Local businesses have joined forces and raised £33,000 to fund a legal challenge to stop Oxford's traffic filters.
Proposals to introduce six trial traffic filters − which the county council says will reduce traffic, make bus journeys faster and make walking and cycling safer − will be considered by Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet on Tuesday.
If approved, the six number plate recognition cameras will be on St Cross Road, Thames Street, St Clements, Hythe Bridge Street, Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way allowing only permit holders to use busy routes.
In an official statement the businesses said: "We consider that decision, if taken at a meeting of the Council proposed to be held on 29 November 2022, will be unlawful."
The move is spearheaded by hospitality group The Oxford Collection which has joined up with Oxford Business Action Group (OBAG), Oxford High Street Association (OHSA), ROX (Backing Oxford Business), Reconnecting Oxford, Jericho Traders, and Summertown Traders “representing thousands of businesses, colleges, professional organisations, and concerned residents throughout Oxford, as well as visitors to the city”, it said.
A Go Fund Me appeal has been launched with the aim of raising at least £50,000 to £80,000 to mount the legal challenge and continue to pay for legal and related advice.
The Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra has donated £1,000.
A law firm has been instructed and a letter of intention issued to Oxfordshire County Council.
Jeremy Mogford, of the Oxford Collection, said: "I have experienced and seen the evolution of Oxford over the last 45 years. I have and always will care deeply for our city and only want the best for Oxford.
"My watchword in business and in life has always been to be practical, sensible and balanced. I sincerely believe that the imposition of these bus gates (traffic filters/road restrictions/road closures) will adversely affect everyone, whether residents or visitors to the city, our business, and many independent and long-loved Oxford businesses.
"I sincerely believe that business is vital for a thriving local economy, and the city council has overlooked us in putting forth these proposals."
The key grounds for the action relate to a deficient consultation process, a non-disclosure of data to support the experimental traffic filters within reasonable time frames of the consultation and, what the group believes, is an absence of impact assessments prior to making the decision or, if any have been made, to make them publicly available.
"In other words, in the absence of impact assessments prior to making the decision to install the traffic filters, the council intends to install them first and to assess their impact afterwards.
"Put another way, the council intends to carry out a wide-ranging experiment without any foreknowledge of its impact on the public or the conduct of business in the city," says the appeal page.
It states: "The aim of the scheme is to improve the current effects of private cars on the movement of buses and on air quality. However, improvement cannot be measured unless, for the purpose of assessing improvement, there are baseline measurements of current traffic flows and air quality throughout the whole of the city.
"The absence of any attempt to make these measurements, or at least, if any have been made, to make them publicly available, renders the decision-making process irrational and unlawful."
A council spokesperson said: “The county council cannot comment on any legal challenge at this stage.
"Traffic filters on main roads have been part of Oxford’s transport strategy since 2015, including the recently adopted Local Transport and Connectivity Plan. The county council has been engaging with partners and members of the public on these plans over the last few years.
"Following feedback from partners, the council put forward plans to introduce the traffic filters as an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO), to test the scheme and make changes if needed, before making a long-term decision on the trial.
"The latest traffic filter proposals were consulted on from 5 September to 13 October 2022. Regulations require a highway authority to consult with statutory consultees, such as the emergency services, before introducing an ETRO.
"Given the wide-ranging nature of this scheme, a more comprehensive public consultation was undertaken, to include the statutory consultees, but also to invite comment from the wider public.
"The council received 5,700 responses to the public consultation, with another 485 emails from members of the public and organisations. These responses were analysed by an independent research company. Further changes have been recommended based on the feedback from the public consultation.
"If approved by the county council’s cabinet, a second public consultation will take place during the trial of the filters. This will allow people to give their views based on their experience of the traffic filters.”
Get in touch with her by emailing: Miranda.Norris@newsquest.co.uk. Or find her on Twitter: @Mirandajnorris
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