ANIMAL rights groups yesterday praised councillors for dumping “archaic and cruel” plans to allow horse-drawn carriages in Oxford.

Oxford City Council rejected the plan because of animal welfare and public safety concerns, after a strong campaign by Animal Aid and PETA.

The plans would have seen horse-drawn carriages operate through the city – initially only on Sundays – for the first time in 70 years.

Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler said: “We are absolutely delighted. The plan had serious animal welfare and public health issues.”

He said there was no adequate provision for shelter or rest stops in the plans and Oxford’s cobbled street and pollution would have injured the horses. Animal Aid paid £186 to hire a room in the Town Hall before the Monday night full council meeting to offer councillors drop-in briefings.

PETA spokesman Mimi Bekhechi said: “Horse-drawn carriages are not just archaic and cruel to the horses, who are forced to work long hours in extreme weather conditions while walking on hard pavement and inhaling exhaust fumes all day long, but also dangerous to motorists and pedestrians.

“Horses are sensitive animals and can easily become spooked on the street.”

PETA organised a 700-signature petition against the campaign.

The plan was proposed by Kevin Merry Carriages, which has operated a horse-drawn carriage business for more than 10 years.

Mr Merry, from Murcott, said: “I feel that Oxford has missed out on an opportunity. The councillors would have had full control of how this was run. I would have had to have got a licence from them, with lots and lots of stipulations and at any time they could revoke the licence and I would not be able to trade.”

He said he expected animal rights groups to get involved, but added: “This is nothing like animal testing. They are working horses and they are my pride and joy.”

He does not plan to take the matter further.

During Monday night’s debate, councillor Ed Turner said: “I just don’t think Oxford city centre is the right place for this. I cannot believe trotting around The Plain roundabout is going to be in the interests of animal welfare or the safety of cyclists, motorists or pedestrians.”

But councillor John Tanner said: “We are prepared to allow pedestrians and cyclists to wander the streets of central Oxford suffering all those horrors the horses are going to suffer, but we do not ban pedestrians or cyclists and we should not ban horses.”

Councillors voted the scheme down 27 to 16.