THOUSANDS of drivers are waiting to find out if there will be a public consultation on plans to permanently close one of the busiest roads in Oxford.

A 'pre-consultation' on whether there should be a full consultation on the proposal to close Walton Street forever finished on Friday.

Furious residents and commuters, astonished that the closure has already started on an 18-months trial basis, are now waiting to find out if they can have their say before it becomes permanent.

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Oxfordshire County Council shut the Worcester Street entrance to Walton Street for resurfacing and repairs in July.

Oxford Mail:

It then emerged in September that the temporary closure had done so much to alleviate traffic problems in the city centre, the council had decided to try an experimental 18-month closure.

Many residents were outraged that the authority decided to try even the temporary closure without consultation, let alone consider a permanent one.

David Hearn, who lives in Jericho, told the council: "Walton Street closure and other traffic route closures planned in Oxford (already foisted on us, wholly undemocratically) are opposed by most I know here in Jericho.

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"The pre-consultation has been notified late or not at all for many, or when and where most folk were/ are likeliest to miss it.

"The wider public and majority object vehemently."

Council leaders will now analyse the responses to the pre-consultation before deciding whether to have a full one.

Labour city and county councillor for Jericho and Osney Susanna Pressel said: "I have heard the views of a lot of people on the closure of Walton Street. Some are unhappy about it but the majority are in favour.

"Their main reason is because they want to breathe cleaner air.

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"The more we hear about the effects of traffic fumes on our health, the more worried people get, especially if they have children or if they are elderly.

"Most people in Jericho are also keen to see less traffic in their streets, especially since it makes walking and cycling safer and more pleasant. Parents have told me that they now feel they can allow their children to cycle, whereas previously they couldn’t."

Resident David Shepherd has launched a petition to reopen Walton Street and it now has 48 signatures.

Oxford Mail:

The petition says: "All of the traffic which went up and down Walton Street is being forced to use smaller, residential side roads in order to get in and out of Jericho.

"I am sure the residents of Observatory Street and St Bernard’s Street are not happy with the increased traffic on their streets.

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"You have not made the area quieter, but simply shifted the traffic onto other routes in Jericho."

However Ms Pressel said a couple she knew had knocked on 'every door in the southern section of Walton Street' and got almost 70 signatures in favour, with no-one opposed to the experimental closure.

She added: "Residents are fed up with having long queues of vehicles and rat-running commuters clogging up the street for hours every day.

Oxford Mail:

"It’s interesting that traffic in Beaumont Street seems to be flowing much better then it used to before the closure.

"Some people say that this more or less makes up for the fact that they may have to make a small detour to get to where they want to go, if they are driving."

Ms Pressel said if the cabinet member for environment, Yvonne Constance, decided that a formal, full-scale consultation should go ahead, this would take place in December.

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People could then give their views again.

The county council has not commented but it is understood it received at least 150 responses to the pre-consultation.

Oxford Mail:

Its 'pre-consultation' document for the Walton Street Experimental Low Traffic Neighbourhood Area said if a decision was made to proceed with the trial, the experimental traffic order could come into force on November 1 and be in place for up to 18 months.

The first six months would then form part of a formal consultation period.