Pedestrians and cyclists are to get priority over motorists in four areas of Oxfordshire under a new £750,000 safer streets scheme.

A Home Zone is a street, or group of streets, in which the needs of residents and cyclists take precedence over those of drivers.

Tree-planting, street furniture, 20mph speed limits and narrowing roads are aspects of the scheme which could be used to slow traffic in parts of east Oxford, Headington, Charlbury and Banbury.

The four sites which the county council's executive board has agreed should be considered for the Home Zone scheme are:

Silver Road/Golden Road/ Barnet Street/Catherine Street/Hertford Street/Essex Street/Percy Street in east Oxford

Stapleton Road, Headington

Hughes/Sturt Close, Charlbury

Five streets in central Banbury.

Residents of the areas, including elderly people and mothers of young children, have welcomed the initiative, saying it will make them feel much safer.

Nicky Chambers, 35, lives with her partner Andy, and 15-month-old daughter Molly, in Hertford Street, Oxford -- one of the selected areas.

She is spokesman for the Inner East Neighbourhood Association which looks out for the rights of residents in east Oxford.

Ms Chambers said: "For some time, residents have been concerned about traffic speed and the amount of traffic that uses these streets, particularly as St Mary and St John Primary School is located in Hertford Street.

"I believe a Home Zone could create a safer environment for residents and help to fight crime by generating a better community spirit. There could be lots of advantages."

Dorothy Blunsdon, 76, of Stapleton Road, Headington, who lives with her husband Reg, 83, said many residents would appreciate a Home Zone because it would reduce the amount of traffic.

She said: "Some families have complained about traffic speeds. We do get quite a lot of traffic here now after they put in a traffic hump in Lime Walk. Some ambulances come through as well."

Residents of all four areas will now be consulted on the development of the zones.

Following consultation, the council hopes to implement two of them this year, with the other two beginning in 2003/4.

Last month, Green city and county councillor Craig Simmons criticised the Labour-run city council for failing to include £75,000 in its capital budget towards Home Zones in Oxford.

He said: "Now that the county council has put forward a programme, I hope that the city council leaders will support it with some money, which they have promised to do."

Mr Simmons added that Home Zones in Holland had proved a success, by changing priorities on roads, to downgrade the importance of vehicles and give more priority to pedestrians and cyclists.

David Robertson, the county council's executive member for highways, said: "I am delighted that the four schemes have been given the go-ahead. This shows that we are keen to invest in our urban areas."

Alex Hollingsworth, leader of the city council, said: "We support the plans and are discussing the level of our financial contribution with the county council."

A Government grant of £500,000 has already paid for a Home Zone in Saxton Road, Abingdon, which includes a 10mph speed limit.

Initial consultation has been completed and community design days are now being held.