Householders living near low traffic neighbourhoods fear for their health as they bemoan “suffering” from breathing problems from idling cars. 

Since the LTNs were introduced, householders have told the Oxford Mail the traffic reduction measures have contributed towards “breaking the communal spirit”, as “some are suffering from increased pollution whilst others are not”.

Oxford City Councillor Linda Smith has said householders’ concerns about traffic being funnelled down a few roads due to the LTNs “comes as no surprise”, as she warned Oxfordshire County Council about her constituents “tasting fumes” two years ago.

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The LTNs were first introduced in Church Cowley, Temple Cowley and Florence Parks in February 2021, and were later installed in Divinity Road, St Clement’s and St Mary’s in East Oxford.

Hanna Lasrado, 51, who lives on Henley Avenue, said the pollution outside her house had become “really bad” since the LTNs were installed as there was “constantly stationery traffic” outside her front door.

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Ms Lasrado, the mother of three children, has lived on Henley Avenue since 2016 and was recently forced to take her 17 year old to the doctors.

The mother believes he had experienced a “reaction” to the cars clogging up the road outside.

Ms Lasrado explained: “Six months ago, my 17-year old’s breathing started getting really laboured.

“We quickly made an appointment at our GP in Donnington and they’ve given him a much stronger inhaler which he now has to use in the morning and at night.”

Ms Lasrado said the introduction of LTNs had “exacerbated” the issue of pollution in her neighbourhood and she highlighted that it was “shocking a fit and healthy young man” was having problems with breathing.

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LTNs are a controversial issue in Oxford and this was on display in the BBC’s panorama ‘Road Wars: Neighbourhood Traffic Chaos’, which showed how the LTN bollards are frequently the target of vandalism.

Ms Lasrado said the LTNs had only been “divisive” for Oxford.

She explained: “There is not a real community spirit if neighbours are suffering because of pollution, while others are not.”

City councillor Linda Smith said she warned the county council and cabinet member for highway management Andrew Gant about increased traffic congestion and pollution in Oxford two years ago.

Ms Smith said she’s heard stories of “children complaining to their parents they felt dirty when they walked to school” and householders got in touch saying they were “unable to open their front windows or enjoy the garden”.

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Ms Smith specifically has concerns about pollution levels on Hollow Way and Oxford Road, and said it has been “clear from day one in Oxford that the way LTNs have been implemented has caused traffic to be displaced on other roads”.

When asked whether realistically the city council could apply pressure on the county council to act, Ms Smith said: “During the experimental phase of the Cowley LTNs, I did ask Andrew Gant to modify Temple Cowley LTN to relieve some of the pressure on Hollow Way.

“He was unwilling to do that.”

Ms Smith believes the county council’s focus should now be on “introducing measures which reduce traffic and not ones which displace it.”

She said the issue with LTNs remained that there are “winners and losers”, as she acknowledged that some people who live within the LTN areas do enjoy the “benefits of having less traffic passing along their streets”.

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However, Ms Smith said she was still worried the LTNs were not working for her constituents in Lye Valley and many were telling her they felt “trapped in their homes”.

One householder who feels this sense of entrapment is Maggie Brown, who lives on Morrell Avenue.

Ms Brown, 74, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said her breathing had become “much worse” since the LTNs were installed and she fears leaving her home between 3pm and 7pm because the “pollution has gone right up”.

Ms Brown explained that she now has to use two inhalers a day and has another appointment with the chest clinic coming up this summer.

She said: “Two years ago I was in the gym and swimming.

Oxford Mail:

“LTNs have ruined my life and our community has been completely ignored.”

Ms Brown said she would “always speak out” about her experience of LTNs, even if this does make her vulnerable to criticism from pro-LTN campaigners online.

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Green city councillor Emily Kerr disagrees with Ms Smith’s judgement on the success of the LTNs.

Ms Kerr believes the LTNs in East Oxford have “meant a huge improvement in air quality for thousands of residents as people switch away from driving and choose to cycle and walk instead”.

She explained: “Oxford is a medieval city which has always had congested roads and we absolutely need to reduce private car traffic on the main roads so we can see a similar air quality transformation.”

Ms Kerr argued “Oxford’s electric buses and the bus traffic filters will make this happen-and speed up bus journeys, so buses become a better option”.

The councillor also highlighted that reducing traffic is the best way to improve air quality and this had been “seen in London, Paris and Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone”.

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A resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, who lives on Alma Place, also had a similar experience to Ms Brown and said she had been “really suffering” from pollution in the last three months.

The resident said: “In these last three months, my breathing has become considerably worse.

“The chest has felt very tight and it has developed into a very acute respiratory infection.”

The resident said cars frequently “idle on the main roads” and the experience of her neighbourhood had shown LTNs were “not the way to reduce traffic”.

She explained: “For those who live in the lower part of the Cowley Road or St Clement’s, there is no other way of escaping the traffic.

“If the anti-car lobby could turn to a more positive way of making Oxford a good place to live in, then they might alleviate the divisions created by the LTNs.”

The resident, who has lived on Alma Place for 60 years, said her road was “originally peaceful” but LTNs had turned her road into a “nightmare”.

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: “Low traffic neighbourhoods in Oxford are intended to make residential streets safer and more comfortable for walking, wheeling and cycling.

“They are part of the central Oxfordshire travel plan, which includes other measures intended to work together to reduce congestion and improve air quality.

“The traffic filters trial, for example, will be introduced after Network Rail completes work to improve the railway station.

"The county council uses air quality monitoring data among other measures and people’s feedback to evaluate the impact of low traffic neighbourhoods.

A preliminary assessment of the impacts of the East Oxford LTNs will be published later in 2023.”

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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.

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