THE controversial closure of an Oxford street which sparked months of furious debate is now recommended to be ditched.

Oxfordshire County Council put a barrier in place on the south end of Walton Street at its junction with Beaumont Street last summer to carry out roadworks.

But after works had finished, it kept the barrier in place with an experimental traffic order to prevent drivers from 'rat-running' through residential roads, improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians and improve air quality.

Read also: Majority of Oxford coronavirus spike in one area

The road closure was to last 18 months, but it divided residents and businesses in the area, with some in favour of it, and others against the decision.

Now the council could be about to make a U-turn on its plans as it is looking to reopen the road, with the possibility of developing a future 'low-traffic neighbourhood' for Jericho and Walton Manor instead, which would help to reduce the number of cars in the area overall.

Residents and businesses would have an input in the plan to ensure it meets everyone’s needs and it would be developed to ensure it fits with wider highway initiatives.

Oxford Mail:

Jamie Hartzell, spokesman for Don’t Choke Jericho, a community group that was happy with the Walton Street closure and has attended council meetings, said the council had listened to residents.

He said: "We've been working on developing a low traffic neighbourhood for Jericho and Walton Manor for a while now.

"We’ve had good meetings with the council about it and it seems they have picked that document out and we’re really pleased about that.

"We want to work in partnership with the council, but everyone needs to know where they stand and the council needs to communicate with people who want to have a say. We’ve got residents’ voices behind us and can help the council with their consultation.

"We support traffic reduction and walking and cycling, but we’ve always said road closures don’t work - they just create more problems for other areas. The council has gone about this in a funny way, but we are heading in the right direction."

Low traffic neighbourhoods are groups of residential streets, bordered by main roads where 'through' traffic is discouraged or blocked.

Also read: 'We can't just shunt traffic problems from one street onto another'

The main principle is that every resident can drive onto their street, but it is harder or impossible to drive straight through from one main road to the next.

If county council cabinet member for transport Yvonne Constance does decide to end the Walton Street road closure at a special meeting on Thursday then the road would reopen the week commencing August 17.

But the council is simultaneously proposing to install a temporary bus gate in the Worcester Street/Beaumont Street area, which traders fear will have a bad effect on business.

A spokesman for the Jericho Traders' Association said: “While it’s obviously good news for the 44 shops, cafes and restaurants in Jericho that Walton Street is being reopened, we worry that the council will recreate exactly the same set of problems if it then installs a bus gate in the Beaumont Street/ Worcester Street area.

Oxford Mail:

"Most Jericho businesses are still only partially trading and five have still not yet reopened and are struggling.

"The council says that the gates are to assist economic recovery in Oxford but by shutting us off from both east and west Oxford, they are further reducing the number of customers who can visit our businesses.

Also read: County council leaflet explains Walton Street closure to residents

"We can’t stress enough that many of our businesses are sustained mainly by customers coming from far and wide – with some businesses saying around 80 per cent of their custom is from elsewhere."