Plans to offer residents outside central Oxford 100 day-pass permits to travel through traffic filters have been branded “ludicrous” by a councillor at Oxfordshire County Council.
Six new traffic filters, which close off routes to private cars during operational hours, are proposed for St Cross Road, Thames Street and Hythe Bridge Street in Oxford city centre as well as on St Clements, Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way.
A public consultation on these and other parts of the county’s travel plan led to some changes, including making the filters temporary to see whether they would have the desired effect of reducing car trips, congestion and pollution, promoting active travel and public transport and improving safety.
Another was to offer 100 day passes per year to residents and businesses affected by the changes, enabling them to travel through the filters without penalty, something Councillor Susanna Pressel (Lab, Jericho & Osney) felt would undermine the project’s objectives.
In a question to Councillor Andrew Gant (Lib Dem, Wolvercote & Summertown), the cabinet member for highway management, Councillor Pressel argued it would “encourage people to drive past Seacourt park and ride” and “greatly increase congestion and pollution in Botley Road”, stating that it would be “totally against our policies”.
Councillor Gant said the permits would “help to take pressure off the Botley Road”, with more people from the south and east able to approach from Abingdon Road with those from the north and east able to approach from St Giles.
“We expect this change to the scheme to increase the benefits for Botley Road,” he said.
“The 100 day passes for residents living in Oxford and its immediate surrounds is a change to the proposals that we shared with the public and stakeholders in February this year. It is in response to concerns that were expressed about the impact that the filters would have on people’s day-to-day journeys.
“The boundary of the day pass area was drawn in such a way as to include the people who were considered to be most affected by the traffic filters.”
Councillor Pressel was unmoved and specifically asked Councillor Gant to “exclude Botley, North Hinksey and Cumnor” from the list of eligible areas.
“This question of the extent of the boundary for the passes is not just vitally important for people, in my division, it is also a matter of principle,” she said.
“On no account should we be encouraging people to drive past a park and ride.”
Councillor Gant reiterated that the permit proposals had been drawn up “in response to concerns” and with “the professional judgement of officers”. He said he was unable to take the requested action as the plan is set to be discussed by cabinet, inviting Councillor Pressel to address the matter at that point.
There was also a petition, signed more than 1,800 people, to change the plans amid concerns that traffic heading towards Oxford railway station, Osney Mead, the Oxpens development and the Westgate Shopping Centre will be forced down Botley Road.
Creator Paul Lenz said: “I think it is fair to say residents are supportive of the goals of the scheme. However, they are concerned that making the Botley Road the single entrance to the Westgate Centre would be problematic – particularly at weekends – and detrimental to some of the stated goals, for instance, improving bus times from the west.”
Councillor Gant said the temporary nature of the initial scheme meant it could be changed should those concerns come to fruition.