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Open Letter to the County and City Councils from residents of East Oxford

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

SEPTEMBER 2021: Open Letter from East Oxford residents to highlight opposition to the current LTN proposals and outline a framework for a fair process based on safety and equality.

Family bakes together

This letter has been written by a number of East Oxford residents to highlight their opposition to the current LTN proposals and to ask the County Council to respect the result of the consultation; to outline a framework for a fair process based on safety and equality; and to undertake a new consultation with all part of the community including businesses before drawing up any new proposals.

1. The result of the consultation on the East Oxford LTN

The consultation on LTNs had a clear result. A majority clearly oppose the measures and therefore there is no democratic mandate to continue with the current proposals. Moreover any attempt to suggest that comments from out of area may be invalid undermines public faith in the consultation process and council credibility.

Any closure in one part of the city has an impact on many other areas. Many of those living or working ‘outside’ the LTN area, including those on Cowley Road itself, are at greatest risk from the impact of road closures. All these citizens have a right to contribute to the debate and their voice needs to be listened to rather than be excluded.

To claim that pro-LTN Councillors elected in May 2021 have a mandate is false logic as people vote on a variety of issues and the details of the proposed LTNs were not published until after the election.

The council’s reluctance to properly consider a broader range of views, rather than only fully engage with those who promote LTNs as a panacea could constitute maladministration and is certainly contrary to the spirit of community consent.

The council has a duty to listen and respect the result. This means changing the way that proposals are drawn up, so that alternatives are properly considered before formal consultation begins.

2. The next steps

The previous sets of proposals were hurried through, and they are divisive because only one set of views was considered. However, there is probably a consensus across all parts of the community on a number of points:

  • traffic in East Oxford needs to be managed effectively

  • walking and cycling should be encouraged

  • the use of safe public transport should be encouraged to limit car use

  • schools should be kept safe with traffic managed close to school entrances

  • there is probably a consensus on establishing slow traffic zones in residential areas off the main arterial roads building on the existing traffic calming measures and 20 mph limits

Any new proposals need to build on this consensus as well as being firmly based on evidence.

In our view the next steps should be to encourage widespread community participation in deciding any new measures and to agree on some principles to base the measures on in an open and transparent way. This letter suggests what these should be.

It is vital that this new consultation starts now and involves a wide cross section of the community before the Council finalises any new or revised plans. Currently there is an appearance that the council is only listening to a few hard-line pro-LTN voices and is ignoring businesses and those who seek an alternative, more effective range of measures which can command public support.

Once any new proposals have been developed, they should be subject to a thorough, fair consultation process carried out with complete transparency.

3. Suggested principles and criteria

3.1 Safety first – listen to the emergency services

  • The clear views of the emergency services in the consultation need to be respected; they stated that arterial roads should be kept moving to provide access across the city; there should be easy access to and from Headington and the North of the City to the Cowley and Iffley roads not just via the Plain or the Ring Road; this means access through Divinity/Southfield roads, Rectory Road and Magdalen Road /Howard Street

  • In the consultation they are universally opposed to lockable Bollards

  • The emergency services, police and the bus companies need the ability to divert traffic through side streets in the event of accidents or when essential maintenance is needed

  • Formal risk assessments of any new consultations must be undertaken and published to ensure that public safety will not be impacted in the event of a major incident; the impact on the emergency services and key public transport services must be assessed

  • Safety enhancements may be needed in specific streets or to improve walking or cycling routes; and there should be local consultation to improve them and to ensure existing traffic calming measures are respected; local residents know where the “hotspots” are, and their ideas should be actively sought and acted on whilst retaining the safety of the area. Traffic wardens should be given powers to ticket and fine breaches of pavement parking in addition to CPZ enforcement.

3.2 Equality in decision making

It is fundamentally important to have a fair process and equality built into the next set of decision making.

  • It is both unfair and inequitable to make decisions that move traffic from less busy side streets and impose it on the residents of the arterial roads with the associated risk and pollution; people living on the arterial roads should not be deliberately disadvantaged

  • It is important to listen and consult with disability groups and ensure new proposals have their support

  • it is important to listen to different faith communities and ensure their concerns are addressed and listened to

  • It is important that the views and needs of those caring for the vulnerable including relatives, friends, and health or social care professionals are considered

  • It is important that different types of road user are consulted including those such as bus drivers, taxi drivers and commercial/delivery drivers. Many people in Oxford use more than one form of transport– walking, cycling, buses and cars or some combination. Currently the council are only listening to one side of the LTN debate and this needs to change.

