THE city council’s chief executive has suggested plans for new bus gates in Oxford will go ahead, despite concerns from business leaders that it will damage trade.

The public are now being asked for their views on plans to introduce two new bus-only lanes in the city centre at the end of September.

The proposals have attracted criticism from the Oxford High Street Association and ROX (Backing Oxford Business) who say they would damage trade.

But city council chief executive Gordon Mitchell is pushing plans to ban private cars from more of the city centre.

Oxford Mail:

The High Street bus gate

After closing part of St Michael’s Street to create an al fresco dining space for cafes Mr Mitchell said a similar initiative could be introduced in part of George Street.

Oxford Mail:

St Michael's Street

READ AGAIN: Public asked about controversial bus gates

Suggesting additional bus gates would provide ‘the possibility of even greater, and more formalised cycle segregation and an improved pedestrian environment across the city centre’, he said in an email to hotelier Jeremy Mogford: “There is no space to create imaginative solutions, to realise an Oxford outdoor café culture, without significant changes to the road and bus network in the city centre.

"And there’s no way to achieve that without the reduced congestion and improved bus services that will flow from the bus gates. As such, and excusing the metaphor, the bus gates represent another stage in a journey, rather than the final destination.

“The detailed arrangements will, of course enable local residents within the central area of the city some level of off-peak access through their local bus gates; as will black cabs, private hire taxis and Blue Badge holders. Moreover, I would underline that the bus gates will be temporary and if they deemed not to be working can be adapted, or indeed, removed.”

Oxford Mail:

The first of the two ‘temporary’ new ‘bus gates’ is planned for either Hythe Bridge Street or Worcester Street, between Frideswide Square and Beaumont Street.

The second is proposed on St Cross Road or South Parks Road, between Parks Road and Manor Road.

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Mr Mitchell added: “The bus gates are a really important part of an overall plan to bring people back into the centre, but there are many more elements to that plan.”

Mr Mitchell has set out the councils’ approach in an email response to Mr Mogford’s complaint that businesses would be harmed by the new camera-enforced restrictions, which bans ordinary traffic from using the routes at certain times in the day.

Oxford Mail:

Hotelier Jeremy Mogford

But Mr Mogford said he was disappointed by Mr Mitchell’s response and responded: “This city council’s ‘local’ bus gate strategy is tantamount to imposing another form of lockdown on business just as we are attempting to reopen and recover our businesses.

READ MORE: Street closed to traffic for al fresco dining

“Smaller individual measures like closing parts of George Street or St Michael’s Street for al fresco dining is not the same thing as severing the remaining, essential ‘veins’ that allow deliveries and essential customer movement from one part of the city to another. Sending people out onto the ring road with those extra lengthy and unnecessary journeys is the opposite of green.”

The councils’ bus gate plans are part of post-lockdown changes to encourage people to take up walking, cycling or riding the bus instead of driving.

County council cabinet member for environment Yvonne Constance said earlier the move would help the recovery of the transport network.

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The councils have launched an online public survey to help inform the proposals.

The survey will inform decisions about the scheme including the location of the bus gates, timings, and how road space can best be reallocated ahead of the proposed installation at the end of September.

A spokesman for the county council said: “The new temporary bus gates would be implemented using experimental traffic regulation orders following guidance recently issued to local authorities by the Department for Transport to assist in the delivery of emergency active travel measures and other pandemic recovery schemes.”