Net zero scheme critics are 'conspiracy theorists', says council chief

Protests - Shutterstock
Protests - Shutterstock

Critics of a net zero traffic scheme have been branded “conspiracy theorists” in a council video.

In the “dystopian” clip, town hall chiefs attempt to defend a £6.5 million trial in Oxford that will create six climate zones by prioritising cyclists and buses on inner-city roads.

From 2024, car drivers in Oxford must apply for a permit to travel through the "traffic filters" for a maximum of 100 days a year, or 25 days a year if they live elsewhere in the county.

ANPR cameras will ensure they are fined £70 if they use the artery roads without permits.

Some critics have likened it to the Berlin Wall, while thousands of angry residents have signed petitions and police have been called in over abuse directed at councillors.

Cllr Liz Leffman, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, has now released a video expressing her “extreme disappointment” at the “misinformation” surrounding the net zero plan, which aims to tackle Oxford’s congestion problem.

The council chief says: “These conspiracy theories are causing real-world harm and need to stop – we have been receiving many calls and emails from worried residents in genuine fear that they might be locked in their own homes.”

The video then zooms in, as Cllr Leffman adds: “We are not planning a climate lockdown or a lockdown of any kind.”

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It cuts to Cllr Duncan Enright, the council’s cabinet member for travel, who says “they are not steel walls or electronic gates, they are simply traffic cameras that can read number plates”.

Liam Walker, a Tory member of Oxfordshire County Council, said it was “like a hostage video”.

“It took us all by surprise – the video itself was very poor quality and didn't really answer the questions around the scheme, it was completely dystopian and they both looked very uncomfortable delivering it,” he told The Telegraph.

“I don't think they were quite convinced by what they were saying to be honest, it was like it was a script they were reading for the first time. The scheme is all about making money at the end of the day.”

Blue-badge holders will be exempt from the scheme, and no restrictions will apply to cyclists, e-scooters, mopeds, buses, vans, taxis and emergency vehicles, in an effort to promote green travel. A consultation of 5,700 residents found mixed responses.

Cllr Enright stressed in the video that the filter trial will not “stop people from visiting loved ones”, as they can, for instance, use the ring road to access other suburbs.