Business owners fear losing their livelihoods due to a catastrophic drop in trade when multiple ‘anti-car’ traffic filters are installed in Oxford.

Traders believe the city will become more congested and customers will avoid their businesses when Oxfordshire County Council introduces six new bus gates which will restrict most motorists from crossing the city at peak times.

The filters will be trialled on St Cross Road, Thames Street, Hythe Bridge Street, St Clement’s, Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way as part of the council’s ambitions to reduce traffic and improve bus journey times.

Oxford Mail: The traffic filters trial was approved by the county council's cabinetThe traffic filters trial was approved by the county council's cabinet (Image: Ed Nix)

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The council’s cabinet agreed in November to implement the plan, which will be imposed once Botley Road has been reopened following the completion of rail infrastructure work.

Motorists would then be fined for passing through the bus gates without permission, forcing them onto the already overstressed ring road to travel to other parts of the city.


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)

Concerned traders have said traffic has been “dire” since low traffic neighbourhoods were introduced in East Oxford and Cowley, and fear the traffic filters will deter regular customers.

Patrick Clacy, the owner of ‘And So to Bed’ in St Clement’s, said: “The more they restrict movement, they create more congestion and pollution.

“It will put businesses on the brink.

"This will just be another nail in the coffin for many.

“The council has a hidden agenda because it wants Oxford to be traffic-free but it has just created all these traffic bottlenecks.”

Oxford Mail: Patrick ClacyPatrick Clacy (Image: Patrick Clacy)

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Tak Lau, the owner of Panda House, a Chinese takeaway in Hollow Way, said he was selling his business at the end of this month due to the impact of LTNs and fears the impending bus gates ‘will kill business’.

Oxford Mail: Panda House takeawayPanda House takeaway (Image: Ed Halford)

He said: “The bus gates will be very harmful for the business.

"Many of our customers come from Headington and they will be forced to go via the Eastern Bypass instead.”

Mr Lau, the owner for 43 years, said it previously took delivery drivers around 10 minutes to drop off each order but, since LTNs were introduced, it now took 45 minutes.

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Niaz Ali, Holloway Autoparts’ assistant manager, said customers would inevitably stop coming if they were worried about receiving a fine.

Oxford Mail: Holloway AutopartsHolloway Autoparts (Image: Ed Halford)

He said: “We are already getting questions from customers about what we are going to do when the filters come in.

"Coming via the Eastern Bypass will add an extra 30 minutes to my journey time.”

Duncan Enright, the cabinet member for travel and development strategy, said: “Oxford has a serious traffic problem.

"Doing nothing is not an option.

"Tackling this chronic congestion issue can help everyone including our local businesses.

"Traffic filters are intended to reduce traffic in the city centre and make it easier to get around.

“Together with other measures in the city, they are designed to encourage more people to choose buses or walking and cycling for their journeys.”

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Mr Enright said those who have a “particular need to use their car will have an exemption” and this will allow them to go through traffic filter points.

The traffic filters consultation was criticised for a “lack of transparency” regarding the decision not to release detailed traffic modelling at the time.

This modelling showed that traffic is set to increase on A4144 Woodstock Road by 62.4 per cent at peak times in the morning and the proposed bus gate on Marston Ferry Road will not improve bus journey times.

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Under the plans for traffic filters, city residents in the Oxford area will be given 100 free permits while those living outside the city in Oxfordshire will be eligible for 25 free permits.

Nasser Ahmed, the owner of Oxford Meat Centre in Oxford Road, Cowley, said there was already too much traffic outside his shop between 3pm and 5pm.

Oxford Mail: Oxford Meat CentreOxford Meat Centre (Image: Ed Halford)

He said: “If the bus gates are introduced, we will lose a lot of business and customers will be stuck in traffic – but the council do not care about our concerns.”

There are also concerns about Oxford City Council’s 15-minute neighbourhood proposals, featured in its 2040 local plan, which aims to see every resident has all the essentials within a 15-minute walk of their home.

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An Oxford Business Action Group spokesman said: “Many of Oxford’s small businesses are set up as destinations where customers reach them from far and wide.

“If 15-minute neighbourhoods go ahead there just won’t be enough local customers to support them.

“We can already see this happening in East Oxford and Botley Road.”

Oxford Mail: Traffic in OxfordTraffic in Oxford

City councillor for Summertown, Katherine Miles, was criticised after she tweeted a picture of a Banbury Road bakers shop, saying: “A 15-minute city means a bakery walking distance away.”

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Marion Mercier, a shop assistant at Gatineau Artisan Patisserie and Bakery, in Summertown said: “The majority of customers come from within the neighbourhood but if more traffic restrictions were put in place for motorists, then this would definitely impact the business.”

Ms Miles was approached for comment but failed to respond.

Conservative county councillor Ian Corkin said retailers in Oxford “deserved a much better level of understanding from their councillors” as 15-minute cities did not mean that “boulangeries, charcuteries and patisseries would somehow magically appear”.

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County councillor Liam Walker, shadow cabinet member for highways, said the issue with 15-minute neighbourhoods was that “local independent businesses depend on the support of others who cannot just walk to them”.

He said: “This has highlighted how out of touch Ms Miles and her Lib Dem colleagues are in pushing this anti-car agenda.” 

The city council has emphasised that 15-minute neighbourhoods are not about restricting services but supporting and adding to them.

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A council spokesperson said: “What we mean by 15-minute neighbourhood is that residents have all the essentials – shops, healthcare, parks, etc – within a 15-minute walk or cycle ride of their home.

"Cowley Road, Headington, Jericho and Summertown in Oxford are already examples of 15-minute neighbourhoods.

"Our draft Local Plan aims to ensure that other areas of Oxford – such as Barton, Blackbird Leys and Rose Hill – also have all their essential services nearby.”

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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.