CONTROVERSIAL plans to introduce six traffic filters in Oxford have been approved by Oxfordshire County Council today.

The highways authority says that the measures are designed to "reduce traffic, make bus journeys faster and make walking and cycling safer."

The barriers equipped with surveillance cameras, will prevent private cars travelling through much of the centre of the city without a permit. Other vehicles, including buses, coaches, taxis, vans, mopeds and HGVs, will continue to have access at all times.

Members of the council's cabinet approved the plans at an extraordinary cabinet meeting this morning.

A group of opponents gathered at County Hall to protest ahead of the meeting. Sajjad Malik, an independent city councillor who represents Temple Cowley, told the Oxford Mail: “I have launched a petition that has more than 3,100 signatures against the filters – the majority of the people and businesses I have spoken to are against them and they are going to have a negative impact.”

READ MORE: Decision expected on Oxford traffic filters

A total of 52 people addressed councillors during the meeting, including residents, business owners and representatives from campaign groups Cyclox and Oxfordshire Liveable Streets.

About 40 people also attended the meeting from the public gallery and two people had to be escorted out of the chamber by security due to outbursts. 

Climate change denier Piers Corbyn also requested to address the meeting and was allowed to speak for two minutes. 

The filters will be installed under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order, as the authority said it would be difficult to assess the impact of the scheme beforehand.

The order allows councils to assess and test a scheme over time before making a long term decision about whether to stop or extend the experimental measures or make them permanent.

A total of 5,700 people completed a survey as part of a public consultation on the plans.

The filters would be located on St Cross Road, Thames Street, St Clements and Hythe Bridge Street and would operate seven days a week from 7am to 7pm.

Two more filters would also be located on Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way and would operate from Monday to Saturday. 

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The scheme would be enforced using automatic number plate recognition cameras and any driver of a vehicle that goes through the traffic filter and is not exempt or using a permit, would be charged a penalty of £70, reducing to £35 for prompt payment.

Councillor Andrew Gant, the council's cabinet member for highways management, said: “Currently, our roads are gridlocked with traffic, and this traffic is damaging our economy and our environment. Oxford needs a more sustainable, reliable and inclusive transport system for everyone. Traffic filters are an important tool to deliver a transport plan that works for all.

“Traffic filters are designed to deliver a safer, cleaner and more prosperous place to live, work and visit. This is not a scheme to stop private vehicles in the city. Exemptions and permits available for residents and businesses will make car journeys faster while also improving alternative transport options such as public transport.

“Feedback received by the thousands of people who responded to our consultation survey, spoke to us during the engagement events or wrote to us has been instrumental in making changes to the traffic filters proposals.

“The traffic filters will be introduced as a trial. This will be another opportunity for us to learn from people’s experience of the filters and adapt and make any changes if necessary.”

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers. 

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