A DECISION about whether a street which was unexpectedly closed to cars will remain blocked off is going to be deferred.

Oxfordshire County Council closed off Walton Street to carry out roadworks last year, but decided to leave temporary barriers in place to limit traffic through Jericho.

The closure has divided the local community, with some of them thinking the roadblock had improved air quality, while others are worried that traffic has just shifted to other roads.

Oxfordshire County Council's cabinet was expected to decide whether the temporary road block would become permanent at its July meeting, but is now likely to defer this decision.

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The council was criticised by a group of residents called Jericho Connections for going ahead with the road block 'experiment', put in place through an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO), without having asked local opinion in a consultation.

A consultation was carried out in May, but after that, the county has now said it wants to do more to take into account the views of residents.

In a press statement, the county council said: "It has been decided that more work needs to be done with residents and businesses to create a balanced approach that works best for everyone in the area."

Yvonne Constance, the county's cabinet member for the environment and transport said: “Since we started the experimental order everyone has been faced with Covid 19 and this has had its own effect on traffic. In the long term will we see less traffic overall on our roads and more people than ever walking and cycling? 

“If the answer is yes then is now the time to plan for it in places like Jericho?”

Philippa McAllister, of Jericho Connections said the group was disappointed the road would remain closed because of the ETRO.

But she added that the group welcomed working on a plan with OCC which would encourage 'equitable distribution of traffic throughout Jericho and Walton Manor', and helped businesses to stay afloat.

Ms McAllister questioned whether the barrier needed to stay in place for the time being, and said the period ahead of a decision could be used to gather data about what normal levels of traffic and air pollution were like on the road.

Shops in Jericho had carried out a business impact survey in January which showed the closure had badly affected turnover.

On the deferral, a spokesman for the Jericho Traders Association said: "While we are pleased that the council has decided to consult with major stakeholders, the southern access to Walton Street remains closed which continues to suppress trade in Jericho."

The spokesman said new signs which gave directions to Jericho's shops were welcome, but would ultimately be a 'sticking plaster' if a more permanent decision was not settled on soon.

The traders association also said they hoped for a compromise which would lead to a more equal spread of traffic in Jericho.

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A member of Don't Choke Jericho, a campaign group of residents which supports the road block, has said it also supports a compromise.

Jamie Hartzell said the council needed to use the deferral to draw up a long term plan for traffic in Jericho which would help all residents of the area.

Mr Hartzell said: "We have developed a proposal for a proper low traffic neighbourhood which is a really well thought out scheme for the who area."

A low traffic neighbourhood uses street furniture like plant boxes or bollards to 'filter' cars away from streets.

The LTN plan drawn up by Don't Choke Jericho would include a pedestrianised area of Walton Street, which could give traders a business boost by allowing them to place tables and chairs in the road.

Oxfordshire County Council's cabinet meets on Tuesday, July 21.