This is an editorial piece from the Oxford Mail's politics reporter Ed Halford.

Accessing businesses in Oxford used to be easy.

Driving to the shops at the weekend was never a lost cause.

Yes, the weekend traffic is never going to simply disappear but the price to pay for spending some time browsing or stocking up on essentials is now extortionate parking fees – and has pushed many people to out of town supermarkets or online deliveries.

The county council argues the aim behind the Zero Emission Zone and the removal of parking is to encourage more people to cycle and for traders to utilise cargo bikes.

READ MORE: Oxford traders fear 'chaos' over Market Street deliveries

Oxford Mail: The Covered MarketThe Covered Market (Image: Ed Halford)

Though the intention behind its ambition of reducing carbon emissions is laudable, if that policy’s consequences are businesses suffering and independent shops closing, then it is clearly not well thought out.

Since the Uxbridge by-election, politicians on the right have clamoured for a ditching of net-zero targets, while those on the left have pointed to fires in Rhodes as a justification for making everyone who hasn’t transitioned to an electric car – whether they can afford it or not – feel guilty.

READ MORE: Oxford Covered Market: Outdoor seating trial company picked

The city council’s masterplan for the Covered Market is an example of where active travel aims have become entangled with the necessities of traders.

Describing it as a ‘masterplan’ would be too great a compliment.

The pedestrianisation of Market Street will allow tourists to admire Oxford’s spires as they sip their summer Aperol Spritz.

READ MORE: Florence Pugh's Oxford father criticises 'insulting' Tweet

But, Paul Lee, the proprietor of Covered Arts and Framing Services, is concerned how fragile glass will reach his shop.

Oxford Mail: Covered Arts and Framing ServicesCovered Arts and Framing Services (Image: Ed Halford)

Fortunately, Paul has workshops outside of the Covered Market which will be more accessible to delivery drivers.

However, the issues this pedestrianisation is likely to cause Paul’s business demonstrates how out of step our political representatives are with essential logistics businesses must grapple with.

Luciana Gyuricza, the owner of the beer business Teardrop, feared the effects of “super expensive” car parking and suggested the market would “boom more” with less restrictions.

READ MORE: Oxford United new stadium 'chance to host England Lionesses'

Oxford Mail: Luciana GyuriczaLuciana Gyuricza (Image: Ed Halford)

Unfortunately, the strategy the county and city councils have adopted in the name of reducing emissions is to penalise motorists wherever possible and then hope this will persuade them to jump on a bike.

Tackling climate change is about finding the right balance but unfortunately in Oxford it has become more of a crusade where businesses lose out, as opposed to a collective cause which we can all positively contribute to.

In response to the Oxford Mail's articles about the Covered Market, Oxford City Council leader Susan Brown said:"The Covered Market is having a busy summer, and our plans aim to bring even more customers into the market. 

"As part of our decision to implement the Covered Market masterplan, we will trial making Market Street a pedestrian-friendly space which could include the potential for pop-up market stalls and outdoor seating - this will support Covered Market businesses.

"Creating a pedestrian-friendly space on Market Street will not prevent access for deliveries to the Covered Market. 

"The current proposals have been significantly informed and adapted based on numerous meetings with Covered Market Traders in 2021 and 2022, including Traders who rely significantly on deliveries in and out of the Market.

"As a result, some vehicle loading bays will remain available at all hours, as will cyclist access. Some changes to delivery times may be required, as well as an increased use of cargo bikes, so that more people can spend more time in and around the Covered Market.

"This is the ultimate objective, which is shared by the council, traders, stakeholders and the general public.

"The council engaged extensively on the Masterplan last year, and 81% of respondents during the public consultation strongly agreed or agreed that a more pedestrian-friendly area on Market Street will encourage more visitors to the Covered Market. 

"We will continue to work with stakeholders on the details of our proposals. And once a trial scheme is up and running, we will monitor it closely and seek feedback, so that any necessary adaptations can be made."

Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council's cabinet member for highways, said “Oxford is a small medieval city, not built for the volume of cars we have in the 21st century.  

"The council’s policy regarding on-street parking in Oxford is to encourage people to use our convenient and value-for-money park and rides and avoid driving into the city centre.”

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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.