The roads minister has criticised the county council for not “listening enough” to businesses affected by the low traffic neighbourhoods and for sitting in their “ivory towers”.

The MP Richard Holden, roads and local transport minister, was invited to Oxford last Thursday by the Oxford Conservative Association to speak to business owners who remained concerned about the negative impact of low traffic neighbourhoods.

The invite was extended to Mr Holden by the chairman of Oxford East Conservatives, Mark Bhagwandin, and after the meeting the minister took the time to walk down Cowley Road to hear from the owners about their experiences of trading in East Oxford.

Oxford Mail: Richard Holden walking in East OxfordRichard Holden walking in East Oxford (Image: Contributed)

READ MORE: Warning over little-known rule at Tesco petrol station

Mr Holden suggested the council was not celebrating Cowley Road’s business enterprise, as he argued that “any council worth its salt would want to celebrate and promote these fantastic local businesses embedded in the local community”.

Oxfordshire County Councillor and cabinet member for highway management Andrew Gant said it was "ironic that, on a visit to promote safer roads, the minister has chosen to criticise policies to make our roads safer, cleaner and greener".

Oxford Mail: Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here (Image: Newsquest)

Low traffic neighbourhood bollards were installed in May 2022 and the initiative was made permanent in Cowley in July 2022.

The LTNs aim to reduce through traffic and make neighbourhoods quieter.

Oxford Mail: Richard Holden speaking to the owner of Honest StationeryRichard Holden speaking to the owner of Honest Stationery (Image: Contributed)

During his walk down Cowley Road, Mr Holden spoke to Ahmad Mohammed, the owner of Za’ atar Bake, and he complained to the roads minister that the LTN bollards were harming his day-to-day trade.

The owner of Honest Stationery on Cowley Road, Nay Aung, also informed Mr Holden his business had experienced a drop in the number of customers visiting since the LTNs were installed.

Oxford Mail: Richard Holden speaking to the owner of Cowley Road's Eastern & Continental StoreRichard Holden speaking to the owner of Cowley Road's Eastern & Continental Store (Image: Contributed)

When Mr Holden walked into Cowley Road’s Eastern Continental, the business owner Mohammed Mehrbun told the minister his business was on the brink of closing, despite having run the shop for over four decades.

After meeting a number of traders, Mr Holden said he had “major concerns” about the “way the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green coalition at the county council is pursuing their policies without listening enough to local residents and local businesses.”

He added: “It’s high time council leaders get out of their ivory towers and speak to the people who elect them and who they’re supposed to be working for on Cowley Road before it’s too late for local businesses and the local communities those small independent businesses serve”.

Mr Gant said the Conservatives were "backing away from hard choices and offering no alternatives to tackle climate change and congestion".

He added: "If the minister had spoken to me, I could have shared with him some of the many messages of support for the transformational effect of our policies on active travel and healthy lifestyles in East Oxford."

Mr Gant also blamed the Tories for the "huge pothole crisis" and said this was the result of "woeful under-funding from the Tory government".

Mr Holden also spoke to the father of Florence Pugh, Clinton Pugh, who has been extremely critical of Oxfordshire County Council.

Oxford Mail: Clinton Pugh with Richard HoldenClinton Pugh with Richard Holden (Image: Contributed)

Mr Pugh, the owner of Café Coco and the restaurants Kazbar and Café Tarifa, recently accused the councillor and cabinet member for highway management Andrew Gant of “hiding behind his political privilege”, after the councillor failed to apologise for accusing him of lying.

A complaint was made to the county council’s monitoring officer Anita Bradley, but they found Mr Gant’s comments were acceptable as he accused Mr Pugh of lying as part of a “response to the public” and “as part of political debate which benefits from enhanced protection afforded to political debate”.

The meeting, organised by the Oxford Conservative Association, was also attended by the Oxford Business Action Group and the anti-LTN group Reconnecting Oxford.

Mr Gant also clarified that the six traffic filters had been "put back by the central government upgrade of Botley Road and the station" and insisted the council was "working tirelessly on measures to cope with it".

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Local councils are responsible for individual schemes and we have made it clear that schemes need to work for local people.”

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: “Oxford has a serious congestion and traffic problem.

"Doing nothing is not an option.

"Tackling this this chronic congestion issue can help everyone including the highly valued and successful local businesses the minister references.

“We have consulted and engaged fully with our communities on LTNs and traffic filters and will continue to do so.

"There are a wide range of opinions within the city about them. The aim of LTNs is to create quieter and safer streets where residents feel more comfortable when making local journeys by cycling, wheeling or on foot.

"The aim with traffic filters would be to reduce traffic levels and congestion, make buses faster and more reliable, and make cycling and walking safer and more pleasant.

"Almost a third of Oxford’s residents do not own a car and depend on the city’s bus service to get around, but the city’s congestion is making the bus network unreliable.

"The six traffic filters proposed for Oxford will be implemented as a trial.”

Help support trusted local news 

Sign up for a digital subscription now: 

As a digital subscriber you will get: 

  • Unlimited access to the Oxford Mail website 
  • Advert-light access 
  • Reader rewards 
  • Full access to our app 

About the author 

To sign up to Ed's weekly Politics newsletter, click here: 

Ed specialises in writing political stories for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. 

He joined in the team in February 2023, after completing a History undergraduate degree at the University of York and studying for his NCTJ diploma in London.

Ed’s weekly politics newsletter is released every Saturday morning.