Councillor speaks out against Oxford East LTNs
On Thursday 16th December the Conservative Shadow Cabinet member for highways management at Oxfordshire County Council spoke out against plans to implement Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in East Oxford whilst attending the Cabinet Member decision meeting at County Hall. You can read Cllr Walker's speech below:
"Thank you and I’m really pleased to see that the Leader of the Council is making the decision on today’s LTNs rather than Cabinet Member for Highways who has already made his position clear – a lesson for Cllr Bearder about the use of social media there I think – trust me I’ve been there.
I firstly want to thank the residents of Divinity Road, St Mary’s and St Clement’s areas and local businesses who have engaged with the county council on the proposed plans for LTNs in their communities.
It’s no secret that these plans started under the previous administration in consultation with local members of this council and after securing active travel funding from the government as part of the COVID-19 measures.
However, with much fanfare in July the new coalition came out with a statement about wanting to listen to the concerns of those impacted by these measures. Yet here we are 5 months later after further consultation only really to end up in the same position – that this new administration wishes to press on as LTNs are apparently in line with their priorities which include climate action, inequalities, the health and wellbeing of residents; and investment in inclusive, integrated and sustainable transport networks.
I would argue that the East Oxford LTNs meet none of these criteria – in fact quite the opposite.
Despite this further consultation work this report before us today doesn’t address many of the concerns raised as part of this process. For example, leaders of local mosques are concerned about the increase of traffic on the main routes which could slow the travel to funerals and burial sites, which must be done before dusk. Or taxi drivers who are again concerned about the displacement of traffic which may lead to longer journey times and the loss of customers. Sadly, for the five disability groups that engaged with council officers they don’t feature in this document as according to the report officers had not received a response from them – I really hope there is a big effort to make sure their concerns are made public.
Local schools were also concerned that parents who can’t afford public transport for their children will still drive – something that will now be made more difficult with these LTNs in place and bus cuts by this administration. These are the same parents that the Cabinet Member for Highways appeared to mock on twitter during the half term.
These are also the same schools who are struggling to retain staff who are having to travel in from villages and towns in the West and North of Oxfordshire due to such high prices for housing in the city. I’m sure staff would love to be able to get a bus or cycle to work but instead need to drive to work but as the report states they are also starting earlier and having to finish later without additional pay to avoid the congestion.
So, to conclude, residents outside the LTNs are against them, teachers are concerned, disability groups have concerns, local mosque leaders are concerned, taxi firms are concerned, the Labour Leader of Oxford City Council wants the decision deferred (presumably until after the election next year), the Managing Director at Oxford Bus Company has concerns about the impact on bus times, and the emergency services are concerned about access and turning points.
But still, this Fair Deal Alliance are hell bent on pushing people away from the city and hardworking residents from getting about Oxfordshire with their war on cars being spun as climate action.
This is the wrong approach and highlights this administrations lack of plan to tackle congestion in Oxford. The same administration who only a few days ago rejected calls to make parking at our P&R sites free this month in a bid to reduce congestion, pollution and encourage public transport use – but this was dismissed as a “gimmick” by the Cabinet Member for Highways.
I urge the Leader of the Council to listen the concerns listed in this report and follow what many councils of all colours are doing across the country and remove these LTNs.
Thank you for listening."