The final draft proposals for the UK’s first city centre Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) have been published as part of a drive to reduce Oxford’s ‘toxic air pollution levels’.
Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council say the ZEZ aims to reduce Oxford’s air pollution levels, tackle the climate emergency, and improve the health of those living, working, and visiting in Oxford and beyond.
The proposals include a Red Zone in a small section of the city centre. Zero emission vehicles would be able to drive here free of charge, but non-compliant vehicles would have to pay £10 per day.
The Red Zone would come into force in December 2020 for all vehicles.
All blue badge holders entering the zone would get a discount until December 2024. Businesses would also be exempt until December 2024, followed by a discount until December 2030. There will be a 90% discount for residents living in the zone until December 2030.
Buses and Oxford licensed Hackney Carriages which drive within the planned Zero Emission have already agreed timelines for zero emissions fleets across Oxford and will not be subject to charges.
The two councils are also proposing the creation of a Green Zone covering the rest of the city centre in 2021/22, which would be accessed for free by zero emission vehicles and with discounted charges for vehicles which comply with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards.
‘2020 will be a crunch year for our climate and all our futures. We face a climate emergency that threatens all of our futures,’ said Cllr Tom Hayes, cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council.
‘For the sake of everyone in Oxford, and especially our children’s lungs, we must clean up the lethal air we’re all breathing. Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone will come into force this year and help make 2020 the year we make a game-changing difference.’
Cllr Yvonne Constance, cabinet member for Environment, Oxfordshire County Council, commented: ‘I am really pleased that at the start of the New Year we are on track to introduce the Zero Emission Zone in Oxford by the end of 2020.
‘Not only will this project make a huge difference to the quality of life and health of people living and working in the city centre, we are showing that it is possible as we start to respond seriously to the climate emergency. This is a great way to start an important decade of climate action.’
An informal consultation on the Red Zone will be open from Tuesday 7 January – Friday 31 January.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has criticised the proposals describing them as 'absurd' and 'another tax on businesses'.
RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: 'If council chiefs are serious about slashing emissions they need to focus on improving road infrastructure. Current plans mean that consumers will face higher prices in the shops as hard-pressed firms have no choice but to pass on the extra costs.
'Imposing a scheme where even the cleanest, Euro VI trucks will be hit with charges is absurd.
'The councils have offered no evidence to show how these measures will improve air quality so we can only conclude this is all about showcasing their green credentials instead of making the tough choices to tackle emissions.
'These are poorly conceived ideas which will leave Oxford’s communities footing the bill with price hikes in the high street if they go ahead.'