Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes have caused huge controversy in Oxford since their inception. Residents in the city are hotly divided over the issue and debate whether LTNs will bring positive or negative changes to their areas.

The scheme has already seen Oxfordshire County Council introduce LTNs in Cowley as part of a six-month trial, with plans for LTNs in East Oxford also under consideration.

Some residents see the scheme as ‘inconvenient’ while others are in favour of the environmental and road safety benefits.

What is the LTN debate really about?

What are LTNs and what are they for?

A Low-Traffic Neighbourhood, know as an LTN, is a scheme where motor vehicle traffic (including cars, taxis, vans, lorries and motorcycles) in residential streets is greatly reduced.

This is done by minimising the amount of traffic that comes from vehicles using the streets to get to another destination. This is often referred to as ‘through-traffic’ or ‘rat-running’.

Traffic is reduced by using temporary or permanent barriers called ‘modal filters’ which can include putting up bollards or planters.

In these areas, residents and businesses still have access to the neighbourhoods using motor vehicles via different routes but ‘through-traffic’ is greatly reduced.

Private motor vehicles are intended to still have access to all homes and businesses in an LTN but are unable to directly drive through the neighbourhood.

The idea of the scheme is to open up streets so people can safely travel through the area on foot, bicycle, by wheeling or by bus. Emergency vehicles can also be prioritised to reach their destinations quicker.

Where are they in Oxford?

  Oxfordshire County Council introduced LTN schemes to Church Cowley, Temple Cowley, and Florence Park earlier this year as part of a six-month trial.

Plans for LTNs in East Oxford to be placed throughout Divinity Road, St Mary's and St Clement's are currently under consideration and were met with huge objections from residents.

Look on our map to see where current and proposed LTNs are in Oxford:

Why were these locations chosen?

Oxford County Council stated they chose the Cowley area as a ‘priority’ for this trial for two main reasons:

  1. The neighbourhoods suffer because many drivers from outside the area take shortcuts along the residential streets. Many residents have complained to the Council about the problems of short-cutting traffic including noise, danger and nuisance.
  2. There are strategic cycle routes running through the neighbourhoods which serve both the local areas and areas further out. Traffic makes cycling and walking along these routes unattractive. The Council aims to make these cycle routes more pleasant in support of wider policies to support active travel, reduce air pollution and tackle climate change. 

So, what's so good about LTNs?

Many people feel LTNs have a positive impact on the local area and community.

Some reasons include:

  • Reduce air pollution
  • Lower collision rates
  • Increase community activity
  • Increase the physical activity of residents
  • Infrastructure costs are very low


Ok, but what's actually bad about LTNs?


Others feel LTNs are problematic and will bring negative impacts to their streets.

Some reasons include:

  • Failed schemes can mean wasted money
  • Traffic will just be moved onto narrower, quieter roads
  • Air pollution on side streets will increase
  • Traffic jams will increase
  • People will have to take long diversions home
  • Business will lose customers
  • Disabled people are disadvantaged.

Do LTNs affect pollution?

One of the key aims of LTN schemes is to improve air quality by reducing the amount of traffic travelling through an area.

However, some argue LTNs simple move air pollution from one place to another. By stemming the flow of traffic on specific roads, traffic may be diverted to smaller roads and result in high air pollution in these areas.

What is the proportion of people for and against LTNs?

In Cowley this is what residents think: 

While in East Oxford this is what residents think: 

What do people who live near an LTN say?

Residents who live on, or near, LTNs have divided opinions and the issue the schemes have had a marmite effect on the city.

In March, a petition against the LTN scheme in Cowley received thousands of signatures.

Daniel Stafford created the petition page and wrote: “Traffic barriers in Littlemore and Cowley for the so-called ‘Low Traffic Areas’ are trapping local residents and worsening local traffic. They are unjust, and we call upon Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council to end the trial scheme immediately.”

Other residents commented on the petition page.

Christopher Williams commented and said: “Stop this ridiculous waste of money that only adds to congestion and pollution.”

Also in March, Rob Haynes, who lives near Florence Park, said: "I love the LTNs here and in other places I've seen them.

"They don't stop anyone from driving anywhere, they just make some car journeys slightly longer, and that's a significant part of my journey, it's probably one I better not be driving."

In April, the controversial scheme looked set to be given foldable bollards in order to allow emergency services vehicles access.

Ravi Sundar, who lives in Church Cowley and opposes the scheme, said: "Cars are part of everyone's life in the modern age and they are not going away no matter what, people like the independence that travelling by car brings.

"It is a harsh reality that the pro-LTN brigade has to accept."

In June a group of neighbours came together when a planter, acting as a traffic barrier, was burned.

Resident Katie Mills said: “It was really heartwarming that something that had begun in quite a difficult way with the fire ended like this. It felt like a really positive community-building exercise.”

What's next for LTNs in Oxford?

Currently the three LTNs in Cowley are installed on a trial basis for six months.

The LTNs were introduced via a legal process called Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO). ETROs are used when it is very difficult to assess the impacts of the scheme beforehand, but the cost of implementation is relatively low.

During this time the Council will be monitoring the scheme and assessing things such as traffic, air pollution, noise levels and cycling and walking levels.

After this trial period Council assesses the impacts, including any letters of support or objections, and decides whether to confirm, cancel or extend the ETRO for up to 12 months longer to allow further consultation and monitoring.

The proposed LTNs in East Oxford have had a report published which showed residents were not in favour of the proposed scheme.

On July 29 there will be a cabinet member decision on whether to trial an LTN in the area. This will be a public meeting and residents can request to speak at the meeting in advance.   

How can I have my say on LTNs?

You can contact your local MP and/or councillor to express your support or opposition to current or proposed LTNs in your area. 

Residents in Cowley who are living on, or near, the trial LTN can let their views be known in a survey on the Council website