Plans to let taxis drive through Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in the Oxford area have been criticised by residents.

LTN bollards in Cowley are being replaced by ANPR cameras that will let emergency vehicles, buses and taxis through.

This comes following fears that LTNs increase ambulance response times.

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James Schumann, who lives in East Oxford, said: "This is a huge backward step - it will undermine all the hard work done up until now by the council, and substantially weaken our safer neighbourhoods. 

“It will create taxi ‘superhighways’ along narrow residential streets all of which have up until now been transformed.

"Creating new rat runs will split the neighbourhood and divide communities.

"It goes against the council’s key policies in terms of traffic, accidents and tackling climate change.

"It appears this hasn’t been done anywhere else in the country, so the effects are unknown.

“If it is introduced in Cowley, it certainly cannot be repeated in East Oxford until after the Cowley changes have been fully monitored."

Dan Pooley, who lives in Cowley, added: "Our low traffic neighbourhood has been amazing for the people and families that live here: children scoot and cycle, people stand around to chat, people with mobility scooters and buggies can use the road to move around safely. 

"Allowing taxis to drive straight through our otherwise closed streets will be confusing, dangerous and short sighted. I’m really worried about what might happen.”

Residents raised concerns that the ‘taxi exemption’ had not been properly consulted on by the council and claim that letters sent to locals in March made no mention of the change.

Theo Hopkins, who lives in East Oxford, said: "I’m really worried that they are going to allow taxis to come into our area too, which really undermines the whole point of low traffic neighbourhoods.

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“East Oxford residents have started to expect LTN roads to be safe spaces, where children can take their first wobbly bike rides, parents feel they can let their children cross roads by themselves.

Oxford Mail:

“Allowing taxi exemptions will immediately put off a large proportion of local residents who are considering making more of their journeys on foot or by cycle.

"This will risk accidents and injuries to people, particularly young children and older residents who are benefitting from the quiet streets. 

“It will also increase pollution in the area which can stunt children’s lungs for life.

"Oxford has led the way in taking action to improve our city with traffic filters and low traffic neighbourhoods, we need to make sure we keep up these efforts."

A consultation on similar changes to the LTNS in East Oxford will close on July 20 with a decision expected in the autumn.

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: “Exemptions have been approved for emergency services, buses, taxis, private hire vehicles and universal service provider (postal service) vehicles.

“Proposals were open for public consultation between March 6 and April 17 2023.

"Exemptions were originally presented only for Littlemore Road during the consultation.

"Following feedback and further discussion with emergency services, interest groups and local people, the council was asked to consider the same exemptions for Crescent Road and Littlehay Road as part of any decision making.

“Taxis and private hire vehicles are seen as an important part of the public transport network.

"The scheme will be monitored carefully to ensure it is still achieving its objectives to reduce through-traffic and make the roads quieter and safer.

"All motor vehicles that are exempt should be seen as ‘guests’ in an environment where priority is given to walking, wheeling and cycling.”