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GREENWASH - Do Green Party claims for St Mary’s road barriers stand up?

In the current issue of Green Voice delivered through letterboxes in East Oxford, a number of highly contentious statements are made. We address them here.

The Green Party has been campaigning for a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in St Mary’s since 2019 – although most people did not hear about it until 2021. They campaigned through a series of Zoom calls starting in 2020 by which time the plans had already been drawn up and submitted to the Highways Department. In their consultation, the Greens reached a total of about 350 residents on Zoom and under 100 responses on a survey they sponsored. There was still extremely low awareness of these proposals at the time of the 2021 local elections. Plans were introduced by Oxfordshire County Council when it was under Conservative control and are now supported on the county by an alliance of Lib Dems, Labour and Greens all working together – so there is no effective dissent. This is the first election where there have been candidates opposed to the LTNs, including in St Mary’s.

Green Party Green Voice Spring-Winter Edition 2022
GreenVoice or GreenWash?

In the current issue of Green Voice a number of highly contentious statements are made. We address them here. Our conclusion is that the claims are not backed by evidence and in some cases are demonstrably false. LTNs are not Green and residents who want to see healthier and less divided communities would be wise not to vote for them.

Green Voice (published by the Green Party “Spring- Winter edition”) – detailed rebuttal.

1) What Problem is the LTN trying to address?

Green Voice: “Transport emits more climate-damaging CO2 than any other sector”

The Independent view: In the context of LTNs, this is a totally misleading statistic based on national data that includes air travel and motorway driving, including by heavy goods vehicles. Overall, transport emissions are responsible for 27% of the UK total emissions (2019 figures) with emissions from cars falling slightly immediately before the pandemic– mostly due to improved fuel efficiency. The biggest increase between 1990 and 2019 was in international air flights.[1] The City Council’s own climate emergency declaration says that 81% of the city’s carbon emissions come from energy and fuel use in buildings and that residential housing is the single largest carbon source with 29% of the total. The implication is that as we are saying improving Insulation would be the most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint.

It is likely that LTNs will make things worse because of the jams they will cause on main roads, meaning more cars with their engines running going nowhere. Vans and lorries, which emit more carbon than cars, will have longer journeys to reach houses within LTN areas to make deliveries or to carry out work. Small cars contribute the least and electric cars (which will also be blocked) contribute very little at the point of use. Oxfordshire County Council has nothing in place to measure the impact of LTNs on overall CO2 emissions.


Our data comes from the Department of Transport statistics published in October 2021

[1] (Provisional data for 2020 shows a big fall in carbon emissions from transport since 2019 – but that is been heavily affected by the pandemic – and will doubtless rise again.)

Green Voice: “Private car journeys make up the majority of these emissions”

The Independent View: Since cars make up 79% of road vehicle miles (2019 data), it is no surprise that they contribute most emissions. However they only produced 55% of overall emissions from roads, showing relative efficiency compared to vans, lorries and buses. How national data relates to emissions in Oxford is unknown. Trucks, vans and buses contribute disproportionately heavily to carbon emissions on our roads and the more they are stuck in traffic the more they will produce.


Green Voice: “60% of short trips (under 2 miles) are made by car”

The Independent View: This is national DfT data, with little relevance to car use in Oxford, especially through LTN areas. Neither the County Council nor the City Council have researched where the vehicles passing through LTN areas start from or go to. Many people who work in Oxford live in the county towns and have to use a car to get to their work and live their lives. Their journeys are longer than two miles and often impossible by other means, and these are the ones LTNs disrupt most.

For traffic originating in East Oxford, this 60% claim seems daft. Almost nobody drives from St Mary’s into town unless they have impaired mobility or a pressing need to transport something. Some parents make short journeys by car because they have to carry more than one child, maybe to different schools, and will continue to do this (with longer journey times) after LTNs are brought in, as will people needing to carry bulky items. One thing LTNs certainly will do is to make car journeys longer. Evidence from the LTN consultation strongly suggests that that most short journeys are NOT made by car. This shows that 55% of respondents travel around East Oxford “most days” on foot, 30% travel most days by bike and only 29% do so by car. It is extremely unlikely that the car journeys were shorter than the journey by foot or on bikes.


Green Voice: “There is good evidence to support that local businesses will benefit from more walking and cycling”

The Independent View: In the consultation for East Oxford, 77% of local business / organisation / groups said it was important to keep local roads open. Only 4 businesses in the consultation believed that the impact on their business would be positive. Shops in Templar’s square in the existing Cowley LTN area report lower footfall and delays in transport to the centre. Businesses will be damaged and some may close because of the LTNs. What ‘good evidence’ are they citing?


