No plan for a “climate lockdown” in Oxford city in England.

No plan for a “climate lockdown” in Oxford city in England.

What was claimed

The verdict

An English county council plans to enforce a “climate lockdown” in 2024, preventing residents from leaving their neighbourhoods without permission from the local authority.

False. Oxfordshire County Council will trial “traffic filters” designed to reduce acute congestion in Oxford city by restricting private vehicles without a permit or an exemption from using some roads when the filters are operating.

By Renee Davidson

Sky News Australia commentator Rowan Dean has broadcast false information about an English county council's plan to reduce traffic congestion, labelling it a “climate lockdown" that “offers a terrifying glimpse” of the shape of things to come in Australia under a net-zero future proposed by Labor governments.

The Sky News Australia segment posted on Facebook on December 7, 2022 with the title “Prepare for 'climate lockdowns': Rogue British council wants to strip you of freedoms”. The segment has been viewed almost one million times. 

In the segment, Mr Dean repeats false claims made in an article published online by Vision News, a self-described independent news website, on November 30, 2022. 

Sky News commentator Rowan Dean on TV with caption "We face a dangerous threat to freedom" Sky News commentator Rowan Dean

The “About Us” section on the Vision News website is blank, though under its “Community Standards” section it lists its "protected groups" as White British, White English, Women, Male, Heterosexual Adults, Christians and Jews or Jewish descendants. It also has published articles stating that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax. 

The Vision News article falsely claims that Oxfordshire County Council plans to trial a “climate lockdown” that would confine residents to one of six zones in the city of Oxford and prevent residents from leaving them without permission from the local authority.

Citing the Vision News article, Sky News’s Mr Dean said in the segment: “Oxford County Council are planning on embarking in 2024, not on COVID lockdowns but, as I and many others have long predicted, climate lockdowns.” 

Mr Dean then turns to an article published in the Oxford Mail on October 25. The article reproduces excerpts from a Sunday Times interview two days earlier with Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County Council's cabinet member for travel and development strategy, in regard to the traffic scheme.

Mr Dean reads out a section paraphrasing Mr Enright as saying: “roadblocks stopping most motorists from driving through Oxford City Centre will divide the city into six, 15 minute neighbourhoods”.

Mr Dean then tells viewers: “The Oxfordshire Council will place electronic gates on key roads in and out of the city confining residents to their own neighbourhoods.” 

He calls the scheme “a communist-style activity” and tells viewers that the Oxford “traffic filters” trial “offers a terrifying glimpse into what the future, the net-zero future, could well look like under the climate renewables tyranny” of Labor governments.

Comments posted by Facebook users suggest many believe the claim of a “climate lockdown”, with some citing it as proof that the climate crisis does not exist, and others calling for people to take a stand against governments who approve such measures. 

But the claims are false. The Oxfordshire County Council will conduct a trial of  electronic traffic filters in an attempt to manage acute traffic congestion across Oxford city. The filter system aims to reduce the number of unnecessary journeys of private vehicles and free up space for walking, cycling, and public and shared transport.

The council agreed on November 29, 2022, that the trial should go ahead in 2024 for a minimum of six months and would include further public consultation. The announcement of that decision has caused a spike in misinformation being spread on social media about an impending “climate lockdown” of the city. 

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council rejected claims of a climate lockdown in a joint statement issued on December 7, 2022. 

“Oxfordshire County Council, supported by Oxford City Council, is proposing to install traffic filters as a trial on six roads in Oxford,” the joint statement said. “The trial is currently planned to begin in 2024.

“The traffic filters are not physical barriers of any kind and will not be physical road closures. They are simply traffic cameras that can read number plates.”

According to the statement, residents of Oxford can apply for a permit that allows them to drive through the traffic filters up to 100 days a year without penalty. Drivers without a permit will face a fine, but some exemptions apply, including for carers and health workers, disabled drivers, emergency services, taxis, buses and businesses. 

Under the traffic-filter scheme, residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time, although drivers of private cars may need to take an alternative route to avoid the traffic filters when they are operating, the statement said.

Anyone can go through the filters at any time by bus, bike, taxi, scooter or walking. 

“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,” the statement said.

Furthermore, the city and county emphasised in their statement that residents would not be confined to their neighbourhoods, noting that the “15-minute neighbourhoods” were not related to their traffic filters system. 

“The misinformation online has linked the traffic filters to the 15-minute neighbourhoods proposal in the city council’s Local Plan 2040, suggesting that the traffic filters will be used to confine people to their local area,” the statement said. “This is not true”.

The 15-minute neighbourhood was proposed separately by Oxford City Council on October 3, 2022, as an eco-friendly planning concept that would allow residents to meet their daily needs, such as accessing grocery stores, public transport, and services, within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their home. 

Similar claims about Oxfordshire imposing a “climate lockdown” have been fact checked by Reuters and AP News and found to be false.


The verdict

False. Oxfordshire County Council is not planning to impose a “climate lockdown”in 2024. Rather, it will trial a “traffic filters” system to reduce traffic congestion in Oxford city, restricting private vehicles from using some roads without a permit when the filters are operating. The 15-minute neighbourhood is an unrelated eco-friendly planning concept proposed separately by Oxford city council.

19 December 2022


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