EXCLUSIVE: Florence Pugh’s father is threatened with £2,500 fine as he goes to war with council over Oxford traffic-calming measures he says has wrecked business at his restaurants

  • Clinton Pugh, 64, has slammed the new traffic-calming measures in Oxford
  • He claimed to be ‘worried’ for his health amidst the ongoing council dispute

The father of actress Florence Pugh has been threatened with a £2,500 fine after putting up a sign opposing controversial traffic-calming measures in Oxford.

Clinton Pugh, 64, claims the so-called Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) policy is wrecking businesses and livelihoods in the university city where he owns three restaurants.

He voiced his opposition to the project last November by putting up a huge sign on the side of his restaurant Café Coco where Little Women star Florence, 27, once worked.

The sign described the removal of parking spaces and closure of roads to cars by installing bollards to encourage people to walk and cycle as ‘an ill thought out traffic experiment’.

Oxford City Council wrote to Clinton on January 13, stating that his sign was breaking planning rules as it had been erected without planning consent.

Father of Florence Pugh, Clinton (pictured left)  has slammed  the new traffic-calming measures in Oxford claiming that the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) policy is wrecking businesses

He was told that he could face enforcement action as ‘no advertisement consent had been sought’ and risked a fine of £2,500 if he did not remove it within 28 days by February 10.

But Clinton has defied council bosses by putting up a new banner over his sign, emblazoned with the words, ‘Censored!’, ‘So much for democracy!’ and ‘1984?’.

The businessman said that takings at his restaurants – Cafe Coco, Kazbar and Cafe Tarifa – had all plunged due to a fall in customers since the scheme was introduced last May.

All three businesses are on Cowley Road, Oxford, which is at the centre of the zone targeted by Oxfordshire County Council’s anti-traffic measures.

The LTNs have faced furious opposition since being introduced in Oxford last year with bollards being ripped out, run over and set on fire.

Wooden planter boxes cutting off streets have also been covered in graffiti and their plants pulled out due to anger at trade being stifled and drivers having to take long detours.

Clinton insists he is not against ‘a greener, cleaner Oxford’, but claims that the measures have gone too far by cutting off vital trade, leaving businesses fighting for their futures.

He said takings at Café Coco, which opened in 1992 and served band members from Radiohead and Supergrass, plunged by 25 per cent when road closures were introduced.

Clinton, 64, voiced his opposition to the project last November by putting up a huge sign on the side of his restaurant Café Coco where Little Women star Florence, 27, once worked

Oxford City Council wrote to Clinton on January 13, stating that his sign was breaking planning rules as it had been erected without planning consent

Clinton insisted that his sign and banner were ‘just telling the truth’ about how the environmental initiative was strangling businesses that depend on passing motorists.

He said: ‘I’m nearly 65 years of age and I could do without this stress.

‘The impact of closing the roads has meant that people just aren’t coming because they say it takes too long.

‘When this all happened, I decided to put a sign up on the side of the Cowley Road to let the general public know what was going on. All I’ve done is tell the truth.

‘But now they’re demanding I take it down, so in answer to that I put a strip on the bottom saying about 1984 censorship because I think it’s disgusting.

‘I’m upset, I’m tired, I’m worried for my health. I said to my friends and family during Covid it feels like I’m standing in front of a cliff waiting to be pushed.

‘And that’s exactly how I continue to feel. They’re just going to destroy my 31 years of hard work.’

Clinton still posts photos of his Hollywood starlet daughter helping out in his restaurants when she comes home.

Clinton insists he is not against ‘a greener, cleaner Oxford’, but claims that the measures have gone too far by cutting off vital trade

Pictured: Actresss Florence Pugh eating at Cafe Coco in Oxford where she used to work

His three other children – Game of Thrones actor Toby Sebastian, 31, actress and voice coach Arabella Gibbins, 37, and actress Rafaela Pugh, 19 – also all worked in his restaurants and went to school in the local area when they were growing up.

Now he faces having to sell his businesses – one of which he spent £450,000 to build – and potentially making a loss, despite decades of hard work.

Clinton who has had to postpone plans for retirement had to borrow money to pay wages to his 54 staff at Christmas.

It was also revealed in December that his famous daughter – nominated for an Oscar for her role in Little Women – had helped him financially over the last two years.

Florence Pugh’s siblings – Game of Thrones actor Toby Sebastian (pictured left), actress and voice coach Arabella Gibbins, and actress Rafaela Pugh – also all worked in Clinton’s restaurants

Clinton’s billboard stated: ‘Welcome to Cowley Road. Oxford’s most diverse and unique road, home to the largest group of independent businesses in the country.

‘It is here that Oxfordshire County Council decided to roll out their ill thought out traffic experiment, undemocratically installing LTNs (road closures) and removing car parking in May 2022.

‘Surprise Surprise: In a survey 95% of Cowley Road businesses said that footfall and turnover had dropped significantly since the LTNs were installed. They cannot survive without customers coming from other parts of the city and country.

‘Next to come, the final nail in the coffin; bus gates and the complete segregation of Oxford, dividing Oxford into six zones with total reliance on the ring road to get from A to B.

‘The County Council is pretending to listen, but this is shamefully a complete and utter lie.’

It added: ‘So much for democracy? Help us fight this arrogance.’

Clinton insisted that he had an advertising hoarding at the spot where he erected his sign for the past 30 years without any bother.

He added: ‘I’ve been fighting hard for the small independent businesses on the Cowley Road.

‘The little guys that daren’t say anything. They’re the ones I’m trying to protect.

‘I do see that climate change is having an effect. But they’re destroying people’s livelihoods and need to re-look at it.’

‘Yes I did have to borrow money from somebody to help pay my staff wages before Christmas.

Clinton said the council was ‘pretending to listen’, but this is ‘a complete and utter lie’

Oxford City Council said it took successful legal action against Clinton in 1995 in regards to a different advertisement on the  Café Coco venue

‘Cash flow has improved a bit since then but it’s still extremely painful and I don’t know how long I will survive.’

Oxford City Council said: ‘Following a complaint from a member of the public, Oxford City Council wrote to Mr Pugh, of Café Coco, on 13 January this year about the unauthorised advertisement that is displayed on the building.

‘Such an advertisement requires planning consent from the local authority. No consent has been sought for any advertisements on the side of this building.

‘Nor does the advertisement qualify for deemed consent, a condition that applies to certain types of advertisement that do not require consent from the council.

‘The city council has advised the owner that he was in breach of planning controls.

‘The city council previously took successful legal action in 1995 against Mr Pugh’s company following a complaint regarding an advertisement on Café Coco.’

Oxfordshire County Council added: ‘East Oxford LTNs have been introduced as a trial.

‘During the trial we have received and continue to receive a breadth of feedback including concerns and recommendations from residents, business owners and visitors to the city.

‘Although the online consultation on the east Oxford LTNs has now closed we encourage people to continue sharing their feedback with us.

‘Feedback and consultation responses will be taken into account when the council decides whether to continue with the east Oxford LTN area later this year.’

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