2) What do local residents think?

Green Voice: “More residents in East Oxford supported the introduction of a Low Traffic Scheme than opposed it”

The Independent View: Oxford is opposed to the LTNs including the one planned for St Mary’s. Of those who responded to the consultation 55% opposed LTNs and only 34% supported, (97% of respondents were from Oxford). Of the three East Oxford LTNs St Mary’s had the biggest negative reaction. If only the 400 or so people from St Mary’s who took part (21% of 2,010) are counted then 52% were in favour and 47% were opposed. However, it makes no sense to count in this way as it specifically excludes those most affected – including those who live just across the ward boundaries and those who have to drive into or across it to reach their place of work. (Imagine if residents of one road within St Mary’s suggested blocking residents of their neighbouring road from access, and did not include their neighbours’ votes in consultation!). Of those who live outside the LTN areas, 38% were regular visitors to the area, 29% worked there, 20% visited for social or leisure activities and 5% had friends or family there. Of residents who drove through a proposed LTN area more did so to access work, education or social or recreation than used it as a “short cut” to somewhere else.

Oxford is against the LTN and this is the first election where any candidate opposing the LTN has stood.


Green Voice: "The South Fulham low traffic neighbourhood was only supported by 13% and is now supported by 90%"

The Independent View: The South Fulham Traffic, Congestion and Pollution reduction scheme is not an LTN. There are no barriers. Residents can go anywhere, WITH cameras to monitor ACCESS. The council changed the scheme because they listened to their residents. In the revised scheme, all residents and car owners within the area pass freely. Relatives, carers, deliveries and other road users can get free day passes. You can book visitor access on the day even after they have left.

Details are here:

Green Voice is FALSE & MAKES AN OWN GOAL – South Fulham does not have an LTN of the sort proposed here

Green Voice: "What other benefits do Low Traffic Neighbourhoods bring?"

The Independent View: The Greens cite “areas in London”. They usually roll out the example of Waltham Forest. There the LTNs were supported by massive investment and started without the large cycling and walking population that exists in Oxford. They spent over £30m. They introduced 22 km of segregated cycle tracks; 40 barriers and 100 major junction changes. They planted over 700 trees and put in 300 new bike hangers. In East Oxford we get ugly planters, no trees and unsightly plastic bike racks. Meanwhile, some councils are removing LTNs because of the impact (Greenwich, Ealing, West Sussex, Liverpool, Brighton). Harrow council said they had suffered “reputational damage” after they installed LTNs. In Ealing analysis by the council installed found saw no material change in air quality but evidence of increased congestion on nearby streets.

Green Voice is FALSE

Green Voice: "What Changes will they bring to East Oxford and Will Traffic be moved onto the main roads". The assertion is that “it is expected to lead to a 70% drop in car traffic between Cowley and Iffley Road and that in the short term there may be some displaced traffic”

The Independent View: Difficult to know what they mean. If barriers are in place then through traffic will of course drop by 100%. Deliveries will still be needed and residents will still need to go about their business and they will only be unable to move through the area without reverting to Cowley or Iffley Roads. With only the main roads open to through traffic, then we can expect gridlock (and extra traffic at the Plain) increased pollution and damaged businesses. The Greens have no evidence that displaced traffic will be short term –relying on their “evaporation” theory by which traffic mysteriously disappears and does not move elsewhere.


Green Voice: “If the LTN scheme does not deliver reductions in congestion, pollution and accidents it is unlikely to progress beyond the trial”

The Independent View: The LTNs are only the first of a series of restrictions being planned including bus gates to separate Oxford into a series of enclaves which cannot be reached from each other by car. Those responsible for pushing this agenda have already decided to close their minds to opposition and seem to respond only to lobby groups. The Cowley LTN has delivered increased pollution, increased congestion and has been opposed by 67% of those responding to the consultation; it is being kept through a series of extensions and delays to decision making. If it was a trial there would be stated endpoints and measurable outcomes. There are none. When the LTNs deliver gridlock and extra pollution the proponents will simply say they need more time and more restrictions. The council undoubtedly intend this to be permanent – the talk of a trial is a sham designed to make it look like we have a choice.

The Independent conclusion: Missing from Green Voice

There is no discussion in Green Voice of alternative schemes (including those the Green Party dismissed in 2020 and 2021 to have a slow traffic area). They say nothing about enforcing the 20mph speed limit which is what people most want on the doorstep. Making our roads safer does not mean closing them down.


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Notes from Your Doorstep 20/2/2022
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