TEACHERS leaving Oxford's schools has been raised as a possible issue with proposals for new congestion-busting measures.

Oxfordshire County Council's cabinet discussed draft plans for the Connecting Oxford scheme at its meeting on Tuesday.

At the meeting, the council's Labour group leader, Liz Brighouse, raised concerns that charging schools in the 'eastern arc' of the city for their parking spaces might exacerbate the recruitment crisis, if the schools ended up passing on the costs to teachers.

Other public speakers at the meeting praised the Connecting Oxford plans for the benefits they could provide for cyclists and pedestrians, and even the opportunity to 'hear the birds singing' in the city.

Connecting Oxford includes plans for more bus gates on main roads through the city, where vehicles other than buses would be fined if they drive through during peak hours.

An existing camera-enforced bus gate in High Street allows access to buses, taxis and emergency vehicles only between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

The scheme also includes a Workplace Parking Levy, which would see employers in the eastern arc of Oxford outside of the city centre having to pay up to £600 per parking space they have for their workers.

The charge would be imposed on about half of the city's 18,000 parking spaces.

The eastern arc has been described as the area outside the city centre which links parts of north Oxford, Marston, Headington and Cowley.

The WPL would only apply to employers with more than 11 parking spaces, and under draft proposals, schools and hospitals are not exempt from having to pay.

At the meeting, the cabinet agreed the draft plans should now move forward for more detailed work.

But Labour group leader Liz Brighouse addressed cabinet to raise concerns about how schools in the east of the city would pay the levy.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Brighouse said: "My worries are, if you look at the map of Connecting Oxford it is only affecting one area of the city.

"It is affecting schools which are struggling with recruitment of teachers and where there are some vulnerable learners."

Ms Brighouse said it was currently unclear whether these schools would be able to pay the levy, or if due to small budgets, they would pass the costs on to teachers instead.

She added: "My worry is that it is not equitable as it is affecting schools in the eastern arc where there is already a problem and creating an internal market."

At the end of last year, Oxford University argued the WPL should apply to the entire city, not just the centre.

Money gathered from the WPL would be used to fund new bus services in the areas of the city it covers, to help people who would usually drive to those areas with another means of getting to work.

During the meeting, cabinet members also heard from public speakers who favoured the Connecting Oxford plans.

Sushila Dhall of the Oxford Pedestrians Association welcomed the proposals, and said the streets of Oxford were currently dirty, with overcrowded and overly narrow pavements.

She added the views of pedestrians in the city were currently obscured, leaving them unable to see the historic buildings in the centre, while noise from vehicle engines prevented people from hearing the sounds of birds nesting on roofs.

Ms Dhall said: "We are more than through roads. We are a unique, beautiful, historic city. Please support Connecting Oxford in its entirety and realise our true riches."

Two speakers representing local cyclists, Alison Hill of Cyclox, and Robin Tucker of Oxfordshire Cycling Network, also gave their backing to the plans.

They both said Connecting Oxford would benefit cyclists using the city's roads in the future.

When endorsing the plans, cabinet members agreed Connecting Oxford was about changing the travel habits of people in the city.

Cabinet member for the Cherwell Partnership, Ian Corkin said: "It is something we are going to have to come to: helping people get over the hump of scepticism about not using their cars.

"I think we have to be not just bold but brave to implement this."

Connecting Oxford is a partnership scheme between the city council and county council.

As the Oxford Times went to print, Oxford City Council was also due to discuss whether to endorse the draft plans.