A PROTEST against the divisive closure of residential streets highlighted the strength of feeling among voters to changes being enforced upon them by councils.

The heated issue of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) will be among those set to influence the vote at tomorrow’s local government elections.

Up to 200 people turned out to voice their opinions on the East Oxford LTN trial, where the installation of planters and bollards will take place over the next three weeks.

A decision on the future of the scheme is then expected in February next year.

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As the local highway authority, LTNs are an Oxfordshire County Council policy, whereas it is elections for the city council which will be taking place tomorrow.

Nonetheless, outside the Everest Nepalese restaurant on the corner of Howard Street and Silver Road, anti-LTN protestors and independent political candidates blasted LTNs.

Oxford Mail: Protestors against the East Oxford LTN trial. Picture: Peter McIntyreProtestors against the East Oxford LTN trial. Picture: Peter McIntyre

The event was organised by Linda Elms, who runs Hot Diggity Dawg Daycare, a pet sitting and dog walking service.

She said: “It goes to show that even on a bank holiday, to get 200 people here speaks volumes and that people feel so strongly.

“Businesses have suffered with Covid and everyone wants to get back on their feet.”

The majority of the independent candidates in the city council elections spoke at the protest, while all are united against the LTNs.

David Henwood said the election is ‘becoming a referendum on LTNs’.

“We all know democracy wasn’t upheld and that it was undemocratic to push through LTNs, mainly in Covid,” added Michael Evans.

“LTNs divide communities, there’s no ifs or buts about it – and that’s my fundamental issue.”

Judith Harley said: “The LTNs are very divisive in our communities, and there’s a lot of hostility on both sides. Independents are consistently opposed to LTNs.”

Peter West added: “I’ve heard people saying they’re going to move, people are so cheesed off by things.”

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In among the independents was Mark Bhagwandin, chairman of East Oxford Conservatives.

He said: “LTNs don’t solve any problems, it creates them. A lot of people care about the environment, but LTNs and traffic filters are not helping, but harming the environment.

“They are shifting traffic onto other roads, and increasing pollution dramatically.”

Oxfordshire Conservatives added in a statement: “The ZEZ [Zero Emission Zone] and LTNs would exacerbate the areas of worst pollution in our city.

“Oxford would benefit from a fresh injection of pro-resident, pro-business leadership.”

Oxford Mail: Protestors against the East Oxford LTN trial. Picture: Peter McIntyreProtestors against the East Oxford LTN trial. Picture: Peter McIntyre

Labour currently runs the city council, and in a party statement, Oxford Labour said: “While the LTNs are a county council project, Labour councillors on Oxford City Council have asked the county to improve the way that they consult with local residents and to delay the introduction of any more LTNs unless they can be considered as part of a wide-ranging and connected set of transport policies for the city.

“We need much better alternatives when we are asking people to use their cars less, including more frequent and cheaper bus services.”

The county council’s Fair Deal Alliance is made up of Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green councillors, and is headed by the Lib Dems.

Oxford City Liberal Democrats said in a statement: “Liberal Democrats believe in a sustainable approach to transport planning that works for all.

“The Lib Dem-led county is consulting on its transformational strategy, an exercise in listening to you.

“The principle of making residential areas safer, cleaner and more pleasant has a key part to play in our overall approach, along with making more space for cycling and walking; faster, cheaper and more frequent buses; and a better, greener city.”

Oxford Mail: Protestors against the East Oxford LTN trial. Picture: Peter McIntyreProtestors against the East Oxford LTN trial. Picture: Peter McIntyre

The Oxfordshire Green Party said in a statement: “The Greens have taken a leading role in holding the city council to account on many issues of local concern: affordable housing, the cost of living crisis, overdevelopment, health inequalities, the management of green spaces, cycle safety, climate change and more.

“The issue of low traffic neighbourhoods is also generating a lot of heat although this is a matter for the county council – not a city responsibility.

“Nonetheless, elected Greens have committed to engaging with local residents in the areas they represent and to working with the county council during the East Oxford LTN trials.”

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A county council spokesperson said: “The East Oxford LTNs are being implemented under an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) for a minimum period of six months and up to a maximum of 18 months.

“They are not permanent yet and during the ETRO process, people will be able to continue to provide feedback on the proposed scheme.

“The council engaged with over 300 partners including residents, businesses, schools, emergency services and waste collection services during an eight-month period last year. 

“The analysis of the engagement and ETRO consultation will be submitted for cabinet member decision at the end of the ETRO trial and the demographic of responses and the reasons given for supporting or objecting the LTNs will be considered.

“The decision on whether to extend the trial, make the LTNs permanent or remove them, will be made following the ETRO trial period, and based on feedback received during this period, along with data collected on traffic patterns and air quality, legal advice, and equality and climate impact assessments.”

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