Exasperated Cowley Road Traders have produced a 'business impact survey' which they say shows 'the sheer scale of the harm' being inflicted on them by LTNs.

They say eight shops have closed where LTNs are located and loss of parking was a major factor with more 'hanging on'.

Oxfordshire County Council introduced experimental Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in the Divinity Road area, St Clement's area, and St Mary's area in May 2022 to prevent drivers taking shortcuts through a residential area and create quieter and safer streets.

The group said they estimated 153 shops were affected directly or indirectly through loss of customers, loss of parking, logistical problems with deliveries to the businesses and deliveries to customers.

In response, the council has said it is committed to equality with how the LTNs are positioned and is encouraging public feedback on the scheme.

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But some business owners said that turnover had decreased by 50 per cent but more commonly figures of 15-30 per cent were quoted.  

"We've been asking for an independent business impact assessment to be carried out but the council have ignored us, so we had to do our own," said a spokesperson who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of losing more customers. 

The businesses said the removal of free parking from St Clement’s – and 400 parking spaces in the city in total - was a double blow as residents are now parking in the spaces their customers used to use.

When they contact the council, they say, they are ignored or get a generic ‘fill in the consultation’.

"The councillors haven't been to visit any of us and ask us how it's going since the LTNs," said one respondent. 

"Living and working in East Oxford has become a horrible experience due to the unnecessary divisions LTNs have caused," said another.

The traders also said the traffic measures felt 'racist' – 87 per cent of Cowley Road traders are first generation and English is not their first language.

Oxford Mail: Cowley Road Cowley Road (Image: Newsquest)

But the specialist items they sell are only available on the Cowley Road and are not in the main available in local towns, meaning customers come by car.

The survey was conducted during the day on 3, 7, 10 and 11 October by two Cowley Road business owners, a local resident, a representative from the Manzil Way mosque and a representative from the Oxford Business Action Group.

A letting agent said that some tradespeople they use have increased their callout fee from £45 to £60-£65 due to the length of time it takes to get around in a van and the extra wages and fuel.

Most of the 59 hospitality businesses offer a takeaway service and all said the number of customers picking up takeaways by car has reduced dramatically as they can’t ‘stop and pick something up’.

Not being able to deliver hot food in time was heard "time and again" while some had to employ extra delivery drivers as it was taking so long.

Most complained that delivery drivers have nowhere to park to unload or it had to be done in a hurry which led to discrepancies.

What the business owners think

One small restaurant owner, who did not wish to be named, said: "This is a power move by the middle classes – gentrifying and segregating and getting the world they want.

"As long as they’ve got a couple of cafés to cycle to they don’t care."

Another anonymous retailer said: "Businesses here need safeguarding and protecting – there’s nowhere in the world like Cowley Road.

"It’s been naturally evolving here over the years, but this is social engineering and they’re going to force us out of our shops all at once. The size of what’s being done to us is mind-blowing and the council just ignore it."

And a further retailer added: "There’s a cost of living crisis but the council’s plans are making us all go under and they aren’t doing anything about it."

A large hairdresser's worker said customers were angry when they arrive "and we have to calm them down".

A staff member at a specialist supermarket said: "We don’t sell many large bags of rice now because they’re too heavy to take on the bus.

"We used to have customers coming from all the towns like Abingdon and Bicester because they can’t get what they want there. All our stuff is specialist and people travel a long way to get to us."

A spokesperson for the traders said: "There is a big disconnect between the council and the businesses and it is felt that the council has become the enemy to be feared rather than a benevolent organisation to support them.

"The survey has been anonymised as many businesses have been intimidated and lobbied by pro LTN residents and councillors and are afraid to put their heads above the parapet for fear of losing more customers.

"We cannot understand how the council can stand by and ignore what we’re telling them."

They added that Cowley Road's ‘destination status did not happen by chance'.

Oxford Mail: Cowley Road in Oxford Cowley Road in Oxford

"It’s been a painstaking process over many years, a result of the imagination and hard graft of entrepreneurs who, despite the odds, set up viable small businesses that give Cowley Road its unique character.

"Viable, but at this moment only just about so.

"Many of us owe rent from during the lockdowns – we would have survived but the loss of customers from the LTNs is what is going to push us over the edge.

"The sheer scale of the harm that is being done to Cowley Road shops is very concerning."

A spokeswoman for Oxfordshire County Council said it is committed to equality and integrity in all its operations and values the diversity of Oxford.

She said: "Although the online consultation on the east Oxford LTNs has now closed we encourage people to continue sharing their feedback with us by emailing or calling us.

"This feedback will contribute to the reporting that will be presented to cabinet for decision later in 2023, on whether to continue the scheme."


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This story was written by Miranda Norris, she joined the team in 2021 and covers news across Oxfordshire as well as news from Witney.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Miranda.Norris@newsquest.co.uk. Or find her on Twitter: @Mirandajnorris

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