Councils due to submit air quality plans to Government

Air quality consultations are coming to a close in three cities – Derby, Nottingham, and Southampton – mandated by Government to consider introducing clean air zones. The cities (along with Leeds and Birmingham), have pollution levels needing the most urgent action outside of London.

The capital will introduce its ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) next year, but these five cities have to submit final air quality plans to the Department for Environment, Food and Agriculture (Defra) for approval in the next few weeks.

Leeds and Birmingham consultations have already closed, with Leeds favouring a charging system for non-compliant buses, coaches, HGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles (pre-Euro 6 diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol). If approved by Government, the proposed scheme would come into force in 2020.

Leeds City Council revised the boundary of its clean air zone (CAZ) after listening to the concerns of businesses and fleet operators.

Council representatives met with members of the fleet industry at a roundtable, jointly hosted by British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), Energy Saving Trust (EST), fleet operators’ association ACFO and Fleet News.

In Birmingham, the council has set out plans for a zone covering just the area inside its Middle Ring Road – smaller than the city-wide zone that had been feared by those responsible for deliveries to businesses within the centre of the city.

However, its proposals will cover all vehicles. Buses, coaches and HGVs that meet Euro VI emissions standards, and cars, vans and taxis that meet Euro 6 (diesel) or Euro 4 (petrol) emissions standards would be exempt from any charges or restrictions.

Vans as recent as three years old will be charged under the proposals and fleets could find many grey fleet drivers affected.

Southampton City Council is seeking views on a plan to charge buses, coaches, HGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles that do not meet the latest emissions standards, with the consultation closing on September 13.

In contrast, Derby City Council’s favoured option involves re-routing traffic away from pollution hotspots and creating incentives to replace older, more polluting vehicles and support for sustainable travel, rather than introducing charges. Its consultation closes on September 24.

Nottingham City Council is also aiming to avoid introducing a CAZ thanks to a combination of stricter emissions requirements for taxis and modifying city buses so they are more environmentally friendly.

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