THE future of a pioneering scheme to stop rat running in residential Oxford has been plunged into uncertainty after a funding bid fell through.

Plans for three Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Florence Park, Church Cowley and Temple Cowley were set to be rolled out by the end of August, with a reported cost of £50,000.

They were due to be funded by part of a £298,000 transport grant from the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, aimed at encouraging people to not use cars when they return to the workplace after lockdown.

But now the August 31 deadline to spend the funding has passed without the plans going ahead, leaving Cowley residents and councillors unsure what happens next.

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Labour county councillor for Cowley John Sanders said he was 'deeply disappointed’ by the lack of action, but a council spokesman said the schemes would go ahead before the end of the current financial year.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods use bollards or street furniture to block traffic, stopping drivers using residential streets as rat-runs.

Oxford Mail:

Artist's impressions of another Low Traffic Neighbourhood planned for Jericho.

Residents can still get in and out of their roads.

Because of the tight deadline to spend Government cash, it was intended that the LTNs in Cowley would be rolled out for 12 months without asking for local opinions to see how they worked, after which residents would be asked if they wanted them to remain permanently.

Other areas of the UK where LTNs have been installed have seen vociferous campaigns to have them removed.

In the London Borough of Waltham Forest, an LTN was installed in central Walthamstow in 2015, and there were protests and petitions against it remaining.

But since the initial outcry, enthusiasm for the roadblocks in Walthamstow has grown.

Mr Sanders said as far he knew, ‘nothing’ was happening with the Oxford LTNs.

He said: "Local groups have spent a lot of time and effort, sweat and tears over the past three months, taking part in discussions with the council officers, residents and schools leafleting homes in Cowley and responding to letters and emails from concerned residents. It all seems so far to have been a complete waste of time.”

He said the delay had happened because a county council-employed designer was not available to work on the project ahead of the end of August deadline.

But a spokesman for the council, which is responsible for highways, said it was still committed to the LTNs, and hoped to have them up and running ‘as early as possible within the current financial year’.

Read again about when the Low Traffic Neighbourhood plans were first revealed

The spokesman added: “The low traffic neighbourhoods are currently being designed by council officers. We will be more certain of the delivery date within a few weeks.”

The spokesman also said that the LTNs were no longer bound by the Government’s deadline, but could be started at a later date.

This was because it had contributed its own money towards the project.

Oxford Mail:

Temple Road in Cowley could have been fitted with a 'filter' under the plans. Picture: Google Maps

The council had been on course to receive nearly £600,000 from the Government fund but lost out on half of because much of what it had planned was not in line with the rules of the funding.

While it received £298,000 from Government, the council decided to pay for the rest of its planned schemes out of its own budget.

At time of writing, an Oxfordshire County Council webpage detailing all the works it was carrying out with the funding still had the three Cowley Low Traffic Neighbourhoods listed with an August 2020 date of 'installation'.

News of the delay to Oxford’s first LTN scheme was met with criticism from supporters and objectors alike.

Danny Yee, a director of Oxfordshire Liveable Streets which campaigned for the LTNs, said he thought residents who favoured the plans would be ‘despondent’ to hear they had been delayed.

Mr Yee added: “For years the council has been saying they don’t have the money for this, and now the money turns up and they don’t seem to want to do it.”

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Temple Cowley resident Judith Harley meanwhile, described the LTNs as a ‘sledgehammer’ to crack the nut of rat running.

Ms Harley, a member of the local residents’ association, called for a full consultation on the LTNs now that the council was no longer obliged to meet the Government’s August deadline.

She said: “If they are not using the Government emergency funding and their excuse for no consultation has disappeared they now should consult and listen to the residents and businesses to take on board alternative suggestions.”

Oxfordshire County Council also made a bid for a second, larger pot of emergency travel funding, which could lead to more bus gates being built in Oxford.

It is due to hear back from the Government about whether that bid for £2.4m was successful this month.