Small businesses could be ‘disproportionately’ 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 ‘Clearing the Air’ 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 – and must be shared out ‘equitably and fairly’ as much as possible.
Within the paper, FSB acknowledges that in urban areas, small business activities contribute ‘significantly’ to air pollution and will play an ‘important role in its remediation’.
But, FSB has warned that as government makes further investment and policy decisions, it must “seek to understand the relationships that many small businesses have with their vehicles” which it claims are “very different to those of domestic households and larger industry”.
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: “For countless small businesses, the vehicle they use and rely on plays a vital role in their business activities – whether it’s transporting people or good and services.
“Smaller 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.”
He added that local authority plans should seek to distinguish between ‘vital and non vital’ journeys and provide clarity on what alternative forms of transport are available.
He said: “We certainly don’t want vital small businesses discouraged from operating in our city centres.
“The diversity of the small business community, and the challenges they face in tackling local air pollution, means that there is not a ‘silver-bullet’ 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.”