OXFORD TRANSPORT STRATEGY Reports from 1999-2001
Click here for the March 2001 Newsletter
PRESS RELEASE MEETING OF WENN TOWNSEND'S SURVEY
ROX - RESCUE OXFORD C/O 30, St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LE Tel. (01865) 513243 Fax (01865) 552780 e-mail : email@example.com
"Make Oxford Friendlier" Say Retailers as New Survey Slams OTS for Failing The City
Almost Eighteen months after the introduction of Oxford's controversial OTS (Oxford Transport Strategy) a new survey of nearly 120 retail businesses in the city shows that :
· Nearly 81% of retailers are still reporting fewer customer numbers than before the introduction of the OTS with
· nearly two thirds (66%) of businesses still reporting lower turnovers since the introduction of OTS
Commenting on the results of the survey, ROX Joint Chairman, Jeremy Mogford, owner of the Old Bank Hotel and other restaurants in the city, said:
"This serious and accurate survey by local accountants, Wenn Townsend, bears out our fears that the economy and image of Oxford is being severely damaged by aspects of the Oxford Transport Strategy. The Councils' discouragement of independent car borne visitors is affecting both the business and cultural side of our city. The widespread public perception that Oxford does not welcome people who choose to visit by car must be changed as soon as possible. Even the City Council's own glossy handouts now admit that shoppers and tourists are finding life difficult."
Highlighting the results, ROX Joint Chairman, Julian Blackwell, said :
"OTS is failing the city. Before June 1999, we were promised a booming city centre, easier access, less congestion, more fun.
Eighteen months later, it is clear that :
· The City is losing its appeal to car borne shoppers who are deserting Oxford for other towns, hitting major stores in the central area as well as independent retailers;
· The City is sliding into shabbiness with much of the central area looking uncared for and historic streets treated appallingly;
· The City is facing a shrinking retail offer as the gap between prime and secondary locations widens, some streets lose their retail appeal and independent retailers begin to close with a resulting loss of choice and diversity.
We need a new approach, Oxford must be re-opened, made friendlier, its unique charm restored.
Tens of thousands of visitors are put off by high parking charges and traffic wardens persecuting motorists for 98 hours a week, a UK record.
Just as the M40 opened Banbury to new prosperity, the OTS has closed Oxford. Too many promises have been broken.
It is time for councillors to stop pretending that this costly fiasco has been a success. We now need urgent action to rescue Oxford."
ROX demands :
Ø A balanced transport policy providing easier movement within the city and which is less anti-motorist. Ø A brighter, cleaner, attractive city centre able to retain a diverse appeal.
Ø Welcoming signs to Oxford, and helpful signage within the city.
Ø The restoration of short term on-street parking in key areas.
Ø Lower parking charges, and the scrapping of evening and Sunday charges.
Ø The re-opening of Broad Street.
Ø The re-examination of the closure of the High Street to general traffic.
Ø Improved security at Park and Ride sites, better services with a single charge.
Ø Better arrangements for tourist coaches and coach/rail visitors to the city.
Ø Better bus stop locations and shelters.
Ø An independent Public Inquiry to find a new consensus for a better Oxford.
Notes to Editors For further information please call : Roger Rosewell - 01865 300320/mobile 07747 774228 Graham Jones - 01865 513243/ mobile 0771 2384839 Rescue Oxford (ROX) was formed in November 1999 and is supported by many well known retailers in the city. ROX is the only organisation which regularly surveys retailers across the city. The City Council monitors the results of 9 stores : the County Council, none. The first ROX survey showed that 86.8% of retailers said that the OTS was damaging the city's commercial vitality and putting people off from visiting Oxford. Thirteen of the stores who participated in that survey have since closed or are under new ownership.
OXFORD BUSINESS SURVEY (RETAIL) results by W E N N T O W N S E N D
Just over a year ago we were commissioned to produce the first authoritative survey on the impact of the Oxford Transport Strategy (OTS) on the city's commercial and economic life. This reported widespread concerns about the damaging effects of the scheme on many businesses. In November 2000 we carried out a second, follow up survey, concentrating on city centre retailers. Our aim was to send questionnaires to the same 144 retailers who participated in the first survey. However, thirteen of those respondents had either closed or had experienced changes of ownership. In all we received 119 replies. This compares to the City Council's quarterly survey of 9 retailers and the County Council's monitoring of none. An overwhelming majority of traders said that there had been no recovery since November 1999, with 66% reporting reduced turnover since the introduction of the OTS and almost 80% saying that fewer shoppers were visiting their store. These figures are particularly disappointing given the UK's economic prosperity, Oxford's low unemployment rates, and nationwide retail trends. D Pluck 26th January, 2001
W E N N T O W N S E N D CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS
The Overall Findings
The results of the survey show that many Oxford businesses are still being badly affected by the OTS.
· Nearly 66% said that their businesses were still below pre OTS trading levels · Just over half (51%) said that trading revenues were still falling · Almost 80% said that fewer shoppers were visiting their stores
· Although difficulties were reported by traders of all sizes in all locations, they were proportionately greater in the secondary areas or locations where parking was not easily available - e.g. long stretches of the High, Broad Street, George Street, Park End Street, Turl Street, and the Covered Market.
· Of those (92%) offering explanations for these results, the main reasons provided were : · 72% that it was too difficult to get into the city centre; · 60% that the parking charges were too high;
· 59% that Park and Ride was not convenient for everyone;
· Only 10% of stores said that "people were getting used to the OTS".
· While most retailers said that Weekday and Saturday shopper numbers had fallen, Sunday trading results were less clear. Among the stores we surveyed who opened on Sundays, there was an equal divide between those showing increased, and those reporting lower shopper numbers.
· 50 % of respondents said that access for deliveries and collections had worsened: only 7% said that they had been improved Retailers were asked for their views about trends in the city. Many felt that they were losing customers, especially busy or high spending car borne shoppers, to other centres. Our attention was drawn to remarks of the Chairman of the City Council's Planning Committee in a local newspaper suggesting that Oxford may be losing £50 million a year to other shopping centres. Many retailers reported patchy trading. There was disappointment from some multiples about the failure to refurbish Cornmarket and the lack of progress towards the pedestrianisation of Queen Street. Some stores reported reduced demand for bulkier items and said that they no longer sold such stock. 19% of retailers criticised the "shopping offer" in the city drawing attention to the loss of retail outlets in some streets and the growth of outlets primarily serving the day time population or short stay tourists rather than appealing to shoppers from elsewhere.
What Should Be Done ?
When asked what steps should be undertaken by the local authorities to revitalise the city, retailers called for :
Parking 111 comments were received on this, with most wanting cheaper and more on and off street parking facilities across the city. More flexible times and an end to evening parking charges were requested.
43 comments were received, most wanting easier access to the city centre and its periphery for visitors and deliveries. There were calls for the reopening of the High to day time traffic and support for the same in Broad Street.
35 comments were received, most relating to the Park and Ride. Suggestions included improved security at the park and ride sites together with cheaper and more frequent services. Several respondents thought that the park and ride service should be free. Others felt that the main stopping points for buses in the centre needed to be rethought and that normal services from surrounding areas had to be improved. Bus shelters and better routing were also suggested.
Pedestrianisation and City Centre Environment
27 comments were received requesting a cleaner, more attractive and friendlier centre, particularly for families and in the evenings. Suggestions included landscaping, seating and new public facilities. Pedestrianisation of Queen Street and George Street was also suggested by several.
More Cooperative and Understanding Local Authorities
24 comments were received relating to the role of the City and County Councils, with most wanting them to be less anti-car and to show a greater understanding of business needs in the city.
Better Shops and Good Promotion of City Centre
17 comments on the need for better quality and more varied shops supported by good promotion campaigns of the city centre.
11 comments asking for clearer signing for visitors to, and within, Oxford.
Background information :
The participants in the survey were spread across the city centre and its periphery.
Locations included the following areas and neighbouring streets :
Clarendon Centre, Cornmarket Street, Queen Street, Westgate, High Street, St Aldates, St Ebbes, Broad Street, Turl Street, George Street, Gloucester Green, Magdalen Street, New Inn Hall Street, Park End Street, Abingdon Road, Botley Road, Little Clarendon Street, North Parade and St. Clements.
Type of retail outlet :
Department stores 3 Ladies', men's, children's and general fashion 21 Food and drink 11 Gift shops/tourist shops 10 Bookshops/stationers/greeting cards/music & video 10 Shoe shops 7 Furniture/furnishings/hardware/household goods 6 Toys/games/pastimes 6 Health products/cosmetics 5 Electrical/photographic 5 Antiques 5 Jewellers/silversmiths and goldsmiths 5 Art galleries/auction houses 4 Printers 4 Hairdressers 3 Motor and cycle services 3 Miscellaneous e.g. opticians, sports shops 12
Over 50 of the shops taking part were from multiple chains, including 6 local independent chains of less than 5 outlets; the remainder being single store operations.
449 of 983 Businesses, Colleges and key service providers replied to the 128 separate questions, which is a good response. Some were reluctant to commit themselves as they felt the authorities might pick on them. Results of other surveys covering different activities will be released later. An organisation to 'rescue' our city ('ROX') is to be set up.
