THE work to revamp Oxford’s notorious Frideswide Square bottleneck will start in the Autumn.
Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, revealed he had set a start date for later this year on the scheme, which should take about 12 months to complete.
The square at the top of the Botley Road and entrance to the station is currently controlled by several sets of traffic lights but will be redesigned with roundabouts at either end under the £5.5m plan.
Mr Hudspeth said: “I think it’s fair to say that some disruption will be unavoidable but it’s a case of no pain, no gain. It will be worth it.”
The boulevard-style design will involve creating a large roundabout at the entrance of the station and two mini-roundabouts at the other end of the square in front of the Royal Oxford Hotel.
A series of public open spaces will be created at three sides of the square, which is named after Oxford’s patron saint.
A cause for complaint from drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike because of the difficulty of negotiating its forest of traffic lights, the square was snarled up with traffic earlier this month when Park End Street had to be closed to repair a collapsed sewer.
The revamp, first put forward in 2011, originally involved a more expensive scheme.
But the plans had to be scaled down – using cheaper materials – after a bid for a £5m Government grant was thrown out by Whitehall.
Mr Hudspeth said: “The work will take about a year to complete but we want to complete it before work for the Westgate (redevelopment) gets under way. The plan is to start the enabling works in the autumn, including opening up the Worcester Street junction and making Becket Street two-way.
“There will then be a break for Christmas before coming back in the New Year, to complete the main square works by the winter of 2015.
“The work will cost £5.5m.”
Spokesman for traders’ group Rox, Graham Jones, has urged the county council to ensure that major development schemes did not clash.
He said: “There is work coming up at Frideswide Square, the Westgate Centre is being developed, and the area around the railway station is going to be refurbished.
“Then there is the masterplan for Oxpens which is supposed to be happening by 2020.
“That’s the centre of Oxford and on the outskirts we have new homes being built at Barton Park and the Northern Gateway development.
“We will be seeking reassurance from the county council that these major schemes are going to be planned and phased, otherwise if there is too much congestion the economy could take a hit.”
But Mr Hudspeth said major schemes would be staggered wherever possible.
He added: “Frideswide Square should be completed by the winter (of 2015), with the new Westgate shopping centre opening in August 2017 and the station works starting no earlier than May 2017.
“Unfortunately there are times that works overlap but, when possible, we try to avoid it.”
Last year it was thought that the work at Frideswide Square would not go ahead before work at the station finished, but that decision has now been reversed.
Simon Hunt, chairman of Oxford cycling group Cyclox, said: “We would have liked to have seen traffic incoming from Botley Road diverted away from the square, along Becket Street to Oxpens Road, and also traffic taken out of Hythe Bridge Street. But getting away from the forest of traffic lights has to be the thing to aim for.”