Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have published final draft proposals for Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ), to be introduced in December 2020.
The plans revolve around a new ‘Red Zone’ which covers a small area of the city centre and will apply to all non-compliant vehicles, including private cars, who will face a £10 charge to enter the zone between 7am and 7pm.
There would be exemptions for businesses registered in the Red Zone until December 2024, followed by a discount until December 2030.
They have also proposed a ‘Green Zone’ covering the rest of the city centre from 2021 or 2022, 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 (ULEZ) standards.
Transport is the most significant source of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) in Oxford, accounting for 75% of emissions, with 56% of this estimated to come from buses in the city centre.
Data from the city’s 74 air pollution monitoring stations in 2018 found that four locations in Oxford have NO2 levels above the legal limit, including St. Clements Street and High Street.
Buses and Oxford licensed Hackney Carriages which drive within the planned ZEZ have already agreed timelines for zero-emission fleets across Oxford and will not be subject to charges.
Both councils have now launched an informal consultation on a draft final scheme for the ‘Red Zone’, including the proposed charging and enforcement arrangements, which could begin in December 2020.
The ‘Red Zone’ will go to formal consultation in March, with both councils making a formal decision on implementation in the spring, which could mean the scheme coming into effect in December 2020.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) described the ZEZ as ‘absurd’.
RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett said: ‘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.’
Cllr Tom Hayes, cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council said: ‘2020 will be a crunch year for our climate and all our futures. We face a climate emergency that threatens all of our futures.
‘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.’
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