POLICE advice to remove a well-used Cowley footpath and cycle route as part of plans for 38 ‘car-free’ flats and houses has been called ‘perverse’ and ‘irresponsible’.

The former Murco garage site is set to be developed by owners Oxford City Council after plans were submitted in December.

As part of this Thames Valley Police carried out a crime prevention assessment and suggested blocking a pathway on the plot linking St Omer Road to Between Towns Road was the best way to avoid a risk of anti-social behaviour.

See full details of the development and residents concerns it will lead to a 'flood of vehicles'

But city councillor David Henwood said the path was ‘a vital link’ for many local residents to the Cowley centre and removing the path would make no sense given the scheme did not have parking spaces for residents.

He said: “Journey times would increase, and therefore increasing the number of car journeys taken to the centre. Barring bike access in a cycling city, is simply ludicrous and irresponsible”.

Oxford Mail:

In an online comment on the city authority’s planning portal, Ian Carmichael, crime prevention design advisor for Thames Valley Police, had argued while the force did not object to the project several features could prove ‘problematic’ for crime prevention, including keeping the path from Between Towns Road to St Omer Road.

He added: “I am of the opinion that any route in this location may generate crime and/or anti-social behaviour.”

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There has been support for the route, however, with Lawrence Road resident Hilary Grime, in an online objection to development, writing: “It is most certainly a key link for a huge number of local residents and users of small businesses on the Oxford Road, as well as users of the Social Services and Health buildings on Between Towns Road. Given the City Council encouragement of walking and cycling, to close it would seem perverse.”

Oxford Mail:

Cycling group Cyclox head Dr Alison Hill, meanwhile, has said removing the route would be ‘a real loss’.

Mr Henwood said: “We have a real fight on our hands to retain this critical footpath and cycle route.

“I’m really disappointed by the statement made by Thames Valley Police, what they failed to offer was a design solution that would mitigate anti-social behaviour.

“By merely making the space more open plan and accessible would help serve as a deterrent.”

A decision on the full application is expected by March 15.