SMMT urges Islington and Hackney councils to reconsider plans to boost air quality via parking levies for diesel cars
Proposals to introduce additional parking permit levies for diesel vehicles in Hackney and Islington have been branded an “unfair demonisation of dieselâ€? by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Islington council’s executive last week (January 15) approved plans to levy a £96 annual surcharge – the equivalent of £1.85 a week – for resident parking permits in the borough for diesel vehicles from April 2015 in order to “help improve air quality in the boroughâ€?.
The diesel permit charge will be in place until the introduction of the London Mayor’s proposed ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) from 2020, which includes its separate limits on diesel car use in central London, according to Islington council.
Meanwhile, Hackney council is also planning to review its parking permits, which could see drivers of the most polluting diesel cars being charged £50 each year, should the proposals gain approval at a cabinet meeting on Monday (January 26).
Elsewhere in London, Camden diesel drivers currently pay an extra £10.30 each year for parking permits, while Kensington and Chelsea drivers of older diesel vehicles pay an annual £18 charge.
However, SMMT is “seeking dialogueâ€? with both Hackney and Islington over the plans, having already written to Islington councillors urging them to reconsider the £96 annual levy on diesel owners who bought their cars “in good faithâ€?.
The motor industry association said it was committed to engaging with local and national government to improve air quality in the UK – it is set to host a an air quality debate event in London next month (see airqualitynews.com story) – but that “blanket policies which fail to distinguish between modern clean vehicles and decades-old technologies are not the solutionâ€?.
Chief executive of SMMT, Mike Hawes, criticised the councils for the “unreasonableâ€? proposals which demonstrate a “concerning lack of understanding about the huge technological advances that are already making diesel vehicles cleanerâ€?.
Mr Hawes said: “Vehicle manufacturers, which employ more than 150,000 people in the UK, have invested more than £1 billion in this country and abroad to reduce diesel emissions. All diesel cars built since 2010 have filters which capture more than 99% of particulates, and the new Euro-6 standard will all but eliminate diesel particulates and dramatically reduce NOx emissions.
“This surcharge is another example of the unfair demonisation of diesel. It will only serve to discourage take up of the latest, cleanest cars and threaten further air quality improvements and CO2 reduction, not to mention putting jobs in London and elsewhere in the UK at risk.â€?
According to Islington borough council, taxis and vehicles used by carers and tradespeople for work will be exempt from the diesel parking charge, which is part of its sustainable transport strategy. The council has also introduced spot fines for engine-idling drivers at pollution hotspots as part of this strategy (see airqualitynews.com story).
However, the council said the charge had been approved for other diesel vehicles as these can emit up to four times more nitrogen dioxide and 20 times more particulate matter compared to petrol vehicles, and that these pollutants have been linked to a range of public health problems.
Islington’s executive member for the environment, councillor Claudia Webbe, said: “We’re committed to improving air quality in Islington, and diesel fumes are a major cause of air pollution.
“Pollutants in diesel exhausts have been linked to heart and lung diseases, which are major causes of serious and long-term health issues and even death in Islington, and the surcharge will encourage a move away from diesel.
“We also need the Mayor of London to do his share, especially replacing high-polluting buses and tackling polluting lorries that travel through our streets.â€?
In Hackney, the proposed parking levies will be rolled out over three years (2015-2017), with vehicles charged according to their emissions instead of engine size, with the most polluting vehicles being charged more. The changes proposed are:
However, if approved next week, there will be no changes to the price of permits in 2015 in order to “help prepare vehicle owners for these proposed changesâ€?.
In 2016, renewed permits will then be subject to a 50% increase of the proposed charge difference, with full charges to come into effect in 2017.
Hackney cabinet member for neighbourhoods, councillor Feryal Dermirci, said: “The proposed changes in permit charging are a clear example of how seriously we are taking the challenge of reducing the high levels of pollution in Hackney.
“It’s a sobering thought that 4,300 deaths per year in London are linked to pollution, and it’s of great concern that some areas of Hackney are failing to meet EU air quality levels. We hope that these measures, the growth in sustainable transport and car hire schemes such as DriveNow, Zip Car and City Car Club will help to make Hackney a cleaner, healthier place to live and work.â€?