COUNCILLORS are seeking to heal divisions in the community by getting people on both sides of the low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) argument sat round a table.

Both city councillors for the Cowley ward – Amar Latif and Paula Dunne – plus Charlie Hicks, the county councillor for the Cowley division, are looking to bring people together through a variety of workshops.

It comes as Tim Bearder was replaced as the councillor overseeing highways at Oxfordshire County Council earlier this week.

READ AGAIN: Andrew Gant replaces Tim Bearder as highways councillor

In February, a decision to defer making LTNs in Cowley permanent was made by Mr Bearder following ‘the sheer number of emails and anger’ he received.

A consultation on the LTNs in Church Cowley, Florence Park and Temple Cowley showed that 63 per cent of respondents objected to the measures, with 26 per cent in support.

The remaining 11 per cent ‘expressed concerns’.

A decision on the LTNs needs to be made before July, as that is when an 18-month Experimental Traffic Regulation Order expires.

READ AGAIN: Councillors welcome decision to defer making Cowley LTNs permanent

Oxford Mail: Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Cowley started operating in March 2021. Picture: Ed NixLow Traffic Neighbourhoods in Cowley started operating in March 2021. Picture: Ed Nix

With that in mind, the trio of Cowley councillors are hoping to cool tensions in the community, focusing on the Church Cowley and Florence Park LTNs primarily.

Dr Latif said: “We know people have been very emotional about the LTNs, and in some ways, the community has been divided. We want to bring the whole community together.

“What works well and what doesn’t work well, what changes can be made, and respond to what the community is saying, is absolutely key.

“I spoke to 1,500 people in the Cowley ward prior to the elections, and there’s a lot of people who are in the middle, but there’s a frustration at the lack of consultation and that’s continued to cause upset among residents.

“One of the overwhelming feelings is that the consultation process was poor and engagement was non-existent, so it’s about filling that gap so the community feels involved in making the decision.

“We want to put together a consensus of opinion to the county council, it won’t be easy though I’m sure.

“We’re hoping to have a mixture of workshops, both in person and online, to discuss what works well and what doesn’t work well.”

Oxford Mail: Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Cowley started operating in March 2021. Picture: Ed NixLow Traffic Neighbourhoods in Cowley started operating in March 2021. Picture: Ed Nix

Saj Malik, an Independent city councillor for the Temple Cowley ward, said the success of the initiative relies on both pro and anti-LTN views being listened to.

He said: “I tried to engage from the start, but you hit the brick wall.

“Once elected, you have to put your political differences aside and serve the people – that’s how my politics works.

“I’m willing to work with everyone, there’s no point approaching things in black and white.

“You have to listen to your constituents – if not, then what’s the point in being here?

Oxford Mail: Saj Malik, pictured in June 2014. Picture: Jon LewisSaj Malik, pictured in June 2014. Picture: Jon Lewis

“On paper, the LTNS are a great idea, but you’re asking the public to make a fundamental lifestyle change.

“We have to work with the academics, and the schools in the area.

“In Temple Cowley, it’s one road in and one road out – each LTN has to have two entry and exit points for the emergency services at least.

“If people are willing to sit round a table with open minds, then I’m for that.”

With Mr Bearder now set take on the adult social care portfolio at the county council, Andrew Gant is to become cabinet member for highway management.

Mr Gant, a councillor for the Wolvercote and Summertown division, outlined the importance of cooling the division currently in communities impacted by the LTN scheme.

Oxford Mail: Andrew Gant has become cabinet member for highway management. Picture: Ed NixAndrew Gant has become cabinet member for highway management. Picture: Ed Nix

“It’s crucial to bring people together, of course it is,” he said.

“We want to deliver a strategy that works for everybody, and I’m absolutely determined to do that.

“At the same time, politics is about choice and the Fair Deal Alliance has been clear about what its priorities are.

“It will involve changes to behaviour, we’re asking people to do things in a different way and that includes all of us – we’re all residents, we all live in the city.

“Car use in our city has grown by something like 30 per cent in 20 years, is that a sustainable model for a medieval city with large amounts of floodplain? No, it isn’t.”

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This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Liam.rice@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailLiamRice