Oxford residents won’t require a permit to ‘leave their district’

28 February 2023
What was claimed

Oxford residents will require a permit to leave their district more than 100 times in a year from 2024, and face being fined if they don’t have one.

Our verdict

This isn’t true. Residents will still be able to travel anywhere without a permit, though Oxfordshire County Council’s traffic filter plan will require many drivers to have a permit in order to use six major roads across the city.

A video posted to Facebook and viewed thousands of times claims that Oxford City Council is going to require residents to obtain a permit if they want to leave their “district” more than 100 times a year. 

The speaker in the clip, which was originally posted to TikTok, goes on to suggest that people could be fined for leaving their local area in the future if they’ve failed to “seek permission”. 

The claims made in this post apparently relate to Oxfordshire County Council’s new trial traffic filter scheme and Oxford City Council’s proposed “15 minute neighbourhoods” plan, which the council says is designed to ensure people have access to facilities such as shops, healthcare and parks within a 15 minute walk from their home. 

It isn’t true that Oxford residents will have to apply for permits if they want to leave their local area more than 100 times per year. The new traffic plans do include a permit scheme for cars in certain areas, but it doesn’t prevent people from leaving their local area, and the planned scheme will only affect some residents' ability to travel by car.In the video shared on Facebook, the speaker doesn’t say that the permit restriction only applies to those travelling by car. A partial screengrab from the council website explaining how the traffic filters work is briefly shown towards the end of the video, but appears for less than five seconds. 

Oxford’s traffic plans have proved controversial, with thousands of local residents saying they oppose the scheme, criticism from some local businesses and large protests in recent weeks. The plans have also become the subject of widespread misinformation online, and we have fact checked claims about them a number of times before

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How will the traffic filter trial work? 

It was announced in November that six traffic filters would be introduced in Oxford for a trial period of at least six months.  

The filters are not physical barriers, but rather traffic cameras on certain roads in the city. Many drivers will be issued with fines if they pass through these filters at specific times without a permit. 

On a page published to counter misinformation about the scheme, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council said: “Residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time—but in the future, during certain times of the day, you may need to take a different route (e.g. using the ring road) if you want to travel by car.”

Buses and taxis are free to pass through the filters at any time, with exemptions in place for blue badge holders, emergency services, health workers and care workers, as well as people receiving regular hospital treatment. People will be able to walk and cycle freely through the filters at all times. 

Oxford residents (as well people living in some of the surrounding villages) will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filters on up to 100 days a year. Residents from the rest of Oxfordshire will be able to get permits for 25 days of the year. 

The councils have said: “The reason we have proposed these changes is because—as everyone who lives and visits Oxford knows—the city has had awful congestion for decades. This is damaging both our economy and our environment, and is making the bus network unviable. 

“Our aim is to reduce traffic levels and congestion, make the buses faster and more reliable, and make cycling and walking safer and more pleasant.” 

Full Fact has attempted to contact the owner of the Tiktok account which appears to have first posted the video, but had not had a response at the time of publication.

Image courtesy of Sidharth Bhatia

Correction 6 March 2023

This article has been corrected to clarify that the proposed 15 minute neighbourhood plan is being considered by Oxford City Council, not Oxfordshire County Council.

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