Marchers plunged Oxford into gridlock as thousands of people from across the country protested low traffic neighbourhoods and other proposed traffic reduction measures.

And while the East Oxford LTNs were the motivation for many city and Oxfordshire residents to join the march, others were more concerned about a claimed city-wide ‘climate lockdown’ linked to the 15 minute cities town planning concept – which the council has repeatedly lambasted as false and misleading.

Thames Valley Police estimated around 2,000 people were involved in the main protest, which met on Broad Street then marched down Cowley Road to Manzil Way. Much of central Oxford was gridlocked, as police closed major routes into the city.

Despite concerns raised before the protest that ‘neo-Nazi’ group Patriotic Alternative planned to ‘hijack’ the event, it largely passed off peacefully.

There were confrontations between balaclava-clad ‘anti-fascists’, who had joined a counter-protest in Bonn Square, and anti-‘lockdown’ campaigners – including Patriotic Alternative and self-confessed football hooligan Joe Marsh. In all, five people were arrested for public order offences.

Oxford Mail: Man arrested in Turl Street, OxfordMan arrested in Turl Street, Oxford (Image: Oxford Mail)

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, one of those behind anti-traffic filter pressure group Reconnecting Oxford said he had seen a lot of ‘familiar faces’ in the main protest. “It’s heartening to see so many people come from all over the country and speak to them. They’re just opposed to these undemocratic road closures.”

Joining the march down the High Street, Jamila Azad said: “I’ve lived in East Oxford for 55 years and I’ve never seen the community so divided [as] by this. Neighbours don’t talk to each other because they are all divided by these LTNs.”

She was walking with friend Jenny Wells, who runs a mobile hairdresser business with the majority of her customers in East Oxford. “It takes me longer to get to my customers, I have to use more petrol and take massive detours. I hear stories all day long from people who are adversely affected by it.”

The LTNs ‘do not work’, she added. “The traffic is just pushed onto the other roads. When they bring in the bus gates and the traffic filters, you won’t be able to get from one area to another area. You’ll have to go all around the ring road.”

Holding a yellow sign saying ‘ZONING DESTROYS BUSINESSES’, Geoffrey Schofield, 69, said he had travelled up from Bristol, where there are plans for similar traffic reduction measures. Of his concerns, he said: “Whatever happens here is going to come to Bristol unless we can slow it down and get more of a public debate.”

As the crowd marched down the High Street, taxi drivers hooted their support. One cabbie said: “At the moment there’s chaos with traffic.”

Passing Café Coco in Cowley Road, where owner Clinton Pugh says the council warned him last month that he could be fined if he did not to take down a hoarding protesting the LTNs and proposed traffic filter plans, the crowd cheered and stopped to take photographs of the poster.

While LTNs were a motivation for some, others on the march appeared more motivated by conspiracy theories that Oxfordshire County Council wanted a ‘climate lockdown’, preventing people from leaving a ‘zone’ within 15 minutes from their home. Others railed against the World Economic Forum, the Covid-19 vaccines and fears that society would become ‘cashless’.

One woman, who was wearing a black-and-white striped prisoner costume, said: “With these six zones you’ve got in oxford it’s like an open prison.”

Former weatherman turned conspiracy theorist and activist Piers Corbyn – former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s brother - added an additional five minutes to the ’15 minute city’ concept.

“I support the people of Oxford opposing these 20 minute cities [and] smart city plan. We’re also opposing all zoning all over the country. They’re all about controlling you, charging you money and promoting the climate con,” he said.

“There’s no such thing as man-made climate change and that’s been used as an excuse to justify all sorts of tyrannical moves and we oppose them all.”

Oxford Mail: Piers Corbyn in Cowley RoadPiers Corbyn in Cowley Road (Image: Oxford Mail)