COUNTY council leaders are ready to admit defeat in the battle for the pedestrianisation of Queen Street.

The county council and city council wanted to pedestrianise the busy street due to an increase in shoppers using the £440m Westgate Centre, which opened in October 2017.

But the same year Transport Secretary Chris Grayling turned down the county council’s closure request and the street was then monitored for an 18-month trial period ending in April.

READ AGAIN: Councils set aside funding to take buses out of Queen Street

Despite setting aside £1.4m in its capital programme for pedestrianisation to go ahead, the local councils have not been able to convince the bus companies that closing off the route to buses is a good idea.

The Oxford Times:

As a result, members of the county council’s cabinet are set to agree a recommendation to July’s cabinet to abandon the plan.

At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting council leaders were told they would be asked to back allowing up to 30 buses an hour to continue to use Queen Street.

READ AGAIN: Removing buses in Queen Street would 'be a mistake'

The amendment to the forward plan added: “In updating the Oxford Transport Strategy as part of developing the council’s new Local Transport & Connectivity Plan (LTP5), the county council’s policy is proposed to be changed so that, subject to the outcome of the LTP update process, it will not be actively pursuing the full pedestrianisation of Queen Street.”

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “Bearing in mind the government response it is difficult to see how this could be progressed at the moment.

“We have to work with the bus companies - there are 40 million bus journeys a year in Oxfordshire which is very high.

“The big issue was providing a turning point for buses and one suggestion was Worcester Street car park but that has not been possible.”

Mr Hudspeth said the council could revisit plans to pedestrianise Queen Street if a ‘workable solution’ was found.

The Oxford Times:

He added that all representations made through the consultation process would be taken into account before a final decision is made in July.

Oxford Bus Company managing director Phil Southall said he was pleased the council was taking a pragmatic view to keep Queen Street open to maintain efficient bus access to key streets in the city centre.

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He added: “If Queen Street had been closed to buses, they would have had to have travelled an extra 149,000 miles per year, increasing journey times and negatively impacting on the city’s air quality.

“We will continue to work with the city council and county council on how to balance public realm improvements with maintaining excellent access to the city centre for buses.

“Both bus operators are producing a report on choices that can be made to achieve these objectives looking at the city centre as a whole.

“It is essential to the Oxford economy that we can collectively take both residents and visitors where they want to go as efficiently and as sustainably as possible for many years to come and encourage a continued modal shift from car use.”

Hugh Jaeger, spokesman for the Oxford branch of Bus Users UK, said: “This is a victory for common sense.

The Oxford Times:

“No battle is ever finally lost or won so we probably haven’t heard the end of this.

“There are still too many buses in St Aldate’s.”

Green city councillor Craig Simmons said pedestrianisation should be introduced as soon as the bus companies were 'on board'.

County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “The county council has been carrying out monitoring of the current arrangements on Queen Street, which allows a limited number of buses to use the route, following the opening of the new Westgate shopping centre.

“A report, which will include analysis of how the current arrangements have performed, will be written for consideration by cabinet in July. No decisions have been taken at this stage.”