Critics Call Oxford 100-Day City Centre Car Limit a ‘Climate Lockdown by Default’

Critics Call Oxford 100-Day City Centre Car Limit a ‘Climate Lockdown by Default’

A trial to stop most drivers in Oxford from using busy city routes at peak times has been approved by the county council.

On Nov. 29 Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet voted in favour of traffic filters, which are strict rules on how often motorists can drive and where they can go in the town centre.

The administration says this is to “achieve a sustainable transport system” by stopping most motorists from driving through Oxford’s centre, which divides the city into six “15-minute” neighbourhoods.

In a statement, Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for highways management, said: “Currently, our roads are gridlocked with traffic, and this traffic is damaging our economy and our environment. Oxford needs a more sustainable, reliable, and inclusive transport system for everyone. Traffic filters are an important tool to deliver a transport plan that works for all.

“Traffic filters are designed to deliver a safer, cleaner, and more prosperous place to live, work, and visit,” he said.

“This is not a scheme to stop private vehicles in the city. Exemptions and permits available for residents and businesses will make car journeys faster while also improving alternative transport options such as public transport,” added Gant.

Twenty-one Liberal Democrats work in a Fair Deal Alliance with the Green Party and Labour to run Oxfordshire County Council.

Penalty of £70

The plan will be introduced under an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) from summer 2023 for a minimum of six months and under the scheme private cars will not be allowed without a permit.

But all other vehicles including buses, coaches, taxis, vans, mopeds, motorbikes, and HGVs will be allowed at all times.

Traffic filters will be used to stop drivers without permits from using busy routes at peak times, operating seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the scheme enforced during operating hours using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.

Day passes will be available for residents of Oxford and some areas to the immediate west of the city, so that vehicle owners can travel through all of the traffic filters for up to 100 days per year, equating to an average of two days per week.

Any driver of a vehicle that goes through the traffic filter who is not exempt or using a permit, will be charged a penalty of £70 ($85).

‘Suicidal Experiment’

Environmentalism skeptic Ben Pile, co-founder of the Climate Resistance blog, told The Epoch Times in a statement by email, “What the significantly green, leftoid [sic], woke, Remain, and wealthy Oxford is discovering is that there are no drop-in replacements for the things its industries, small businesses, and lifestyles have depended on.”

He said that “Oxford has chosen itself to be the subject of a suicidal experiment,” adding that “everyone I speak to hates it.”

“Each of them tells me about businesses that have closed, or how divisive its green schemes are,” he said.

Pile pointed to a piece he had written in 2020, in which he said that “Covid-19 is a frightening dress rehearsal of the climate agenda” and that “green pundits marvelled at the clean air” while “ignoring the boarded-up shops, bars, restaurants and cafes that may never reopen.”

‘Restriction and Control’

Lois Perry, director of Car26, an organisation that is campaigning for a referendum on net zero and a pause in carbon-related regulations, told The Epoch Times that she believes the Oxford scheme is “a climate lockdown by default.”

“We think that this is one small step toward just complete dystopia, using climate and net zero as an excuse as per usual. When rules and regulations are brought in to restrict people, they never actually use the real reason to start off. It’s always public health, or in this case, saving the planet,” she said.

Car26 recently commissioned a YouGov poll that found that a desire for a referendum on net zero is popular among the public.

“This is all about restriction and control,” said Perry.

“If you have got a young mum who wants to get her kid to school and it happens to be in a different zone to the one she is in, she would have to go outside the city, go round the circular site outside to drive into the kid’s nursery adding, what, an hour to her journey.”

Perry believes people are just “going to stay at home.”

Zuhura Plummer, campaign director for Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, which supported the scheme, said: “Oxfordshire is leading the country in doing this and it will leave a lasting legacy.

“The official analysis of the scheme found that it will mean 35 percent less traffic, road casualties down 9 percent, rush hour buses running 15 percent quicker and air pollution down at 91 percent of locations. This will save lives and make our city more pleasant now and for future generations,” said Plummer.

The Epoch Times contacted Oxfordshire County Council for comment.

Owen Evans

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Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.

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