A COMMUNITY activist who is backing the Walton Street road closure received an anonymous death threat suggesting he should 'get coronavirus or die'.

Last year Oxfordshire County Council closed the street on the edge of Oxford city centre to traffic at its junction with Worcester Street and Beaumont Street. Public consultation on the divisive issue will officially close on Friday.

John Mair, who lives in Jericho, and is the organiser of street parties in Little Clarendon Street, received the threatening email earlier this year after becoming heavily involved in the debate about the closure.

The 70 year-old father-of-two, who is in favour of the closure remaining in place, said: "It was an anonymous email saying 'get coronavirus or die – I think they meant preferably both.

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"It's cowardly to send these emails anonymously and I reported it to police but I haven't heard any more since.


"This will not stop me from getting involved. I think the closure has been a good thing – the drop in pollution levels will be phenomenal."

Following roadworks in Walton Street last year, the county council decided not to remove would had been a temporary traffic barrier, and has been consulting on possible permanent closure.

The move is in line with the Connecting Oxford scheme backed by city and county councils to limit traffic with a series of bus gates and other measures, while plans to pedestrianise Broad Street are being proposed to help Oxford recover from the lockdown.

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Elaine Russell-Wilks, of Don't Choke Jericho, which has campaigned for the closure to remain, said: "Since the south end of Walton Street was closed in July 2019, the world has changed. The country is now struggling to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.


"We are formulating proposals for Walton Street that we believe could benefit everyone in the Jericho and Walton Manor communities, by helping the shops, cafes and restaurants to reopen safely, and that will continue to eliminate through traffic.

"This is to make both the central trading strip of Walton Street and Little Clarendon Street car-free.

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"This will give the cafés and restaurants the chance to set up tables on the street, adding vitality and life to Walton Street. It could also mean that the south end of Walton Street (the barrier) could be reopened as Walton Street will no longer be a through route."

Other residents represented by Jericho Connections and traders want the street to be reopened.


Pip McAllister of Jericho Connections said it would be lobbying the council's cabinet meeting on Tuesday to oppose the closure.

The group said the closure has 'had a negative impact on the businesses along Walton Street with over 80 per cent reporting a downturn in trade' and 'increases carbon emissions as a result of longer journey times and has merely shifted congestion to other parts of Jericho (such as the northern end/St Bernard’s Road)'.

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A spokesman for Jericho Traders' Association said: "A business impact survey was carried out in Jericho in January of this year (well before Covid-19) which showed that 82 per cent of Jericho businesses had a decrease in turnover and footfall as a direct result of the closure. Thirty-four shops in Jericho are against the road closure. Many shops are finding themselves in a fragile position during lockdown as they were already weakened by the loss in trade due to the road closure."

Last week it was announced that Walton Street Post Office will not reopen.


Residents in St Bernard's Road and Observatory Street complained after their roads became a 'rat run' following the closure.

This week new signs went up in Leckford Road saying 'Access to Walton Street' No Through Route South.

Resident Gero Miesenboeck said in an email to the council people living in the street felt they were being treated 'with disdain'.

He added: "Leckford Road must already absorb virtually all traffic out of Jericho; now most cars travelling in the opposite direction are directed into the same street, too.

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"It appears that, in the absence of a coherent traffic concept but with blinkered determination to keep Walton Street closed, you are bowing to pressure from individual streets to put out their fires, only to pour petrol (and diesel) on flames elsewhere. It should be clear by now that the blaze can be extinguished only at its origin: in Walton Street."


County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: "Walton Street was closed last year for repairs when faults beneath the road surface caused extra problems, the route ended up being closed far longer than originally expected.

"The idea to test out whether a more permanent closure of the Walton Street junction with Beaumont Street was explored and an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) was put in place.

"The first six months of the ETRO has been serving as a consultation period where anyone can have a say on how the arrangements are working.

"Amendments to the signage within the area have also been made to identify the area as a no through route whilst also stating that local businesses are open as usual.

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"Work will continue between officers, local elected members and residents to ensure that the balance of traffic movement is appropriate for the size and width of the local roads.

"It is expected that the future of the arrangements on Walton Street will be considered by the Cabinet member for Environment and Transport in the coming months.

"Local councillors were consulted about the signage relating to Leckford Road."