The city and county councils are beginning a six-week public consultation on the proposals
Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have put forward joint proposals to introduce a zero emission zone in Oxford city centre that would see historic reductions in air pollution.
It is believed that this would be the world’s first zero emission zone. Transport for London is planning to introduce the world’s first ultra-low emission zone in the UK capital in September 2020.
The zone proposals ban emitting vehicles from Oxford city centre in phases, starting with some vehicle types and a small number of streets in 2020 and, as vehicle technology develops, moves to all vehicle types across the whole city centre in 2035.
This would take air pollution levels in Oxford city centre down to near-background levels. For example in the city centre’s most polluted street, George Street, a 74 per cent reduction in toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels is expected by 2035.
“Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford’s residents. A step change is urgently needed; the zero emission zone is that step change,” said Councillor John Tanner, Oxford City Council executive board member for A Clean and Green Oxford.
He added: “All of us who drive or use petrol or diesel vehicles through Oxford are contributing to the city’s toxic air. Everyone needs to do their bit – from national Government and local authorities, to businesses and residents – to end this public health emergency.
“The County and City together are proposing a staged zero emission zone from 2020 in the city centre, with additional measures to bring down chronic pollution in St Clement’s Street, High Street and St Aldate’s. Everyone who uses Oxford centre has the right to breathe clean air.
On Monday 16 October, the City and County Councils will launch a six-week public consultation on the proposals, seeking views on the speed of the implementation, and the vehicle types and roads affected.
The European Union requires national governments to keep annual average NO2 levels across their countries to below 40µg/m3. Despite a 36.9 per cent reduction in NO2 levels across Oxford in the last decade, parts of the city centre are still failing to meet this legal limit. Although the UK will not be in the EU by 2020 local councils are planning on the basis of regulations as they currently stand.
Latest monitoring data has found that air pollution appears to have plateaued above the legal limits in some parts of the city. Between 2011 and 2013, average NO2 levels across the city centre fell by 18.9 per cent; but between 2014 and 2016 they fell by just 3.9 per cent.
The Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found, in a 2016 report, that air pollution contributes to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia. It found that, each year in the UK, outdoor air pollution contributes to around 40,000 deaths.
The zero emission zone proposals would see:
The proposal for a zero emission zone is contingent on technology being sufficiently developed to allow this to be practical.
The City Council, supported by the County Council, has already won £500,000 of Government funding to install charging points for electric taxis and £800,000 to install electric vehicle charging points for residents.
Other schemes under consideration to support the project include: offering reduced parking fees for electric vehicles; electric taxi-only ranks; and electric delivery vehicle-only loading areas.
The emission and financial modelling underpinning the zero emission zone proposals comes from a new study, which was commissioned jointly by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, and was carried out by Ricardo Energy & Environment.
Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council launched a Low Emission Zone in Oxford city centre in 2014. The zone, which requires buses to be low-emitting vehicles, was the first of its kind outside London and won the Local Authority Air Quality Initiative of the Year at the National Air Quality Awards 2015.
Martin Sutton, managing director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, said: "Stagecoach has invested heavily in hybrid and low emission buses in recent years and already has one of the cleanest bus fleets in the country.
“We are fully committed to working with the City and County Councils to achieve further improvements in air quality and we are pleased to see that all vehicle types are included in these latest proposals.
“There is still some way to go before zero-emission technology for buses is fully developed and we look forward to working with both City and County Councils to explore what can be achieved and in what timescales."
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