BUSINESS owners have condemned a decision by Oxfordshire County Council to introduce anti-car traffic filters in the city, with one saying the measures will divide Oxford “like the Berlin Wall”.

The council, the highways authority, voted in favour of the controversial measures during an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

The filters, which will be implemented from January 2024, will block access to St Cross Road, Thames Street, St Clement’s and Hythe Bridge Street seven days a week from 7am to 7pm.

Two more filters will go on Marston FerryRoadandHollowWayandwould operate from Monday to Saturday.

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

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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.

But Fraser Jones, who owns Barefoot, a chain of bakeries with shops in Jericho, Cowley and North Parade, told councillors that the measures will penalise local businesses.

He said: “The proposed bus gates intend to separate the city centre into six segregated areas. Akin to the Berlin Wall, the gates will serve to keep residents in their local community.

“Residents who live in these areas already have access to local amenities and do not choose to travel by car further afield unnecessarily, they will however be given unlimited use through these gates to allow this to happen.

“Users and residents of Oxford that do not live within the city centre will have limited access to the city centre, its businesses and facilities.

“Since the installation of the LTN system, we have already seen a 40 per cent increase in fuel costs due to the additional distance required to travel, have increased our delivery driver costs due to the extended time spent making deliveries.

“The additional time spent in traffic following the installation of the Bus gates will make certain areas of our business untenable.

“What plans do the council have in place to support small businesses like ours that will suffer from the lack of trade if the gates are installed?

“Many of our customers come to collect wedding and celebrations cakes - these are not items that can be transported on a bike or bus.

“Would the council prefer empty shops throughout the city centre rather than find a suitable way to handle to traffic that they require to keep them profitable?”

A total of 52 people addressed councillors during the meeting on Tuesday, including other business owners, residents and representatives from campaign groups Cyclox and Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, as well as climate change denier Piers Corbyn.

Oxford hotelier Jeremy Mogford said: “I want the best for our city and I fully support walking, cycling and public transport – there must be a sensible balance.

“I oppose the traffic filters because, like many other people, I know they are the wrong solution, are unnecessary and will irreparably damage the city centre.”

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Peter West, from community group OneHeadington, told the meeting: "St Clements' businesses and residents will be subject to the horrendous congestion and pollution now occurring for at least another 13 months, following which, the 18-month filter 'experiment' will complete the destruction of the businesses."

Councillor Andrew Gant, the council's cabinet member for highways management, said: “There was quite a lot of argument about the effect of these proposals on businesses – it’s interesting to note that among the many people who spoke against the traffic filters today, not one of them said ‘let’s take out the High Street filter’, which would have been the logical extension of all their apocalyptic predictions.

“This is not some new millennial idea, it is a trialled, tested system and it works.

“Mr Jones, of Barefoot, described the traffic filters as being like the Berlin Wall – that’s in poor taste and also wrong.

“He said that people couldn’t pick up cakes from his business on a bike or by bus but let me just say what I’ve said many times, there is nowhere in Oxford that you can currently get to by car that you will not be able to get to by car under the scheme we are proposing today.

“Describing the system as dividing the city is not correct – what it’s doing is opening the city, it is ensuring freedom of movement by making the streets more accessible and more open and nicer places to be.”  

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.

Before the meeting, a group of opponents gathered in front of County Hall for a short protest.

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.”

Jenny Wells, who owns a mobile hairdresser business, said that she was worried about the impact that the filters would have on her work.

She said: “It would be really difficult for me to get to my clients and I think no one really wants these measures.”

The measures will be implemented starting from January 2024.

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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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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