.
All the responses were analysed by an independent research company, and changes to the proposals have been made following feedback from the consultation.
The six traffic filters will be located on St Cross Road, Thames Street, St Clements, Hythe Bridge Street, Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way. These traffic filters are expected to:
- Reduce traffic levels by around 20 per cent across the city inside the ring road and around 35 per cent in the city centre.
- Increase bus and park and ride use by up to 10 per cent.
- Enable new and improved bus routes.
- Reduce road accidents by around 34 per year.
- Reduce annual carbon emissions associated with road transport by 6%.
- Increase walking and cycling trips by around 10 per cent.
The trial will be implemented after Botley Road reopens to motorised traffic following major improvements to Oxford railway station. This will enable an effective and representative trial to take place. The road is due to close to through traffic on 09 January 2023 and is expected to reopen after 12 months.
The council’s cabinet also approved the Central Oxfordshire Travel Plan, which outlines 22 actions to help achieve a sustainable and reliable net-zero transport system across Oxford and the surrounding areas of Kidlington, Eynsham, Botley, Cumnor, Kennington and Wheatley by 2050.
Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “Currently, our roads are gridlocked with traffic, and this traffic is damaging our economy and our environment. Oxford needs a more sustainable, reliable and inclusive transport system for everyone. Traffic filters are an important tool to deliver a transport plan that works for all.
“Traffic filters are designed to deliver a safer, cleaner and more prosperous place to live, work and visit. This is not a scheme to stop private vehicles in the city. Exemptions and permits available for residents and businesses will make car journeys faster while also improving alternative transport options such as public transport.
“Feedback received by the thousands of people who responded to our consultation survey, spoke to us during the engagement events, or wrote to us, has been instrumental in making changes to the traffic filters proposals.
“The traffic filters will be introduced as a trial. This will be another opportunity for us to learn from people’s experience of the filters and adapt and make any changes if necessary.”
But not everyone is necessarily happy with the decision by the council cabinet and, indeed, the council’s traffic management plans for the city, which also includes the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods or LTNs.
A group of opponents gathered outside County Hall to protest ahead of the meeting. Sajjad Malik, an independent city councillor who represents Temple Cowley, told the Oxford Mail: “I have launched a petition that has more than 3,100 signatures against the filters – the majority of the people and businesses I have spoken to are against them, and they are going to have a negative impact.”
Oxford businessman, Jeremy Mogford, has publicly raised objections to the new bus gates across the city, which he claims will be like ‘Berlin Walls’. Mr Mogford, who owns Old Bank Hotel in High Street, and the Old Parsonage Hotel and Gees Restaurant on Banbury Road, launched the new Oxford Business Action Group to give traders more of a say in transport planning across the city.
Oxford Business Action Group has started a fundraising drive to cover the cost of a legal bid to overturn the county council’s proposal to introduce the six new traffic filters in Oxford city.
And just a few days ago, Clinton Pugh, who owns Café Coco, Kazbar and Café Tarifa on Cowley Road, unveiled an anti-LTN billboard on the side of Café Coco. The Oxford businessman and father of Hollywood actress Florence Pugh described the move as an “…ill thought out traffic experiment”.
An associated gofundme campaign has raised over £20k towards producing more campaign leaflets and posters and paying for legal and related advice, ahead of mounting a legal challenge against the council’s mass road closure programme.