Cafes and restaurants in North Parade Avenue in north Oxford will be given outdoor seating areas following news that the area is to be pedestrianised to support hospitality businesses in the area.
Work started today to provide an outdoor seating area for seven businesses: Barefoot Bakery, Burrito Valley, Jee Saheb, Little Venice Pizzeria, The Rabbit Hole, The Rose & Crown, and Viny’s Café.
Fraser Jones from Barefoot Bakery welcomed the move, and said: “This is excellent news. Especially with COVID restrictions it will allow many of the businesses to maximise their trade. It’s a shame the weather won’t be on our side for the trial period but I’m definitely looking forward to the lovely alfresco relaxed feeling there will be on the street.
It is already a vibrant beautiful area but this will add to it massively.”
The option for outdoor seating will be available from 10am to 6pm between Sunday and Thursday, and from 10am to 7pm on Friday and Saturday.
The road will be closed using an Experimental Road Traffic Order, and new gates will be installed to protect the central seating area.
Additional space will be created for the outdoor seating area by moving 11 bike racks further west along the road to replace two car parking spaces.
The road closure will initially be run as a trial for up to 18 months under the experimental order, with a six-month consultation period at the start. If successful, an application could be submitted to make it permanent.
The pedestrianisation, which has been supported by Oxfordshire County Council and local councillors, was requested by the North Parade Residents and Traders Association.
Oxford City Council has supported dozens of cafes, restaurants and bars across Oxford by pedestrianising or part-pedestrianising roads to create space for outdoor dining, including Cornmarket Street, St Michael’s Street, Broad Street, Dawson Street and Observatory Street. George Street was also part-pedestrianised during August and September as a trial.
The projects have aimed to support hospitality businesses that needed additional space to be able to operate on a commercial basis while following social distancing guidelines and regulations.
At least four businesses told the City Council that they could not have opened after the coronavirus lockdown if it were not for the City Council providing the additional seating areas.
Others have said that having outside tables and chairs has been the difference between them being able to operate commercially and stay open, or having to close and lay off staff.
The City Council is working with a number of other businesses in the city centre and local shopping areas around Oxford on possible additions to the initiative, where the road and pavement layout, traffic conditions and potential impacts on others uses allow.
The majority of the pedestrianisation projects have been funded using the Government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund or the City Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy.
Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for City Centre, Covered Market and Culture, said: “Businesses and residents in North Parade approached us to pedestrianise the street to provide space for outdoor dining, and I am delighted that we have been able to make it happen.
“With coronavirus restricting the number of tables allowed inside, these outdoor dining spaces are invaluable for cafes, restaurants and bars across the city. We know that at least four businesses would not have opened following the summer lockdown without the City Council pedestrianising the road outside their business.”
Chris Williams, Chair of North Parade Residents & Traders Association, said: “For many years we have sought to pedestrianise our unique shopping parade for the benefit of residents and traders. And now, both the City and County Councils have backed up our proposal and brought together an exciting project. We are thrilled to welcome the wider community to safely enjoy our shops, cafes, restaurants and public houses.”
Councillor James Fry, who represents North ward, said: “North Parade has two pubs, one full service restaurant and six cafés/takeaways. It is wonderful that we have made it easier for small businesses to serve a larger number of customers. As the weather warms up, we should see the full benefit.”