This is an editorial which featured in the Oxford Times and was written by politics reporter Ed Halford.

Last week, the government announced funding for low traffic neighbourhoods would grind to a halt.

With councils bidding for a £200 million pot of money for walking and cycling schemes, the county council put in a bid for a share of the cash but missed out.

A consistent feature in all the winning bids was they did not contain any plans for low traffic neighbourhoods.


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)

It seems to be the case that the Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper is getting the message loud and clear that these traffic measures are divisive and damaging for businesses.

However, the county council did not put forward any plans for LTNs in this round of funding so how come they missed out?

The Oxford Times has found out the county council received £3.25 million from the government for LTNs and Quickways in previous funding rounds, meaning that plenty of money has already been spent on cutting off communities and isolating businesses.

When I spoke to Cowley Road business owners, their familiar response was exasperation.

They are fed up with being ignored and not listened to.

Business owners are not oblivious to other unhelpful factors such as the Covid pandemic and high inflation, but they view LTNs as a self-inflicted act of destruction.

Nor do business owners want to be entangled in an ideological battle about the merits and cons of 15-minute neighbourhoods, as they are simply crying out for their customers to come back.

Klontian Meta started his Love Coffee business in a Covid-19 lockdown.

Oxford Mail: Klontian Meta outside his businessKlontian Meta outside his business (Image: Ed Halford)

He didn’t think trade could get any worse but since the restrictions have passed Mr Meta has said he has lost reliable customers who are no longer willing to sit in testing traffic jams.

Unfortunately, many Cowley Road traders face a similar or worse situation.

Clinton Pugh, the father of Hollywood actress Florence Pugh, has had Café Tarifa re-possessed, and pointed to LTNs as the cause.

Mr Pugh said the traffic measures had only caused businesses unwanted stress and this was in addition to fears about spiralling inflation and high energy bills.

Mr Pugh has long been a critic of LTNs and has frequently spoken up for business owners who are not fluent in English.

Oxford Mail: Clinton Pugh outside his businessClinton Pugh outside his business (Image: Ed Halford)

For Mr Pugh and many others, the government’s decision to ditch funding for LTNs is welcomed – but has come far too late.

Business owners are calling for the council to provide compensation, but they don’t hold out hope as they point out they were never properly consulted in the first place.

Mr Harper’s decision to scrap funding for LTNs is surely the closest the government will come to recognising that giving councils the money to fund politically-motivated projects, unwanted by many in their communities, has turned out to be a very costly mistake – which will have repercussions for years to come.

Will businesses receive compensation?

It is highly unlikely.

Cowley Road traders will continue to suffer as long as they remain ignored by the political representatives who are meant to be listening to their concerns.

Café Tarifa is just the latest of many casualties.

More are sure to follow.

In response to businesses' calls for compensation, a county council spokesman said: “LTNs are part of the county council’s local transport and connectivity plan, designed to improve travel and transport.

"They are intended to make residential streets safer and more comfortable for walking, wheeling, and cycling.

"As part of the central Oxfordshire travel plan, they are designed to work together with other measures to reduce congestion and improve air quality.

“The LTNs already in Oxford will continue to be monitored by the council.

"The East Oxford LTNs area is still in a trial period, and subject to a county cabinet decision later this year.

"Although the online consultation on the East Oxford LTNs has now closed we encourage people to continue sharing their feedback with us.

"This feedback will contribute to the reporting that will be presented to cabinet for decision.

“We currently have no plans to introduce any more LTNs areas in Oxford but we continue to monitor the overall situation carefully to understand travel and traffic behaviour across the city.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said:"Our £200 million investment will provide attractive choices for people to use cycling and walking for local journeys and do not include low traffic neighbourhoods.

“Each bid received for this round of funding went through a robust assessment process, with schemes marked against a range of criteria. Active Travel England will provide feedback to authorities with unsuccessful bids.”

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About the author 

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.