COUNTY council leaders have been accused of shutting down a busy Oxford street before fully consulting residents.

Walton Street was initially shut so that resurfacing repairs could be carried out and sinkholes needed to be fixed.

But the work, which began in July, has now been completed and the council has not yet reopened the route, which links Worcester Street with Jericho.

Barriers have been placed at the Walton Street junction with Worcester Street and Beaumont Street and the traffic lights have been switched off.

Council leaders say this has improved traffic flow to such an extent they are consulting residents on keeping the street closed for up to 18 months, before it could be closed to traffic on a permanent basis.

Resident Dave Shepherd accused the council of being 'anti-democratic'.

READ AGAIN: Walton Street closed due to sinkholes

He said: "There has not been any consultation with residents and some residents who will be affected have not even received letters in the mail.

Oxford Mail:

"With the increased traffic on Beaumont Street it is making it even more difficult to cross that road, due to more cars and no traffic signals to stop traffic.

"It will also increase commute times for people who live in Jericho but work outside the city.

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"Congestion in Oxford is already a major issue and closing a major through road in Oxford will not help to alleviate those issues.

Oxford Mail:

"Also it seems very anti-democratic that a councillor, based on a few conversations, has made the decision to close a road in Oxford without speaking to people first.

"The road should be open during this consultation process and all residents, business and visitors to Jericho should have the opportunity to provide an opinion."

The news came days after it emerged that five new bus only zones - bus gates - are being considered for the city centre.

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A county council spokesman said in a letter to residents on Friday: "Maintenance works have now been completed.

"However, we have kept the road closure in place while we undertake an assessment for the potential to make the closure at Walton Street/Worcester Street permanent.

Oxford Mail:

"We feel that this will have a significant benefit on the area by reducing rat running, improving air quality and helping to provide a space for more sustainable forms of transport (such as walking and cycling)."

Labour city and county councillor Susanna Pressel said: "Many people will be wondering why Walton Street has still not been re-opened to through traffic.

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"The answer is that many Jericho residents have been delighted at how quiet and safe their streets have been since the road was closed for resurfacing. Many motorists have also been delighted at how well the traffic is flowing, with the traffic lights switched off outside Worcester College at the bottom of Beaumont Street. When these lights were operating, people who live in Walton Street got very fed up with the long lines of cars waiting at the lights, with their choking fumes."

Oxford Mail:

County council spokesman Paul Smith said: "Initial consultation commenced last week and it is proposed to seek the residents’ views later this week in order to gauge initial views on making the closure more permanent.

"Subject to the outcome of this preliminary consultation, the trial could be introduced later in the autumn.

"At the start of the trial, the formal consultation on the proposal commences for six months, during which objections and other representations will be invited from any parties, including members of the public, with an interest.

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"The decision on whether to make the changes permanent would be considered by the cabinet member for environment Yvonne Constance at a decisions meeting, open within 18 months of the trial starting (the maximum time an experimental order can operate for).

Oxford Mail:

"While the trial is operational, changes can be made to address concerns raised, or abandoned altogether."

Mr Smith added that the council will be reinstating the pedestrian crossing on Worcester Street as it has received feedback from pedestrians that they have not felt safe while it was turned off during the recent works.

He said: "A final decision has not been taken and a democratic process to take the views of the community is being undertaken to ensure their views are considered before the final introduction of any permanent measure along Walton Street."