Anyone who wishes to comment is invited to contact Deborah Pluck on 559900.
The First Annual Business Survey 1999.
THE FINDINGS - A SUMMARY
The Strategy is costing at least £1 million a month in lost business, it is deterring large numbers of shoppers from coming to Oxford and is causing some of the smaller specialist shops to close down.
87.5% of retailers said the strategy was damaging the economic and commercial vitality of the city, a view endorsed by 73.3% of restaurateurs and 76.8 of all respondents.
For retailers - of the 144 respondents, 81 (56%) reported significant reductions in turnover; one in six complained of turnover shortfalls in excess of 30%.
The most commonly occurring loss was in the 15 - 30% range. Some respondents indicated they were on the verge of closure.
Although areas of the city around the High Street, St. Clements, Park End St, the Covered Market, Broad St. and Turl St. reported particularly acute dificulties, problems were also reported in Little Clarendon St., George St., Queen St. and Cornmarket. Overall - 80% were dissatisfied with the Strategy; 61% wanted it amended significantly and a further 21% wanted it scrapped entirely.
17% wanted to retain the present scheme.
69% complained of inadequate consultation before the introduction of the scheme. 60% said the Councils were either unhelpful or very unhelpful.
1% of businesses thought the Councils were very helpful. There was a distinct lack of confidence about the future.
Over 50% said they thought the problems caused by the Strategy would actually worsen.
POINTS BROUGHT UP AT THE MEETING
The Parking Contract, which affects the public significantly, does not appear to have been published. Councillor Powerl (a County Councillor) said he had managed to obtain a copy from the County Solicitor. The Company controlling parking would be penalised if they issued less than thirty thousand parking tickets a year and their wardens had a payment incentive to issue tickets. They patrolled from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day except Christmas Day. 'Naughty' cars were sometimes towed away as in London.
It appears no work was done on the possible economic effect of the Strategy prior to its introduction.
The County Council, who were primarily responsible for the Scheme, had applied for a Government Grant of £2 million to extend it.
80% of the 60% of the Council staff who travel to work by car had free use of three central car parks (see also reports in 'Top Gear' and the 'Daily Mirror').
The fuel bill alone for the diversionary routes is estimated to cost an extra £20 million a year.
SOME POSITIVE SUGGESTIONS
Let the people put forward and vote on their own views at the elections in May.
Move the Councils, Law Courts and other organisations that require ease of access but don't need to be in the centre to one of the Park and Rides. Works well in Leicester.
Underground car parks (e.g. St. Giles). Built, paid for and run privately but possibly paying rent to the City. Works well in the Swiss capital, Berne - no traffic problems there.
Underground railway. Cheaper than digging up the roads so frequently. Works well in New York. The £20 million cost of building the Strategy could have gone some way towards it.
The present railway borders the Northern and Southern Park and Rides - run a train shuttle between them, stopping at the station.
John Rose 9/12/99
A version of the article published in 'Daily Information' of the same date.
Issue no. 6892
Embargoed 7.00am. Thursday - December 16th
Health professionals warn: OTS is worsening patient care.
A survey of health professionals caring for over 88,000 patients - a third of Oxford's population - today claims that patient care is being damaged by OTS.
Local accountants Wenn Townsend conducted the survey of 21 different medical practices as part of a major OTS survey in November. The survey covered 13 different groups of health professionals including GP's, dentists, physiotherapists and many others. According to the survey:
OTS is worsening patient care (58.3%)
Disrupting surgery efficiency (61.1 % )
Causing patients to miss appointments or arrive late for appointments (83.3%)
Provoking 'incidents' in surgeries (33.3%) Worsening travel to emergency response times (30.4%). None found it better
Increasing stress and frustration levels (61.1%)
Adding to journey times to the Headington hospitals and patient visits (52%)
75 % of the health professionals surveyed wanted OTS scrapped or to be significantly amended.
30.8 % of applicable practices reported receiving parking penalties while on call.
Commenting on the results ROX spokesman, Roger Rosewell, said: "These are alarming results. They effect every family in Oxford. It's not just businesses who are suffering by this experiment that's gone wrong. Standards of health care are also threatened. If doctors' surgeries are disrupted, patients miss appointments, doctors' time is wasted, patients are put off seeking the help they need because of the problems caused by OTS, this is grim news for everyone."
"We need a public independent review of OTS with less wishful thinking and self-delusion. We want a balanced transport strategy which works for the people of the city not a failed experiment that is sliding into shambles."
For further information contact:
ROX - (01865) 513243