3.3 Data Driven decisions

Regular traffic and pollution monitoring should be undertaken and published to ensure there are baseline measures and to provide the data to be able to assess the impact of any decisions. Given the large number of video cameras around, baseline monitoring of traffic should be possible particularly at pinch points such as the Plain, St Clements, Iffley Road and Donnington Bridge; Monitoring should be open and accessible with results posted in real time on a publicly accessible website.

We consider the community importance of roads that cross-link with the designated arterials has not been given adequate consideration. The principal ones in East Oxford are Magdalen Rd/Howard St and Divinity Road/Southfield Rd, but also important are James St and Princes St/Cross St/Rectory Rd. Use of all these streets keeps traffic from congesting Cowley and Iffley Roads to the detriment of bus passage. There is some data on traffic that uses these routes, but none on the reasons for using them. LTN lobbyists, and indeed the Council, appear to assume that almost all such use is essentially unnecessary/unimportant.

3.4 Understand the problems to be solved

It is important to understand the problems that we are trying to solve and for this to be generally agreed.

  • Oxford and East Oxford has one of the highest rates of cycling and walking to work in the country; it is unlikely that this can be improved massively

  • longer distance travel from estates like Blackbird Leys, Barton, Rose Hill and Littlemore need reliable safe public transport to discourage car usage which in turn requires free flowing arterial roads to the centre.

  • Currently most local residential streets do not in fact have massive pollution or traffic problems; attention needs to be focussed on improving the ones that do, but not at the expense of the rest. There is currently no agreed basis for deciding whether a street has problems that need managing.

  • Speeding traffic is a serious problem that is not being addressed - there is virtually no enforcement of the existing 20 mph limits.

  • Our population is varied and there are many residents who cannot cycle, who find walking difficult but can still drive; who rely on carers/relatives to help them. There are many parents who have to use their car for work or to juggle their children’s commitments. and these needs are all genuine. LTNs create problems and delays for all these users.

More information, and thus research, is needed on the reasons for travel into the city at peak times and any measures that can be taken to ease this; the problems are long standing and multi-facetted.

3.5 Support local business

Local business is the bedrock of the local community; in East Oxford and across the city the vast majority of businesses have generally opposed these measures; new measures need to be worked through with local businesses and their views need to be listened to.

3.6 Integrated policy making

Many current county and city council policies are designed to draw more people into Oxford, while high housing costs compel many people to commute. Public transport is on the one hand encouraged to limit traffic but the LTNs will make journeys longer and reduce usage.

Traffic measures should be integrated with policy initiatives across the city and with each other. The LTNs under discussion have been devised and implemented piecemeal, out of step with the Safer Schools initiative, and the money spent via Thames Valley Police on Oxford Safer Streets, and cycle racks.

4. Positive Proposals

The opposition to LTNs is fundamentally driven by a desire to have safe streets that work for all the local community and that encourage cycling, walking, the use of public transport and safety, but do not arbitrarily constrain legitimate and necessary car and commercial delivery journeys. The Reconnecting Oxford movement can help contribute to a positive debate on these issues and wants to help through community discussion get to a set of positive solutions based on evidence and proper management of risk.

We are looking to a win-win outcome rather than the deeply divisive effect of LTNs, which are a very blunt and inequitable instrument for a complex of social and transport problems, some regularly exaggerated by LTN proponents.

5. Decision Making Process

Decisions which have a serious impact across all who work or live in Oxford need to be made appropriately. There needs to be a wide, fair transparent consultation process, with evidence-based proposals using the principles defined above based on safety and equality. It should not be decided on by one cabinet member and needs to respect the views expressed in the consultation.

Signed by:

Numerous businesses, Cowley Traders Association - representing over 200 businesses on theCowley Rd, Iffley Rd & St.Clements., and many local St Mary's residents

St Mary’s LTN, Reconnecting Oxford, CowleyLTN campaign groups representing hundreds of residents around Oxford.


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Notes from Your Doorstep 20/2/2022
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