Traders today claimed a victory in their battle against the Oxford Transport Strategy, after council officers promised to clean up one of the city's historic streets, writes Andrew Ffrench.

Broad Street in Oxford will get a facelift in the next 12 months, instead of in 2004 as originally planned.

At a meeting of the OTS working party, city and county councillors agreed to spend 75,000 on a temporary improvement scheme, before a major revamp takes place in three years.

The move came as a relief to traders in Broad Street and the surrounding area, who say business has slumped since the street was pedestrianised and parking removed two years ago. A 2m improvement scheme for Cornmarket Street will begin in the summer but when this was made the priority, Broad Street traders felt they were being neglected.

The decision to spend 75,000 on 'environmental enhancements' did not completely pacify members of the Rescue Oxford group (Rox), who revealed earlier this month that, in a survey of 119 retailers, nearly 80 per cent reported a drop in customers.

Rox spokesman Roger Rosewell said afterwards: "This is a victory for traders but the battle is not yet over because we still need to address the issue of access to Broad Street, the Covered Market and The Turl. The two priorities now are to reopen Broad Street to traffic and some on-street parking and to scrap evening parking charges." Frank Watson, chairman of the Broad Street Traders Association, welcomed the move.

"Councillors have agreed that something needs to be done, after listening to traders' experiences," he said.

The county council will pay for the improvements out of the OTS budget for 2001-2002 but it has not yet been decided whether the city or county council will be in charge of the project.

Council officers will now meet traders to discuss what should take place. An interim traffic order could be made to change the current parking and access restrictions.

At the meeting, councillors heard from John Barrows, who runs Elmer Cotton Sports. In a letter, he told them: "My business has been severely affected due to the policy of no parking on Broad Street. I feel the condition of this area is appalling and creates quite the wrong impression for people visiting this historic part of the city. Broad Street has changed from an attractive bustling street into an area with a very neglected and forlorn atmosphere."

City councillor Mike Woodin told the meeting: "We are all agreed that action is required. We have failed Broad Street in urban design terms. It is one of Europe's most important open spaces and we have made a complete mess of it."

Noel Newson, group manager of sustainable transport, who said Broad Street would be 'tidied up', added that an interim traffic order could change regulations regarding loading bays and disabled spaces.