A public survey into whether Witney High Street should remain shut shows that the restrictions are supported by the majority.

When the first lockdown of 2020 was eased West Oxfordshire District Council – like many councils across the country – introduced measures to restrict the high street to buses, cycles, taxis and disabled badge holders only to allow social distancing on the pavements.

A public survey, launched in June, had a total of 1,346 responses.

60 per cent (808 people) felt safer with the restrictions and 26 per cent (351 people) did not.

54 per cent (729 people) thought they had a positive impact on the town and 32 per cent (437 people) did not.

64 per cent (846 people) said the extra pedestrian space should be retained while 36 per cent (484 people) would like the restrictions removed and the high street returned to its pre-Covid state.

85 per cent (1,133 people) said the council should continue to support outdoor dining in appropriate places.

Approximately 30 responses were from organisations or businesses.

Of these responses, 11 - Stagecoach, Oxfordshire Association for the Blind, the Woolgate Shopping Centre, Witney Library, Windrush Bike Project, Ace Taxis and five businesses - none of whom are located in the restricted part of the High Street - were in favour of the restrictions being retained.

A further 10 businesses (eight of whom are based on the restricted part of the High Street) are opposed to the restrictions and see them as a hindrance to their trade.

There were no formal responses from either Witney Town Council or Oxfordshire County Council.

However, the Witney Traffic Advisory Group did discuss the restrictions and there was a significant majority view in favour of retaining them.

Thames Valley Police suggested that the restrictions should be kept but only if they are made permanent and are accompanied by appropriate signage.

They also suggested that the restrictions should apply to all vehicles.

Common themes in the comments made include that the town feels safer for pedestrians, improved air quality and a better shopping experience.

In support of removing the restrictions people said the high street has lost its ’buzz’ without the traffic, it is not enforced so people are not taking any notice, footfall is down and shops are losing out on passing trade.

West Oxfordshire District Council cabinet meets on Wednesday October 13 to consider next steps.

Ultimately, any decision on permanent changes will be made by the highways authority, which is Oxfordshire County Council, in close liaison with WODC.

Officers have recommended that Cabinet support the retention of the temporary traffic restrictions in Witney High Street until January 2022, supports the immediate removal of the temporary pedestrian guard rails and replacing them with planters, supports Oxfordshire County Council pursuing funding for design of street scene and town centre enhancements that could support more permanent changes to traffic movements and requests that the Highway Authority undertakes additional public consultation prior to any final decision on any scheme design or permanent changes.