WORSHIPPERS at East Oxford mosques were not consulted about controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhood plans affecting their communities, a councillor has admitted. 

Oxford city councillor Louise Upton, who is responsible for making decisions about health and transport in Oxford, said “an opportunity was missed” to engage with the Muslim community about the traffic scheme which has seen roads closed to through-traffic in Cowley and East Oxford. 

Speaking at a meeting held by the Coalition for Healthy Streets and Active Travel (COHSAT), the councillor admitted it had failed to involve people at Cowley Road mosques.

East Oxford’s Muslim community have been among the fiercest critics of the East Oxford LTN trial scheme, introduced by Oxfordshire County Council.

Many reported to the Oxford Mail that they felt ignored over the installation of the divisive scheme and that the resulting traffic on main roads, such as Oxford Road and Cowley Road, was causing a nightmare. 

Wednesday’s city centre meeting was an opportunity for the public to ask questions and hear about plans for the future of transport in Oxfordshire from a panel of experts including Ms Upton, county council highways chief Andrew Gant, Oxford Bus Company director Luke Marion and Oxford University professor Tim Schwanen. 

About 100 people showed up to the session at Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, in New Inn Hall Street, at least 90 per cent of them white and middle aged and older.

Ms Upton was asked: “This room does not reflect the marginalised areas of Oxford, how will you ensure the community – particularly those in East Oxford, are listened to?” 

She replied: “Nobody went and talked to the mosques beforehand and they have been presented with problems because people are travelling in different parts of the city.” 

She said the oversight was “something to learn” and claimed the council had since been “pretty good” at speaking to people in the community. 

Faisal Aziz, a trustee of Oxford Mosque: "Our mosque and the other mosques in Oxford have a huge concern about the methodogly that the council used to implment the LTNs.

"They stated that they consulted key stakeholders with any plans that affects the whole of the city, however the mosques were not consulted. 

"We believe we have the largest attendance, apart from Oxford United, they completely bypassed us.

"The environment is very, very important to us and our faith. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) taught us that we should only eat meat twice a week, for example. He taught us to walk to the mosque in one direction and when we walk back to walk back in a different direction. Just these two small examples are way ahead of our time and as Muslims teach us how important it is to reduce our carbon footprint.

"As trustees are unanimouisly afgainst the LTNs the way they are at the moment. We have had votes during Eid prayers which have had 3,000 votes against the LTNs how they currently are. However, what's more concerning for us that it seems to me personally that the Oxfordshire County Council have been ignoring our community and minitorities in Oxfordshire." 

Fazal Hussain, somebody who attends the Oxford Mosque on Manzil Way said: “Councillors are elected to represent us so they should be the ones giving us a way that we can be heard.

“You see the candidates everywhere knocking on doors when it’s election time, but when they’re voted in you never see them again.

“When it comes to the carnival and other good things we’re always told. But when it comes to be consulted on major changes to transport, we’re not consulted because they forget, or they can’t find us. It’s the same with the churches in East Oxford too, not just the mosques.” 

Mr Aziz organised a petition, signed by more than 6,000 people online and in person, to get the voices of people living in East Oxford heard on the subject of LTNs.

He added: “We want to protect the environment too. It’s our duty to leave it for our future generations. But it has got to be done in a fair process and one where we are listened to.”

Sajid Malik, an independent city councillor for Cowley said: “East Oxford is diverse and if you want to hear voices of the community all you have to do is stand on Cowley Road. 

“But it’s not just mosques that they have ignored. There are 25 churches in East Oxford that weren’t listened to – this is a faith community being ignored. The state has a responsibility to consult everyone in Oxford.” 

The Oxford Mail asked the county council whether it would be issuing an apology to mosque leaders and how it was engaging with people from minority groups.

It replied: “As part of the decision to keep the Cowley LTNs in place, the county council is now committed to further monitoring of their impact, continued engagement with communities, and making improvements where necessary.

“We acknowledge that the benefits of the LTNs have not been felt by all communities and we are grateful to the many residents, businesses and other stakeholders who shared their views as part of our cabinet meeting on Tuesday and throughout the various consultations.

“Officers are now working on a programme of engagement, which will include the offer of further meetings with interested parties, including mosque leaders.

“Any changes will be implemented by spring 2023.”

In June of last year, county council public health and equalities chief Damian Haywood resigned his post following a complaint after he shrugged off concerns about LTNs by Catholics and Muslims using a local school and mosque, dismissing them as an “Abrahamic religion”.

He said at the time: “I apologised for any offence it caused and I deleted it 10 minutes after sending it.

“It was coarse and obviously I need to think again about how I use social media.”