Walton Street to remain closed until new urban design is made, funded and consulted on

In a decision taken today by Oxfordshire County Council, a council officer recommendation to reopen Walton Street in the Jericho area of Oxford has been rejected by the council’s cabinet member for Environment Cllr Yvonne Constance.

The decision means that Walton Street will remain closed until a Low Traffic Neighbourhood is successfully designed, consulted on, funded and implemented.

Oxfordshire County Council has an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) on Walton Street which has been closed at its junction with Beaumont Street since mid-2019. To assess the closure, the council put in an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order which could stay in place for up to 18 months with the first six months serving as a consultation period where anyone could have a say on how the arrangements are working.

The aims of the closure were to deter rat-running by people who do not live in Jericho and Walton Manor, improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians and improve air quality.

The county council implemented a trial closure of Walton Street consistent with its transport strategy to prioritise sustainable transport modes and improve air quality, following feedback from local people after the road was initially closed for repairs. The purpose of the trial was to assess whether a more permanent closure would be beneficial. 

The Cabinet took a decision in July this year to defer a decision on the future of Walton Street. However, a series of matters have come to light on unsuccessful mitigation measures that have followed the closure. The council officer report outlined that mitigation measures implemented to try and ease congestion for certain streets including St Bernard’s Rd during the trial have proved to be unsuccessful.

However, after hearing contributions from residents at today’s meeting, Cllr Constance concluded that both groups for and against the closure share a common understanding that they are all ready to look at new designs for the area as part of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood. This is under consideration as part of the Council’s plans for recovery from the pandemic along with other areas of Oxford.

Specifically, this involves making adaptations to the urban infrastructure. These steps will still allow full access to residents and delivery vehicles but will act to slow traffic and encourage adaptation to cycling and walking by reducing traffic and vehicle speeds and deterring rat running. Cllr Constance added that the barrier will be removed once a Low Traffic Neighbourhood has been successfully designed, funded and consulted on.

Cllr Yvonne Constance said:

“In making this decision, there is a growing recognition that people want less traffic in the area. All the groups, both pro and anti-closure have the common position of being ready to look at new designs and proposals for a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in the Walton Street area. A further decision on the closure will be made once a design for this has been made, funded and consulted on.”