A 'FLAGSHIP' scheme to drastically reduce traffic in East Oxford is set to get under way within weeks.

Barriers to stop vehicles passing through parts of Church Cowley, Temple Cowley and Florence Park will be built at strategic points after being fast-tracked due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The city's new Low-Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) is part of wider council plans to encourage walking, cycling and bus use post-lockdown.

And campaigners hope it will 'set a precedent' for similar measures across the city.

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Oxfordshire county councillor for Cowley, John Sanders, said he expected the changes to make a huge difference for residents living near the area’s busiest rat-runs.

He said: “Rymers Lane and Cornwallis Road (in Florence Park) is probably the biggest shortcut in the whole of Oxfordshire.

Oxford Mail:

The junction of Rymers Lane and Cornwallis Road Picture: Google Maps

“It makes the lives of people who live along those roads an absolute nightmare.

“There are several people who are suspicious of this, but I’ve had literally hundreds of emails from people in favour.

“I’ve never seen a response quite this positive.

“People are concerned about how it will affect traffic, but the overwhelming majority say ‘do it’.

“It’s a no-brainer – this is a flagship scheme and will move on to the rest of the city.”

Oxford Mail:

John Sanders Picture: Mark Hemsworth

Motorists will be unable to cut through the Cowley LTN, with the councillor adding it would mean the 'only people who drive there would either live there or be visiting'.

The first phase of changes comprises the physical barriers, also known as ‘modal filters’, which Mr Sanders said would cost £50,000, although the council has not confirmed this figure.

These closures are paid for by the first portion of the Government’s emergency active travel fund, which saw the county council awarded £298,500 last week.

But the cash must be used for 'swift and meaningful plans to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians', which have to be completed by the end of August.

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The quick turnaround means temporary closures will initially be implemented in phase one and will only become permanent once they have been reviewed and accepted by residents after 12 months.

At that point, the council would seek funding to add amenity improvements, for example 'pocket parks' (a type of miniature park in an urban area), 'in co-operation and consultation with local residents'.

LTNs have been championed by Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, which aims to improve neighbourhood design, street and highway layout and transport infrastructure in the county.

The group has raised awareness of the Cowley scheme online and through leafleting houses and director, Danny Yee, hopes it will lead to more change.

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He said: “Nobody’s being stopped from parking or driving and the detours they’ll make will be relatively small.

“The aim is to get people walking and cycling more for local trips.

“We hope it will change the way residents get around.”

Mr Yee, who lives in East Oxford, added: “We’re relieved that it’s the first concrete thing that’s progressed.

“It’s only a small area, but it sets a precedent for the rest of Oxford.”

Cowley is Oxford’s first proposed LTN, with the council saying it is an 'open question' whether funding will be allocated for similar zones elsewhere in the city.

The council only received half of the £600,000 initially allocated for the first phase of Government funding, but says it will cover the £300,000 it lost out on for more highways works.

It has provisionally been allocated £2.38m for the second phase of works, but is 'still deciding' what projects will be included in that bid.

It comes days after the council announced plans for two temporary bus gates in the city centre, which could stop cars using two major routes from as early as next month.

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One is set to be built on either Hythe Bridge Street or Worcester Street, with the other on St Cross Road or South Parks Road.

Speaking about the Cowley Low-Traffic Neighbourhood plans, a county council spokesperson said: “The changes we are putting in place are making a visible difference to residents across Oxfordshire and are encouraging more people to travel by bike and on foot.

“The funding we have been awarded by the Department for Transport is a welcome contribution to this work, and we are currently developing ambitious plans for the second tranche of government funding in order to secure as much additional investment as we can for Oxfordshire residents.

“We are committed to creating a sustainable and resilient future for Oxfordshire as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”