Small businesses could be â€˜disproportionatelyâ€™ impacted by the introduction of clean air zones in towns and cities in England, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned.
The organisation, which represents around 160,000 small businesses and self-employed people across the UK, has published a policy paper â€˜Clearing the Airâ€™ this week (14 November) calling for support for its members in adapting to central and local government policies aimed at improving air quality.
FSB has claimed that some proposals to tackle air pollution, particularly the introduction of clean air zones in some areas, may increase costs for businesses â€“ and must be shared out â€˜equitably and fairlyâ€™ as much as possible.
Within the paper, FSB acknowledges that in urban areas, small business activities contribute â€˜significantlyâ€™ to air pollution and will play an â€˜important role in its remediationâ€™.
But, FSB has warned that as government makes further investment and policy decisions, it must â€œseek to understand the relationships that many small businesses have with their vehiclesâ€ which it claims are â€œvery different to those of domestic households and larger industryâ€.
The report calls for greater support for smaller firms to mitigate the impact of CAZs including extending a diesel scrappage scheme to cover all small businesses based in, or frequently operating within, any forthcoming zones.
Any cash surpluses raised from charging CAZs should be ring-fenced for local road improvement and air quality initiatives, FSB added.
Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: â€œFor countless small businesses, the vehicle they use and rely on plays a vital role in their business activities – whether itâ€™s transporting people or good and services.
â€œSmaller firms recognise the role they can play in reducing air pollution and many are already doing their bit. To enable more businesses to do so, however, the path to reaching air quality targets must be affordable, achievable and fair. Firms are already struggling with the soaring costs of running a business today, and it is simply not fair to them, or to the benefit of the wider economy to, suddenly burden them with substantial additional costs associated with improving air quality.â€
He added that local authority plans should seek to distinguish between â€˜vital and non vitalâ€™ journeys and provide clarity on what alternative forms of transport are available.
He said: â€œWe certainly donâ€™t want vital small businesses discouraged from operating in our city centres.
â€œThe diversity of the small business community, and the challenges they face in tackling local air pollution, means that there is not a â€˜silver-bulletâ€™ solution. Any measures aimed at improving air quality must acknowledge these differences and provide a range of support that empowers all small businesses to play their part.â€